The No. 17 Texas Longhorns used a stifling and opportunistic defense to grind out a 60-53 victory over the Stanford Cardinal at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday as part of the Pac-12 U.S. LBM Coast-to-Coast Challenge.
The game wasn’t as close as the final margin after Texas expanded on a seven-point halftime lead, pushing it to as many as 18 points with 11:21 remaining in the second half, although a scoring drought that lasted nearly seven minutes allowed Stanford to go on a plodding 8-0 run and force a response from the visitors.
The Longhorns did respond down the stretch with just enough offense to win comfortably behind a high-level defensive effort that forced 22 giveaways by the Cardinal — a turnover rate of 33.8 percent that afforded Texas a plus-eight advantage in shot attempts. Head coach Chris Beard’s team turned those turnovers into 23 points, while an emphasis on getting the ball into the paint paid off for the Horns with a 32-24 advantage around the basket.
Star freshman forward Harrison Ingram scored a game-high 15 points for Stanford, but the Texas native needed 13 shots to do so and committed four turnovers. Sending occasional double teams at Ingram was enough to keep him out of rhythm, as well as gritty defensive efforts by the guards for the Longhorns when they were caught in switches.
When the Texas defense collapsed and gave Stanford opportunities from distance, the Cardinal weren’t able to capitalize, hitting only 1-of-9 three-point attempts in the second half. Stanford finished the game shooting 25 percent from three-point range.
Senior guard Andrew Jones led three Texas players in double digits with 13 points, including a key driving layup to end the 6:57 scoreless drought with 3:29 remaining. Senior forward Timmy Allen turned in another strong all-around performance, scoring 11 points with five rebounds, three steals, and three offensive fouls drawn. Junior forward Dylan Disu, in his second game since returning from a knee injury, was efficient with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Senior guard Marcus Carr and junior forward Tre Mitchell both added four assists.
Texas turned a close game into a lead late in the first half after strong finishes by senior forward Christian Bishop and Allen at the rim for traditional three-point plays helped key a defensive surge that held Stanford without a field goal for the final 4:13 of the first half.
It wasn’t until the 15:15 mark of the second half that the Cardinal finally hit another field goal, at which point the Longhorns went on a 13-0 run to achieve the game’s largest margin and effectively put Stanford away.
A step-back jumper by Allen, a layup by Disu in semi-transition, and a steal by Carr that resulted in a rim-rattling slam by Bishop were highlights in the decisive run capped by senior guard Courtney Ramey hitting a three.
The extent to which the offense stalled after creating the comfortable margin will surely receive some emphasis from the coaching staff in film review and practice this week heading into Wednesday’s home game against Rice.
But there’s no question that the team’s defense is its identity and a pathway to winning games if the offense can avoid turnovers and generally play with a reasonable level of efficiency — on Sunday, Texas turned the ball over 13 times and shot 42.9 percent from the floor.
So call the Longhorns a work in progress offensively as conference play approaches, a worrisome development in a league featuring top-60 defenses at every program, including five other teams in the top 25.