Orangebloods - Texas showed how it wants to play in season-opening win over UTRGV
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Texas showed how it wants to play in season-opening win over UTRGV

A mostly empty Erwin Center, sporting COVID-19 adjustments like signage all over the arena, zip-tied seats, and plexiglass separating courtside media from the floor, hosted the Longhorns’ (1-0) college basketball season-opener against UTRGV (0-1). The game felt very much like an odd exhibition game as everyone involved tried to carry on with basketball as normal.

And for a significant chunk of the game, the superior Longhorns, while in total control on the scoreboard, coasted and played that way until the final chunk of the second half. That’s when they delivered a glimpse of what they could become and beat UTRGV, 91-55.

Here are 10 postgame thoughts:

1) It wasn’t long after the arena’s setup introduced the few in attendance this game is happening during a global pandemic when we received another reminder this is going to be a unique season with unique obstacles. Andrew Jones wasn’t seen during pregame warmups, and Texas updated his status: he was being held out of tonight’s game for precautionary reasons because of a cough.

Jones, along with the rest of the Texas Basketball program, tested negative for COVID-19 yesterday. But because of protocol, a cough led to him being held out and away from the arena. This is college basketball in 2020-21. Obviously, we all hope Jones is fine and fully healthy.

“Well, I'm going to call him as soon as we get off here. I haven't talked to him since before the game,” responded Smart when asked about Jones and how the situation unfolded. “But we had shootaround. He was great. He was smiling and shooting the ball in. And then about two hours before the game started, I got a call from our trainer. And so Andrew had just a cough. And but the way it works now, with the COVID protocols, if you have certain symptoms, then you have to be held out. So. he was negative on a COVID test yesterday. The way it works when anyone has symptoms is you get tested again. So he'll be tested in the morning, but, you know, I'm going to check in with him hopefully, he's feeling well.

“And, man, I mean, probably of all of our guys, I was most excited to see him play tonight. Because he's had such a good offseason his attitude and approach have just been terrific. And he's really played well. So… it's a good test for me of my own things that I hit these guys with in terms of philosophy and we say when stuff like that happens, we got to be adaptable. We got to be flexible. I I felt myself like for a minute or two like man, you know, Andrew’s not playing, but we got to kind of take the next man up mentality and hope that he is fine tomorrow and we can move forward.”

2) All preseason, the Longhorns discussed wanting to play faster, more aggressively, and more violently. And behind the scenes, there were whispers this Texas team would use full-court pressure more than any other previous Smart team at Texas. If tonight truly does serve as a glimpse into how Texas wants to play, the preseason words were accurate.

After Texas scored its first points at the free throw line, which is something they need to greatly improve after last season’s disastrous rate, it immediately used full-court pressure. And for the majority of the game thereafter, the Longhorns continued to.

Was it perfect? Goodness, no. From bigs letting guards out of traps after short inbounds passes to perimeter players getting beat too easily near halfcourt, tonight didn’t at all resemble the Briante Weber-led VCU pressing teams. But Texas, unlike years previously, remain committed to it and it did have some disruptive moments and forced some turnovers. More importantly, in influenced the game’s tempo, which led to Texas’s best offense – transition. Besides a stretch late in the first half, UTRGV played at UT’s speed and style, and it showed on the scoreboard.

But tonight? This is how Smart wants to play. Hell, it's how he's always wanted to play.

3) UTRGV reminded Texas it was an actual opponent late in the first half, and Texas woke up and responded. Some good ball movement led to a Courtney Ramey floater before the halftime buzzer, which allowed the Longhorns to take a 45-29 lead into the break...


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