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No. 7 Texas handles Sam Houston State in 73-57 win

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The return to Gregory Gym with an all-student crowd paid off with an electric atmosphere and a comfortable Longhorns win.

NCAA Basketball: Sam Houston State at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since 1977, the No. 7 Texas Longhorns made their way to Gregory Gym for a basketball game. In front of a raucous students-only crowd that pre-partied at the Tower, the Longhorns took care of business against the Sam Houston State Bearkats in a 73-57 win on Monday evening.

Senior guard Marcus Carr turned in his best performance since arriving on the Forty Acres, breaking out of a slump and overcoming a slow start to score a game-high 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, including 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range, and added four assists. Carr had scored only 11 points in the previous three games.

Eight free throws from senior forward Timmy Allen capped a good night at the line, but Allen’s biggest impact came in doing the dirty work, finding his teammates for a game-high seven assists, corralling seven rebounds, and taking two charges.

Aside from the crowd and the venue, the big story was the play of Carr and the other two lead Texas guards, seniors Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones. Ramey scored 14 points on 10 shots and Jones added 14 points of his own off the bench with four steals.

Clutch baskets from Carr, Ramey, and Jones helped turn a close game early in the second half into a comfortable win. Sam Houston State came out of halftime with a 7-0 run before Jones and Ramey responded to open up a lead that reached as high as 20 points.

Texas took the early lead with a three from Ramey, but two threes by Sam Houston State in scramble situations put the Longhorns behind during a slow start. By the under-16 timeout, Texas still trailed 10-9 with both teams 4-of-7 shooting from the field.

A three by senior forward Christian Bishop was the only basket for the Horns until the next media timeout as Texas fell into a 2:33 scoring drought thanks to two turnovers and two missed threes by Carr. Defensively, Texas struggled in some isolation situations as Sam Houston State spread the court, allowing two layups.

Then Texas found its rhythm, finally, keyed out of the media timeout by Ramey with a turnaround, fadeaway jumper and some mental toughness by Carr to hit an open three and a jump shot. Between media timeouts, the Longhorns won the stretch 11-4, to take a 23-18 lead as the crowd noise increased commensurately.

The margin reached 28-20, but the Bearkats responded with two made threes as the Longhorns offense sputtered once again on several straight possessions. Carr finally broke the run at 8-0 with his second three of the game and a spinning shot in the lane on the following possession before Jones hit a floater of his own to force a timeout and bring the students to their feet. Another three from Carr set his season high with 13 points and gave the Horns a 38-28 lead heading into halftime.

Texas shot 54.2 percent in the first half, including 5-of-13 shooting from three-point range (38.5 percent). At the line, Beard’s team converted 7-of-8 attempts, led by five points from Allen on his six attempts.

The second half started with a 7-0 run before Jones hit an important three to slow Sam Houston State’s momentum, Allen took a charge, Jones scored again, and Ramey hit a corner three following a poor decision by the Bearkats to take a transition three with Flagg open near the basket.

As Texas struggled to score frequently in the paint, junior forward Tre Mitchell didn’t score until 13:09 remaining in the second half, hitting an And-1 in the lane after missing his first two shots to push the Longhorns lead back to 10 points. Less than three minutes later, Mitchell responded to a three by Flagg with one of his own.

A fast-break three from Ramey and another from Carr late in the shot clock as Texas took the largest lead of the game, 61-44. The margin reached 20 points before a 6-0 run and a turnover led to a timeout called by Beard, who wasn’t happy with the defensive effort. Ramey responded with a finish through contact by Ramey on a nice baseline cut and find from sophomore guard Devin Askew.

Texas returns to the Erwin Center on Friday against UTRGV.