Nine years after the plans for Dell Medical School included the demolition of the Erwin Center and nearly three years after construction began on the Moody Center, the No. 12 Texas Longhorns will finally open their new arena on Monday evening with a game against the UTEP Miners, the first meeting between the two teams since 1991.
“I think there’s no denying that it’s not your normal night,” Texas head coach Chris Beard said on Sunday. “It’s definitely got an asterisk next to it. I know every place I’ve ever coached, or every place I’ve ever gone into, there’s always that picture of the first game ever in the arena and so I don’t think there’s any denying that — t’s not a normal game, it’s an historical night.”
To open the Moody Center, Beard faces off against one of his coaching friends, Joe Golding, who led Abilene Christian to the 2021 NCAA Tournament upset of Texas that effectively ended Shaka Smart’s tenure on the Forty Acres.
“In my opinion, Joe Golding’s one of the best coaches in college basketball,” Beard said. “Most people are familiar with his ACU team last year and his first UTEP team was very good, won 20 games, made it to the postseason, benefited from the culture, players that (Texas assistant) Rodney Terry left behind. Now Joe’s put his own spin on it — an older, experienced team comes in here, a lot of portal players, they return three players from the 20-win team last year, and then a lot of all-conference older guys in college basketball. They won’t play any freshmen in tomorrow night’s game.”
After finishing fourth in the Western division of Conference USA last year, UTEP lost the team’s three leading scorers, all guards — Souley Boum (19.8 points per game), Jamal Bieniemy (14.7 points per game), and Keonte Kennedy (14.1 points per game) — as well as a handful of other contributors, leaving forward Jamari Sibley as the leading returning scorer at 5.3 points per game.
To fill those holes, Golding brought in guard Shamar Givance from Evansville (13.7 points per game) and guard Tae Hardy from Southern Miss (13.7 points per game), among a handful of other players.
As Texas fans likely remember, Golding’s teams are known for their aggressive, pressure defenses utilizing elements of the no-middle approach used by Beard, but with all the newcomers, it’s an open question the extent to which this UTEP team is capable of effectively deploying those principles in the season opener. In all likelihood, it will take some time for the Miners to gel, much as the Longhorns did last season with a roster comprised mostly of transfers.
Moreover, Texas has enough experience at the guard spots, led by Iowa State transfer guard Tyrese Hunter and returnee Marcus Carr, to beat that pressure. And the Horns should also benefit from their second season under Beard to put their own pressure on the guards for the Miners in an effort to jump-start the transition attack that scored 17 fast-break points in the exhibition game against the Razorbacks.
One area to watch — Texas shot the ball well against Arkansas, hitting 10-of-16 attempts from three-point range, but is unlikely to maintain that level of efficiency as a team facing some questions about its long-range shooting ability.
How to Watch:
TV: Longhorn Network
Time: 8:00 p.m. Central
Radio: Longhorn IMG Radio Network (affiliates available on Texassports.com)
Odds: The Longhorns are 22.5-point favorites, according to DraftKings. Odds/lines are subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.