In what was largely a porous offensive performance, a dominating defensive showing paved the way for the Texas Longhorns to open up the PK80 Tournament with a win over the Butler Bulldogs, 61-48.
On Thanksgiving Day, the offenses brought very little to the table, as evident by the final score.
Andrew Jones opened up the game’s scoring with a fast break layup, which didn’t come until 16:27 into the action. Sean McDermott responded the following possession with a three-pointer to give Butler an early edge, but that would prove to be the Bulldogs first and only lead of the evening. The under-16 timeout didn’t take place until the 13:01 mark, in which Texas led 7-6. The same score remained at the under-12 timeout after the Longhorns and Bulldogs combined to start 5-22 from the field.
It wasn’t until Eric Davis Jr. nailed a three-pointer nearly 12 minutes into that game that anyone aside from Jones and McDermott found the scoreboard, as Jones accounted for Texas’ first 10 points and McDermott connected on a trio of looks from the perimeter for Butler’s first nine points.
At the under-eight timeout, the shooting woes on each end of the floor resulted in Texas owning a 13-9 edge, and it wasn’t until the 4:33 mark before halftime that Butler finally cracked double figures in the scoring column.
By halftime, Texas held a narrow 22-19 lead after only four Longhorns saw an attempt connect, with Jones leading the way with 12 points.
The second half proved to be a bit more of a back-and-forth affair, although Texas managed a 10-point advantage throughout the final 20 minutes, 39-29.
The story for Texas throughout the second half was its ability to answer Butler’s late pushes. As noted, Texas never relented its lead after 4-3, but the Bulldogs cut things close on numerous occasions, with things coming as close as 47-44 after a Kamar Baldwin layup and-one before the missed free throw. Dylan Osetskowsi scored the next six points for Texas to extend the lead to 53-46 with 2:17 to play after struggling offensively for much of the game.
That was as close as Butler would get, with Texas earning the biggest lead of the game, 59-48, following a Matt Coleman steal and dunk in the final minute.
Coleman finished the game with a career-high nine assists as part of another efficient display in which the freshman turned the ball over just once. He also added seven points, four rebounds and three steals. Jones led the way for Texas with 16 points on 7-13 from the field, while Osetkowski became the only other Longhorn to join Jones in double figures with 12 points on a 4-13 shooting performance. Mohamed Bamba contributed six points and 12 boards. Kerwin Roach II, Davis and Young combined for 20 points on 7-14 attempts, led by Davis’ three three-pointers.
Baldwin led the way for Butler with 15 points on 6-15 from the field. McDermott and Kelan Martin added 11 points and 12 points of their own, respectively. Aaron Thompson and Nate Fowler were the only other Bulldogs to find the scoreboard, combining for just 10 points.
Although neither team had its best offensive showing on Thursday, Butler’s woes can largely be credited to the Longhorns length and defensive versatility. Prior to the season, Shaka Smart said this Texas team has the potential to be elite on the end of the court and that was quite apparent on Thanksgiving Day with the ‘Horns defense giving very little to Butler, holding the Bulldogs to 31 points below their previous season-low.
Texas finished the night with 14 assists and 11 turnovers, with nine of those giveaways coming in the first half. The ‘Horns dominated the glass, as well, owning a 41-31 rebounding edge.
With its first win of the tournament under its belt, Texas now moves on to see its toughest test of the season — No. 1 Duke. The Longhorns and Blue Devils will square off on Friday, Nov. 24 and 4:30 p.m. CT on ESPN.