Texas streaks past Rhode Island

Sameer Bhuchar

It came in bunches for Texas, but when it rained, it poured. And no, that isn’t a reference to the precipitation that fell yesterday in Austin.

J’Covan Brown scored a career-high 35 points and freshman Myck Kabongo added 18 of his own to help lead the Longhorns to a 100-90 win over Rhode Island in the second round of the TicketCity Legends Classic. The Longhorn freshmen notched 56 percent of the team’s points in a game where Texas relied heavily on a series of scoring streaks, especially a second half 13-0 run to propel Texas beyond the visitors.

Texas built up a 17-point lead in the first half with a methodical game plan. It utilized its quick guards to get the ball up and down the floor to set up big shots, and the undersized Longhorns even rebounded the ball well. Their 42 rebounds (14 offensive) came against a talented Rhode Island team, but this is one aspect of the game head coach Rick Barnes said he wanted more of.

Though he had six big rebounds to go along with his 11 points, two assists and a block, freshman forward Jonathan Holmes echoed this sentiment.

“I know I need to get better at rebounding and getting on the defensive boards. I just have to work hard out there,” Holmes said. “If you give up rebounds, you come out of the game. [Barnes] is hard on us about getting them, but he should be.”

At halftime, the Longhorns squandered their huge lead in a matter of six minutes. They went into the tunnel with a 46-43 lead, and then eventually lost that over the first seven minutes of the second half. It wasn’t until an accident-turned-highlight alley-oop from Brown to freshman Sheldon McClellan that Texas got the ball rolling again. The dunk sparked the 13-0 run, inspired the Longhorns to play physical man-to-man defense, and Texas never looked back.

“At the start of the second half we felt like we had to create some sort of defensive identity and that started with [man-to-man defense],” Barnes said. “Actually when we finally got back the control of the game, it was created on the defensive end.”

Brown further bolstered his role as the team’s leader after another commanding performance. He never lost poise, hitting 10 of 22 shots including five of 10 three-pointers. For the second game in a row, Brown reached or surpassed his previous career mark, but somehow he still wasn’t happy with the entirety of his performance.

“I was really upset with missing two free throws,” Brown said. “But today my teammates did a great job of screening and leaving me open for shots. I tried to [go the whole season] not missing any free throws, but that’s out the door now.”

Kabongo reached double figures in scoring for the first time in his career, netting most of them from the line. He was 12-17 from the line, but Rick Barnes was more pleased with how he handled the tempo of the physical game to draw the fouls.

“I thought Myck [Kabongo] did a good job. We thought this was going to be one of those feast or famine games for him,” Barnes said. “He wants to play full-throttle all the time.”

Though the crowd was sparse, a number of Texas alumni basketball players were in attendance, including locked-out NBA players Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers and superstar Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. They’ve worked out with the team off-and-on all summer, so their presence came as no surprise to the current Longhorns. In fact, instead of being star-struck, Brown threw a couple of fun jabs at the former Texas stars.

“Well we’ve been seeing [Durant and Thompson] a lot now. We are really just tired of seeing them. They need to go get a job.”

If Brown keeps playing the way he is, he may be joining their eventual line of work sooner rather than later.

Printed on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 as: Brown scores career-high 35, leads Horns to win