AUSTIN, Texas — In preparation for next week’s season opener against the Incarnate Word Cardinal, the No. 18 Texas Longhorns were back in the Moody Center on Monday evening for an exhibition game against the St. Edwards Hilltoppers, Texas head coach Rodney Terry’s alma mater, overcoming a seven-point deficit for what ultimately became a comfortable 84-63 victory.
Texas junior guard Tyrese Hunter scored a game-high 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting while serving as the primary playmaker with nine assists, senior guard Max Abmas added 18 points, and sophomore forward Dillon Mitchell turned in an efficient, high-energy effort with 14 points, nine rebounds, three steals, and two blocks.
Without the services of senior forward Dylan Disu and senior forward Kadin Shedrick, the team’s tallest frontcourt players, Texas trotted out a smaller starting lineup with senior guard Max Abmas, junior guard Tyrese Hunter, senior guard Ithiel Horton, senior forward Brock Cunningham and sophomore forward Dillon Mitchell.
Predictably, and in a likely preview of the early season before Disu and Shedrick return, the Longhorns struggled on the defensive glass, allowing five offensive rebounds in the first seven minutes, in addition to having three shots blocked by the Hilltoppers.
Texas also missed its first seven three-point attempts, including three by Abmas, while Terry afforded some insight into a potential early-season rotation with sophomore guard Chendall Weaver and junior forward Ze’Rik Onyema the first players off the bench.
At the under-12 timeout, it was hardly an impressive performance by the home team, which led 10-9 on 3-of-15 shooting.
Other than a fast-break dunk for Onyema, the first real highlight of the game for the Longhorns didn’t come until Mitchell ran the baseline for a lob dunk from Hunter with 11:31 remaining in the first half.
A more concerning trend was the free-throw disparity between the two teams — at the under-eight timeout, St. Edward’s had attempted six free throw compared to only one by Texas and the Horns trailed 18-16.
Abmas finally broke the streak of missed three pointers at the 7:45 mark, but Texas quickly gave up five straight points as St. Edward’s took a 25-19 lead behind five consecutive made field goals. The margin opened up to 10 points thanks to two made threes by the Hilltoppers before Hunter stopped the run with a three-point play on a drive to the basket and, a deficit regained by the visitors with another stretch of made baskets.
With Hunter serving as the leading scorer and primary playmaker — 10 points and six of the team’s eight assists — Texas went into halftime trailing to seven points thanks to a made three by the Iowa State transfer.
The Longhorns finally got hot early in the second half, ripping off a 10-0 run over 2:12 to take a 44-40 lead as consecutive steals by Cunningham turned into layups by Abmas and Hunter, who combined with Cunningham to score the first 12 points for Texas out of halftime. The trend continued when Abmas hit his second three of the game to push lead to seven points for the Longhorns with 13:57 remaining.
Turnovers kept St. Edward’s close, however, with Hunter committing five and Mitchell committing four by the under-12 timeout, far too many mistakes against a DII team.
The Horns did continue turning defense into offense, though, including dunks from Horton and Mitchell following steals, the latter of which gave Texas a double-digit lead for the first time in the exhibition, a stretch during which St. Edward’s started to lose its composure with more live-ball turnovers. A steal and dunk by Mitchell and a three by Hunter contributed to a 14-1 run over 2:43 and a lead that reached 24 points as the Longhorns made eight straight field goals.
From there, Texas cruised to victory with less extended garbage time than expected.