AUSTIN, Texas — In the second game of the 2023-24 season, the No. 18 Texas Longhorns are back at the Moody Center on Friday for an 8 p.m. Central tipoff on Longhorn Network against the Delaware State Hornets.
Delaware State enters the contest 0-1 on the season after a 79-45 trashing at the hands of Penn State on Monday in State College, a game that went poorly for the Hornets on both ends of the floor.
Texas, meanwhile, is looking to build on Monday’s 88-58 win over UIW that featured the Longhorns racing out to a 31-point lead at halftime before allowing the Cardinals to play within a point of head coach Rodney Terry’s team, leaving senior guard IT Horton bemoaning the lack of killer instinct by Texas in the post-game press conference.
So Terry surely expects a more consistent defensive effort for 40 minutes, although Monday’s game certainly represented improvement from the poor start on defense in the previous week’s exhibition game against Division II St. Edward’s.
At this point in the season, it’s about making steady improvement before Texas faces the more challenging portion of its non-conference schedule that starts with a two-game trip to Madison Square Garden in nine days.
- Senior guard Max Abmas
- Junior guard Tyrese Hunter
- Senior guard IT Horton
- Junior forward Ze’Rik Onyema
- Sophomore forward Dillon Mitchell
The first challenge thrown at the Longhorns by the Hornets came directly after the opening tip won by Texas — a 3-2 zone that resulted in Mitchell taking and missing a jumpshot from the elbow. The second possession presented the second challenge as Delaware State trapped the ballhandler just across halfcourt, resulting in a missed three by Abmas when Hunter was slow to find his open teammate. It wasn’t a strong start from Mitchell, who turned the ball over after rebounding the miss from Abmas and then got beat off the dribble when he tried to jump the passing lane, gave up an offensive rebound, and then committed a foul. On the third possession for Texas, Hunter tried to pass out of the trap along the sideline and threw the ball away, turning it over again a minute later on the dribble before Horton hit a three to break the scoreless drought to start the game. When Texas gave up a driving layup, Terry had enough, calling a timeout down 6-3 at the 16:52 mark.
By the under-16 media break, the Longhorns still trailed by the same margin thanks to a 1-of-6 shooting start, including four three-point attempts, and four turnovers, still needing to find some footing against the zone despite inserting senior forward Kaden Shedrick after Terry’s timeout.
The struggles continued out of the break with a shot-clock violation. And while the Longhorns did shoot another three on the next possession, it did at least come on a kickout to Horton when senior forward Brock Cunningham got into the middle of the zone. Two more turnovers followed in quick succession before sophomore guard Chendall Weaver hit a three and forced a steal that resulted in... another quick turnover. When Delaware State called a 30-second timeout at the 12:40 mark, Texas was giving the ball away on 53.3 percent of its possessions with eight turnovers, nine field-goal attempts (seven from beyond the arc), and two free throws with the game tied at 11-11.
When the Longhorns finally got the ball into the paint, Onyema was called for a three-second violation struggling to find enough room to shoot over taller opponents. Both teams combined for five straight turnovers out of the under-12 timeout, a streak that finally ended when Hunter got to the free-throw line following a steal, then forced another turnover with strong man-to-man defense. The defensive effort by Hunter helped spark a 8-0 run as Abmas hit a jumper, Hunter got out into the open court for a layup after a defensive rebound, and Mitchell hit a jumper before Texas responded to two quick baskets by Delaware State with an alley-oop dunk by Onyema, part of a stretch of 7-of-8 shooting by the Horns.
Attacking the zone more effectively also produced several trips to the line for Texas and a steal and dunk by Hunter extended the lead to nine with 4:03 remaining, the biggest lead of the game for the home team. Both teams played even through the end of the half as the Longhorns took a 39-30 lead into the break.
Horton started the scoring in the second half with his fourth three of the game and Hunter found Mitchell in transition for an alley-oop slam to extend the Texas lead to 12 points as Delaware State moved into a 2-3 zone beaten by Abmas with a three.
Five quick points by the Hornets cut the deficit to eight points. When Delaware State went back to the 3-2, Abmas beat that defensive look with a three. But the Longhorns defense simply wasn’t getting enough stops, allowing the Hornets to hit five consecutive field goals to stay in a game at a time when Texas needed to create more separation, instead going more than three minutes without a field goal before taking a nine-point lead into the under-12 timeout.
Between media breaks, the Longhorns used Mitchell effectively in short corner as the sophomore scored six straight points prior to another three by Horton for a 13-point lead at the under-eight timeout. A dunk by Mitchell and a deep three late in the shot clock by Abmas pushed the margin to 17 points with 6:01 remaining to effectively put the Hornets away, albeit belatedly. The growing deficit seemed to deflate Delaware State, which promptly allowed freshman guard Chris Johnson to put back his own missed shot, Abmas to find the lane for a three-point play, Hunter to get into the open court for a slam on a steal, and a three by Hunter for good measure to make it 79-52, forcing a timeout by the Delaware State head coach as the run by Texas reached 20-1.
The momentum continued with the Longhorns scoring 15 straight points thanks to a jumper by Cunningham and a three by Johnson to allow the end of the bench to get into the game as Texas closed out the 86-59 win.