With Eric Davis Jr. being held out of play due to the allegations from a Yahoo Sports report and Mohamed Bamba dealing with a toe injury, the Texas Longhorns had their backs against the wall with three games (two and half with Bamba’s injury) remaining. The focus then shifted towards a next-man-up mentality.
To that end Jacob Young and Jericho Sims have done an excellent job of filling their roles.
In the last three games, Young is averaging 11.3 PPG on 48 percent shooting (12-25), including a 40 percent (6-15) mark from three in 32 minutes of playing time per game. Texas went 2-1 in these games. His shooting, defense and high-level energy has impacted the team for the better, and he’s been shooting the ball with much more confidence as of late.
In the first game without Davis against Oklahoma State, Young scored eight crucial points in the final 9:43 of that game. This included a huge three-pointer that gave Texas a 59-55 lead with 2:36 to go. He finished the game with 12 points on 4-8 shooting.
With all odds against Texas on the road at Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Kansas’ Senior Night, Young played the best game of his life. The energy and fight that he played with reflected on the whole team that night. Every time Texas desperately needed a stop and a bucket, he would come up with a breakaway steal for a layup. He finished with a season-high 14 points on 6-13 shooting along with five rebounds and three steals.
In Saturday’s game against West Virginia, Young nearly hit a game-winning deep three at the end of regulation. He had another solid game, scoring eight points on 2-of-4 shooting.
Prior to these last three regular season games, the sophomore guard was averaging 3.4 points per game on 29 percent shooting and 22 percent shooting from three in Big 12 play. He did not appear in four other conference games. His two most notable conference games came when Kerwin Roach II was out with a hand injury. When Davis was out with a wrist injury back in December, Young filled his role with a 10-point game on 4-9 shooting against Louisiana Tech.
It’s clear the more minutes Young receives translates to better performances from him on the court. It’s difficult for a player to perform to his highest level when put in a smaller role. The sample size of shot attempts per game does not help with a player’s confidence coming cold off the bench. Credit him for waiting on his time and making the most of his minutes when needed.
“Since he got here, he’s learned a lot of lessons and gained maturity. I think he’s done a nice job in our last couple of games stepping into a larger role.” Shaka Smart said on Young’s recent performances.
Early in the season and during his freshman year, Young would probably drive to the rim and force an out-of-control layup here. Now, he recognizes the situation and pulls it out to setup the offense with under 90 seconds to go. Smart basketball plays like this show the maturity and growth from him.
As a shooting guard, Young may a bit undersized, but this hasn’t stopped him from locking down opponents on the defensive side of the ball. He does a terrific job at staying low and moving his feet when opponents try to drive on him. Knowing his 6’2 height, he rarely falls for pump fakes and has done a good job keeping his feet on the ground instead of going for the block. Matt Coleman could learn from this.
Young’s pitbull style of play has been something to watch and has given a major lift to a team that is missing arguably two of its best scoring guards. Fellow teammate Andrew Jones has recognized the importance of Young to this team.
The life that Jacob Young has brought to this team has paid dividends towards the Longhorns’ NCAA Tournament hopes. Heading into the Big 12 Tournament, possibly without Bamba, Texas will continue to need contributions from guys like Young and Jase Febres at the two-guard position.