AUSTIN, Texas — Six players scored in double figures for the No. 5 Texas Longhorns in a balanced team effort as the program opened the Chris Beard era with a decisive 92-48 victory over the Houston Baptist Huskies on Tuesday evening at the Erwin Center.
Senior guard Courtney Ramey scored a game-high 14 points to lead the Longhorns with junior forward Tre Mitchell (13 points), senior guard Andrew Jones (11 points), senior guard Courtney Ramey (11 points), freshman wing Jaylon Tyson (11 points), senior guard Marcus Carr (10 points), and senior forward Christian Bishop (10 points) all hitting double digits.
In distribution, Carr led the team with five assists.
With a group of transfers often served as the first options on their previous teams combined with players like Jones and Ramey who were the leading scorer and the third-leading scorer for the Longhorns last season, the key offensively is shot selection and finding the balance between good, open shots and challenging shots they are capable of making.
The early continuity between the new players and the returning players allowed Texas to shoot a scorching 64.0 percent from the field, including 13-of-23 shooting from three-point range (56.5 percent). Ramey hit 4-of-5 three-pointers and Jones added three more.
If the biggest question entering the season was how well the team could gel, longtime Houston Baptist coach Ron Cottrell came away impressed with how well a Texas team full of transfers has already come together in an environment where building programs is no longer possible — it’s about building teams from year to year.
Last season, the Huskies played at an adjusted tempo that ranked top-20 nationally and that was the plan entering Tuesday’s game, but the Longhorns defense was able to limit opportunities in transition and force Houston Baptist to play deeper into the shot clock than intended. The visiting team ended the game shooting 32.7 percent overall and 28.0 percent in the second half.
Jones had five of the 10 steals for the Longhorns, but Beard, who wants a defense-first team, thought Texas got impatient at times trying to make plays — he noted that while patience is typically associated with offense, he believes it’s even more important on defense.
If there’s a “nitpick” for this Texas team, as Cottrell put it, it’s defensive rebounding — Houston Baptist will play two significantly bigger teams in coming games in Oklahoma and Texas A&M, but as the Huskies head coach pointed out, forcing turnovers is better than getting rebounds and the Longhorns should be able to turn opponents over this year. The 17 turnovers by Houston Baptist resulted in 29 points for Texas.
Beard called the 16 offensive rebounds an “eye-opening problem” for the Horns.
“We’ve got to clean that up — I would fire the rebounding coach, but I think that’s me, so we’ve got to get that figured out quickly,” Beard said.
Getting junior forward Dylan Disu back from his knee injury will help since Disu led the SEC in rebounding last year at 9.2 boards per game. Until Disu returns — and there’s not currently a timetable for him to make his Texas debut — Beard may need to play some bigger lineups. The starting five features the 6’6 Allen in the frontcourt along with the 6’7 Bishop. So when Texas was struggling to secure defensive rebounds in the second half, Beard paired Bishop with the 6’9 Mitchell.
Multiple runs throughout the game allowed Texas to create separation against Houston Baptist — an 11-0 run after the Huskies took a 7-3 lead early, a 12-0 run midway through the first half, and the first 16 minutes of the second half when the Longhorns went on a 43-10 run to bury the visitors, including a 16-2 run.
Texas was able to go on the big second-half run in part because the team limited turnovers — eight of the 11 turnovers by the Horns happened in the first half, including three by Allen and three by Carr. Beard’s message at halftime was don’t hand the ball to the other team.
“They were just trying too hard,” Beard said. “It wasn’t like they were making bad basketball plays — they were just making kind of casual plays that veterans normally don’t make.”
Now Texas is set to face the biggest test of the non-conference schedule, a road game in Spokane against Gonzaga providing a snapshot of where the Longhorns are at this point in the season against the nation’s best team.