Column: Despite 1-2 record in Bahamas tournament, Longhorns show signs of potential

Jacob Martella

A simple look at Texas’ scores from the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament might paint a sour picture.

The Longhorns suffered losses to Texas A&M and Michigan, finishing sixth of eight teams, and left the Bahamas with a 2-3 record.

But reading head coach Shaka Smart’s comments and looking into the box score will give Longhorn fans hope for the month before conference play.

First and foremost, Texas found its offensive stroke in the Bahamas. The Longhorns posted a season-high 82 points in the rematch against Washington and shot 50 percent from the field against Michigan.

Freshman guard Eric Davis led the way for Texas, shooting 4-of-7 from three against A&M and scoring a team-high 15 points against Washington. Junior guard Isaiah Taylor looked like his freshman form, averaging 14 points in the three games.

Longhorn fans who stuck around to watch the game against Michigan got a glimpse of what everyone’s been waiting for since Smart was hired in April — his signature up-tempo defense.

With the Wolverines up by 13 in the second half, Smart switched to a diamond full-court press. The results were immediate. Texas rolled off a 21-9 run and closed the gap to 67-66 before Michigan ran away with the game.

“We were stopping (Michigan), and we were able to execute, get some really good shots, and so we were able to take the lead down from 13 to 1,” Smart said.

Of course, the team still has plenty to work on — especially on the defensive end. The Longhorns gave up 77 points per game and allowed Michigan to shoot 56 percent from behind the arc.

“We know that we have to put stops together on the defensive end,” Taylor said. “That’s actually what we’re trying to make our identity, in rebounding and getting stops on that end.”

These losses are still on the Longhorns’ résumé. Come March, they could be the deciding factor between an NCAA tournament bid and a NIT bid.

But Smart has preached about “the process.” Early games won’t all be pretty, he says.

“If you don’t follow the process, that’s one guarantee that you won’t be able to get the results,” Smart said. “It’s something that if our guys continue to own, then we’re going to have a lot of success.”

Going 1-2 in the Bahamas isn’t ideal, but the Longhorns showed their potential. If they can execute more consistently, good things might be in store in the next few months.