Samford head coach Scott Padgett sat in the Frank Erwin Center media room on Friday for his postgame press conference. His team had just lost to the Longhorns, 59-49, and shot 34 percent from the field in the process.
It didn’t take long for Padgett to address the player who brought Samford misery all night – senior center Cameron Ridley.
“I thought a big fact in the game was the 6 foot-11, 290-pound monster in the middle that requires so much attention and opened so many things up for him,” Padgett said. “He went to work, and he battled.”
Ridley and the Longhorns have another chance to cause problems Tuesday against UTSA at the Erwin Center.
The big man had 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocks against Samford and heard about Padgett’s comments.
“I guess it means I impressed by playing like the biggest guy on the court, which I was,” Ridley said. “I take it as a compliment.”
Ridley is averaging 11.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and ranks No. 1 in the Big 12 in blocks with 2.71 – all increases from last season. Ridley credits his start to his offseason conditioning.
“I feel like I'm in much better shape,” Ridley said. “That's something I worked on all off-season and during the summer. I just come out and try to play my hardest.”
Head coach Shaka Smart said Ridley and members of the team’s staff created a plan tailored to building Ridley’s strength.
“Cam has made a lot of progress,” Smart said. “The vast majority of that goes to Cam. Our strength coach has done a nice job setting up a plan, and our nutritionist has worked with him on what to eat and what not to eat.”
But Smart still thinks there is another level that Ridley can jump to.
“I am probably the one who thinks that he can be much, much better than he is right now,” Smart said. “But right now, he's playing better than anybody for us.”
Ridley has the chance to play another big game against UTSA. The Roadrunners are 1-7 and rank No. 13 in Conference USA in opponent field goal percentage, allowing opponents to shoot 50.5 percent from the floor. They sit at No. 10 in offensive rebounds and No. 11 in defensive rebounds per game.
The game also represents a chance for a third-straight win. Smart said he’s seeing signs of what the Longhorns could become.
“I really make sure we're measuring our team against what we can be and what we need to be rather than the opponent we are playing that day,” Smart said.