AUSTIN, Texas — In the hours since the No. 12 Texas Longhorns were blown out 86-65 by the No. 8 Marquette Golden Eagles and former head coach Shaka Smart on Wednesday at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Texas head coach Rodney Terry has rewatched the game numerous times.
“I think the thing that really stuck out in that game — I’ve got to do a better job myself in really instilling in our guys how hard we have to play,” Terry said during a Zoom availability on Friday.
Terry honed in on some key moments at the end of the first half.
After Marquette made three three-pointers to take a 29-20 with 5:49 remaining before halftime, Terry called a timeout and regrouped his team, which responded with an 8-0 run keyed by senior forward Brock Cunningham, who assisted on a layup by sophomore guard Chendall Weaver, a dunk by junior forward Ze’Rik Onyema, and a jumper by senior guard Max Abmas.
But the Longhorns were unable to maintain contact with the Golden Eagles over the final three minutes. Onyema and Abmas turned the ball over on consecutive possessions, leading to two plays made by star Marquette guard Tyler Kolek — an assist on a layup and a made three. Weaver missed a layup of his own, Abmas committed a foul that led to two made free throws, then committed another turnover that Kolek converted into a three-pointer. On an end-of-half play, Kolek made another long-range shot with four seconds remaining.
All of a sudden, the one-point deficit was up to 14 points and Texas never recovered as a 10-0 run by Marquette in the second half extended the lead to 26 points before reaching a game-high deficit of 32 points with 4:29 remaining.
“Especially, I think, to close out halves, we were right there where we needed to be with two minutes to go in the first half and they get a couple 50-50 balls and we had to have a little better execution on offense down the stretch in terms of trying to get some paint touches — we were trying to get the ball inside there,” said Terry.
Instead, the Longhorns only managed two shots to three turnovers to close the half and couldn’t get stops defensively.
“A lot of it got back to, again, 50-50 balls, them playing harder than us, then we have to come down and execute,” said Terry. “We’ve got to get paint touches and not settle for jump shots, but again, I’ll do a better job of coaching our guys to understand that, but I think it’s really important, too, that they get a chance to visually see it and what does working the game really look like?”
During that stretch and throughout the game, Weaver and Cunningham provided some of the few bright spots with their effort and intensity. Playing against his former head coach, the only Texas player in that position on Wednesday, Cunningham was tied the game high with six assists, adding seven points, four rebounds, and two steals. Weaver played his best game so far in burnt orange and white, scoring a season-high 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting with four rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block.
“We’re striving to try to have a room full of those kinds of guys that do that for us every day in practice and in games and I’ll do a better job of really trying to get our guys to understand that’s what it’s going to take in the Big 12,” said Terry.
With senior guard IT Horton and junior guard Tyrese Hunter combining for 1-of-13 shooting and largely failing to make an impact on the defensive end, Weaver’s combination of motor and athleticism stood out, a key performance as he continues his transition from playing in the WAC to competing in the nation’s best basketball league.
“He’s fearless, he’s competitive, and he’s tough as nails,” said Terry. “I love the way he plays, the way he competes.”
The entire team will have a chance to bounce back at home in the Moody Center on Saturday with a game against 1-6 Houston Christian, currently ranked as the No. 357 team nationally in KenPom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric. HCU is coming off its first win of the season on Wednesday, a 95-58 victory over SW Adventist, but Terry believes they won’t be intimidated coming into the Mood after facing three other Big 12 opponents, all blowout losses.
As ever, though, the focus against such an overmatched opponent is on Texas beginning to fix some of the deficiencies harshly revealed in the lights of Fiserv Forum with Saturday’s matchup marking the first of five final non-conference games before Big 12 play begins against Texas Tech at the Moody Center in less than a month.
“To be honest with you, we just we had to get back to just the basics today of trying to work really hard at being a team that plays really hard on defense. You don’t have to play perfect, but you’ve got to play really hard and then we’ve got to lock into some details,” said Terry.
“We’ve got to get really good at one or two of our coverages in pick and roll. We’ve got to continue to do a great job in what we call the white-line defense. You know, but but we’re just getting back to the basics on just playing hard defensively and playing as hard as you can play, try to stay engaged, stay in stances.”
If the Huskies will test the Longhorns in an area on Saturday, it will be in tempo — Houston Christian is third nationally in adjusted tempo behind UMBC and Kennesaw State. So there’s that.
Texas is 3-0 in the all-time series between the two programs, including an 82-31 win last year in Austin.
How to watch
TV: Longhorn Network
Time: 2:00 p.m. Central
Odds: The Longhorns are 31.5-point favorites at DraftKings.
Odds/lines are subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.