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Back in the starting lineup, Dylan Disu leads No. 25 Texas against West Virginia after career performance

In Disu’s first start of the season, he scored a career-high 33 points in Tuesday’s road win over the Bearcats.

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NCAA Basketball: Texas at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

To say that Postseason Dylan was back isn’t quite accurate.

As senior forward Dylan Disu returned to the starting lineup for the No. 25 Texas Longhorns on Tuesday on the road against the Cincinnati Bearcats, the career-high, 33-point performance by Disu was reminiscent of his remarkable postseason run before his 2022-23 season ended with a foot injury that required offseason surgery. Except that Disu’s willingness to attempt and make three-pointers looked more like his time at Vanderbilt.

In the 74-73 win over the Bearcats, Disu took 10 shots from the beyond the arc, making four, in stark contrast to his one three-point attempt during the six postseason games last year and surpassing his previous high with the Longhorns of four attempts and three makes he tied at the end of December.

Texas head coach Rodney Terry has long told Disu that he wants his standout forward to make one or two threes a game, but after recovering from the knee injury that ended his time at Vanderbilt, Disu only attempted 15 threes his first year on the Forty Acres and 32 threes last year, amounting to 0.1 made threes per games and 0.3 made threes per game.

And while Disu’s offseason foot surgery limited his on-court work during the spring, summer, fall, and into the winter, he was able to work on his shooting stroke as Terry continued his efforts to return Disu’s confidence to his pre-Texas levels when he attempted 5.4 threes per game as a freshman and then shot 36.9 percent as a sophomore on a lower volume.

With Cincinnati often giving Disu room to shoot on pick-and-rolls by employing drop coverage, he took advantage of the space — in 117 career games, he’s only made four or more three-pointers three times.

“I think that’s something that RT really stressed to me is that if they’re going to let me shoot, then shoot the ball,” said Disu Thursday. “He has a lot of confidence in my ability to shoot the ball, so I’m just listening to what what he has to say to me and taking direction from him and just trusting in the work that I put in for sure.”

When the Bearcats did close out hard on Disu, he used his pump fake to get into the lane and create high-percentage looks with his patented floater or get all the way to the rim.

Disu’s ability to stretch the court in the pick-and-roll or be dangerous on the short roll makes that element of the Texas offense much more dynamic because the Longhorns don’t have another three-point threat who can make defenses pay for their decisions in coverage. In turn, that allows junior guard Tyrese Hunter and senior guard Max Abmas to pick their spots and take what the defense gives them or play off the ball entirely when in isolation situation when Disu gets the ball in the mid post.

The overall performance marked a turnaround from the ugly home loss to Texas Tech that opened Big 12 play.

“We definitely felt like we let one get away and that came down to how we approached that game and the way we played. We thought that we allowed Texas Tech to out-compete us and play harder and want the game more than us,” said Disu.

“So we didn’t want it to come down to that again. We wanted to be the first to the floor every single time, playing harder, being physical. We knew that Cincy was going to be a very physical team and we wanted to be able to match that physicality as a physical team ourselves, and so I think that’s really what it came down to for us.”

On Saturday, Texas hits the road for a second straight game to face a 5-10 West Virginia team with the lowest adjusted efficiency rating in the conference thanks in part to missing key players early in the season.

Montana State transfer guard RaeQuan Battle is the team’s leading scorer at 21.4 points per game, but he missed the team’s first 10 games because his transfer waiver was denied twice by the NCAA until a judge issued a restraint order as part of a lawsuit filed by a coalition of seven states, a ruling that also impacted guard Noah Farrakhan, who previously played for East Carolina and Eastern Michigan. Arizona transfer guard Kerr Krissa is one of the best point guards in the country, but was suspended for the first nine games for receiving impermissible benefits while with the Wildcats. Forward Akok Akok missed time after collapsing on the court during an exhibition game.

So the Mountaineers team the Longhorns will face on Saturday isn’t the same team that lost to Monmouth, St. John’s, SMU, UMass, and Radford — it’s a team that looks more dangerous with its star power returning, although the group may still need time to gel after starting Big 12 play 0-2 with losses to No. 3 Houston and Kansas State. West Virginia is only shooting 40.4 percent overall and 29.7 percent from three and is turning the ball over more frequently than opponents.

With a 17-10 overall record against West Virginia, Texas has won six of the last seven games and nine of the last 11, including four wins in the last five trips to Morgantown. Last year, the Longhorns beat the Mountaineers 69-61 at WVU Coliseum.

How to watch

TV: Big 12 Now/ESPN+

Time: 5:00 p.m. Central

Livestream: WatchESPN

Radio: The Longhorn IMG Radio Network broadcasts every Texas game statewide. Check for affiliates.

Odds: Texas is a six-point favorite, according to Draftkings.

Odds/lines are subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.