AUSTIN, Texas — The moment is finally here.
The Moody Center is hosting its first regular-season basketball game as the No. 12 Texas Longhorns host the UTEP Miners in only the fifth all-time matchup between the two programs. And the Horns have some ground to make up with a 1-3 record against the school known as Texas Western until it joined the UT System in 1967.
The game features two good friends going head to head — Texas head coach Chris Beard hired UTEP head coach Joe Golding as an assistant at Seminole JC after Golding got his coaching start at South Garland High School. The ties include a shared defense-first mentality featuring ball pressure and a no-middle approach.
But the Longhorns will start the 2022-23 season with more continuity thanks to six returning scholarship players compared to only three from the Miners team that won 21 games last year, Golding’s first in El Paso after leaving Abilene Christian.
Texas starting lineup
- Guard Tyrese Hunter
- Guard Marcus Carr
- Forward Timmy Allen
- Forward Dylan Disu
- Forward Dillon Mitchell
On the third possession for UTEP, the Miners scored the first points in the Moody Center on a runner in the lane to beat the shot clock. A possession later, following a steal by Hunter, Allen notched the first basket for the Longhorns with layup finish through contact he converted for the three-point play.
Texas was a sloppy early, turning the ball over three times on their first five possession, two trying to find Mitchell near the basket. By the under-16 timeout, the score was still stuck at 3-2 with the Horns missing all four three-point attempts and the Miners turning the ball over three times while shooting 1-of-7 from the field.
Thankfully, Hunter hit his free throws out of the timeout to stop a scoreless drought of almost three minutes. On the other end, a layup stopped the UTEP streak of almost four minutes without a basket. As the Longhorns struggled to get into their offense quickly, a jumper from Hunter with the shot clock expiring was the only other make before the under-12 timeout with the score 7-4.
Carr flashed some much-needed playmaking after the break, sinking a step-back jumper before UTEP responded with four straight points on two free throws and an impressive finish at the rim by Otis Frazier over Disu, who was well positioned. Three free throws for the Horns opened up a 12-8 advantage as Texas went into the bonus with nine and a half minutes left in the first half. Then Mitchell was finally able to make an offensive impact, slamming home a driving miss by Allen and then finishing through contact on a pass from Hunter, although he wasn’t able to hit his free throw. The parade to the line continued when Carr drew a foul as Calvin Solomon joined Frazier as UTEP players with three fouls in the opening 12 minutes. After Carr split his free throws, Texas went into the under-eight timeout leading 17-8.
A three by senior guard Sir’Jabari Rice extended the lead and marked the first three-point made by the Longhorns after five misses to start the game and freshman guard Arterio Morris followed with a triple of his own. When Carr hit a deep two in transition, Golding was forced to use a timeout with Texas extending the lead to 25-12.
Rice hit a layup and Hunter made a three as a turnover by UTEP sent both teams into the under-four timeout with a 31-14 margin. But a scoring drought by Texas allowed for a 6-0 run by the visitors, prompting a timeout by Beard with 1:38 remaining in the half. Senior forward Christian Bishop broke a scoring drought of almost three and a half minutes, a stretch that included three turnovers, by hitting a driving shot and drawing a foul, but wasn’t able to complete the three-point play. A shot-clock violation by UTEP set up the final possession of the half for Texas, but the Horns couldn’t convert, ending the opening 20 minutes with a 33-20 margin in favor of the home team.
- UTEP finished the half making their final five shots from the field.
- After the 2-of-9 shooting start, Texas went 9-of-14 from the field to finish the half.
- Hunter was the leading scorer for the Horns with nine points, aided by four free throws, but also had four turnovers.
- Bishop led the team in plus-minus at plus-14.
- The Longhorns converted 14 turnovers by the Miners into 15 points.
- Texas had a 12-0 advantage in fast-break points.
Hunter flashed his athleticism early in the second half with two drives to the basket that resulted in layups as Texas started 3-of-5 shooting, but also committed to fouls, taking a 39-25 lead into the under-16 timeout. It wasn’t until the 14:32 mark that the Miners finally hit their first three, sandwiched in between buckets from Disu, his first points of the season. UTEP followed with another three, cutting the Texas lead to 43-33, but Disu scored again near the basket. A desperation heave against the shot clock resulted in a three by Jamari Sibley that cut the Texas lead to nine points as UTEP tried to mount a second-half comeback with the under-12 timeout cutting into the action.
Hunter continued to attack the basket, drawing a foul and splitting his trip to the line and then hitting a scoop layup after losing his defender with a hesitation dribble to push the lead back into double digits. After another bucket by Sibley, Carr pushed the ball in transition, hitting Allen for a dunk that brought the Moody Center to its collective foot for the first time. Carr tried to force the action after the ensuing stop with a strong drive to the basket, but was whistled for an offensive foul.
UTEP responded with an offensive rebound and dunk, then a steal on Allen, but got lazy bringing the ball across halfcourt and turned it over on a 10-second violation as the Horns led 52-44 at the under-eight timeout.
Battling for an offensive rebound on a missed free throw, Rice drew a foul and made both free throws for another 10-point lead. After a timeout by UTEP, Hunter scored near the rim off a jump stop in transition and another runout produced an assist by Carr when he found a streaking Disu for a dunk to extend the lead to 58-44 and force another timeout by the Miners. In the halfcourt, Carr dished another assist, finding Rice cutting from the corner for a layup. UTEP struck back with a much-needed three. Four straight free throws by Carr pushed the lead to 17 points, putting the Miners in danger of losing any type of contact with the Longhorns. And that’s exactly what happened as a defensive breakdown left Rice wide open from distance and the New Mexico State transfer made no mistake of it, draining the shot for a 20-point margin. UTEP was able to get one basket back, but went into the under-four timeout facing a 67-49 scoreline.
So after the Miners cut the lead to eight, the Longhorns went on a 15-5 run to end any hope of an upset by UTEP and after that it was garbage time down the stretch before Texas closed it out with a 72-57 margin.
- Hunter scored a game-high 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting — his only two misses came from beyond the arc — and added five rebounds. He was particularly impressive in the second half, scoring nine points on 4-of-4 shooting and avoiding any turnovers.
- Rice added 14 points in an efficient 4-of-6 shooting performance, hitting 2-of-3 shots from distance and making all four free-throw attempts while adding six rebounds, two assists.
- Carr scored 12 points and wasn’t particularly efficient from the field — 2-of-8 shooting — but he made 8-of-10 free throws and led the team with six assists.
- Disu was the final player in double digits, scoring all 10 of his points in the second half on 4-of-4 shooting.