The Texas Longhorns just keep dancin’.
With a chance to advance to their first Elite 8 in 15 years, Rodney Terry’s group was phenomenal and had few issues dismantling the Xavier Musketeers, 83-71, in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score.
Here are a few thoughts from Texas’ blowout win.
This was just a masterful performance from the Longhorns. And that’s only elevated because of the instant in-game adversity they faced. Dylan Disu’s day was done just a couple minutes in due to injury, Sir’Jabari Rice got himself into early foul trouble, and similarly, foul trouble proved to be a factor for several Longhorns all game. None of it mattered, though. Defense travels, as Rodney Terry likes to say, and Texas’ absolutely did, smothering Xavier early to allow just 25 first half points on 27.3% shooting. Meanwhile, even a bit shorthanded, Marcus Carr led the first half charge, with Christian Bishop finding a tough 10 first half points of his ow to help Texas build a 17-point halftime cushion. Then coming out of the break, Texas just refused to allow Xavier to claw its way back into the game at all, answering every punch with their own and ballooning the lead to as much as 23. And in the end, Texas made a win over a really solid Xavier squad look pretty damn easy, and thus, they’re on to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2008.
Tyrese Hunter was exactly what Texas recruited him to be tonight. This season has had some downs for the former Big 12 Freshman of the Year, but he’s been much-improved as of late, and this might have been his most impactful performance as a Longhorn. With no Disu and guards Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice fighting foul trouble, Hunter was the star of the night for Texas. He was aggressive when needed, and that was especially true early in the second half as Xavier tried to throw a few punches, with Hunter answering with 12 early points that kept Texas in control. He was deadeye from deep (3-3) and lights out overall, shooting 7-11 from the field for a team-best 19 points. This is the version of Hunter Texas needed in March, and he’s a major reason they’re still dancing.
Christian Bishop more than held his own in Disu’s absence. That’s probably an understatement, to be sure. Tasked with a much larger role than usual, Bishop was pretty exceptional in matching the 7’0 Jack Nunge, who did have 15 points but shot only 6-19 from the field, thanks in large part to Bishop’s physicality. But far more notable, Bishop was huge for the Horns’ offense, complementing his 10 first half points with another eight after the break for a season-high 18 (8-12), as well as nine boards. Texas needed him to be solid without Disu, and instead, he was at his absolute best.
Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice were their usual selves, which is always a good thing. 15 of Carr’s 18 came in the first half when Texas needed a fast start to overcome the foul trouble and Disu’s absence, and after totaling just four points in the first half, Rice starting cooking after the break, adding 12 of his own to complement Hunter in keeping Xavier at a comfortable distance. And his impact notably flustered sharpshooter Adam Kunkel, who committed a couple frustration fouls, including a technical, that helped Texas find some easy points. Hunter and Bishop stole the show, but these two were right there behind them.
This team just continues to impress. Seven straight wins. A Big 12 Tournament title. An Elite 8 appearance. And they’re still going. They’ve mostly controlled March, trailing only for a handful of minutes since the Big 12 tournament started and keeping at least some sort of cushion throughout much, if not every game since the end of the regular season. It’s a veteran group and it shows in the way Texas just responds to every bit of adversity, which hasn’t been too often as of late because they’ve been pretty remarkable. Now, can they just keep it going?