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November 15, 2013

Longhorns move to 3-0 with win over SFA

The Longhorns (3-0) played their third game in just a week, and for the third time they found themselves in a tight dogfight to end the game. With a 12-2 run to end the game and their best stretch of execution at the right time, the Longhorns won this year for the third time. After trailing Stephen F. Austin (2-1) 35-31 at halftime, Texas outscored the Lumberjacks 41-27 in the second half to win 72-62.

Although the Longhorns struggled to execute on their half-court offense - the Longhorns had just five assists and turned it over 16 times on the night - their aggressiveness, quickness, and effort allowed them to shoot 68.2 percent from the floor in the second half after a 37.9 percent performance in the first period. Combine that with a plus-10 rebounding advantage in the second half, shooting 10-of-12 from the free throw line, and a defensive effort that held the Lumberjacks to just 13 points in the final 11 minutes, and you've got enough of a mix to get a win.

"We are going to learn from it all, because these have been three completely different games," said Rick Barnes after the win. "We've shown we can do a lot of good things but we just have to get consistent with it."

After getting in foul trouble in the first half and playing just six minutes, Jon Holmes was a force in the second half playing 16 minutes and scoring nine points, grabbing six rebounds, and blocking two shots just in the second half. Overall, the junior scored 11 points on 3-of-4 shooting (1-of-2 from beyond the arc and 4-of-4 from the free throw line), grabbed eight boards, and blocked three shots.

For pretty much the entire game, freshman Isaiah Taylor was on his way easily his most disappointing performance of the young season. He had a very quiet night, didn't help the offense really get going, and wasn't making plays.

Then, Taylor emerged when Texas needed him most.

With his team down 54-50 with 7:30 left, Taylor hit a floater, grabbed a rebound, drew a foul, made both free throws, and made consecutive layups with the left hand in clear out situations to put Texas up 68-62 with 41 seconds left. When the game was on the line, Texas put the ball in Taylor's hands and asked him to go get a huge bucket. He did that… twice.

"We had a set play out of the timeout, and we disregarded the play at the end," Taylor said about the final plays. "He (Rick Barnes) just told me to use traffic and get behind Connor. And when it got to the end, he told me to take my man one-on-one. And that's what I did to get the bucket. Coach Barnes trusts me as a point guard, especially at the end of the game putting the ball in my hands. I believe that I can make it happen. Connor Lammert, Demarcus Holland just talking to me throughout the game because I had a rough game at first, and I came through at the end. Having them talk to me and just believing in me made me more confident in the end."

Taylor finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting with four rebounds, one assist, and just one turnover.

Holland continues to stuff the stat sheet, and provided a huge spark not just on offense. The sophomore's length, aggressiveness, quickness, and ability to finish at the rim led to a new career-high of 21 points on 9-of-13 field goals and 3-of-4 makes at the free throw line. Although his range and jump-shot are still a work in progress, Holland has made strides there as well as he knocked down two mid-range, pull-up jumpers against SFA. Known already as the vocal leader of the team, his coach thinks Holland is the MVP thus far.

"Demarcus Holland has been the most valuable player for us through the first three games," said Rick Barnes after the win Friday night. "He keeps putting up stats and also does all the little things. He plays hard and affects everything defensively. He has put in as much time and effort as anyone we've coached. He's a winner and you just love what he is about. He has also been our vocal guy. What you saw today is what he does every day in practice; the guy doesn't have a bad day. I don't know a coach in the country that wouldn't want him on their team."

The Longhorns return to action Monday at home against Houston Baptist at 7:00 PM on the Longhorn Network. You can read our 10 immediate thoughts after the SFA game here .

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