Eric Davis Jr. bounces back from early season slump

Shane Lewis

After a promising start to his collegiate career, Eric Davis Jr. came into this season with high expectations.

The sophomore guard enjoyed a solid rookie campaign, averaging more than seven points a game while receiving modest minutes playing behind upperclassmen guards Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix. He earned a spot on the Big 12’s All-Newcomer Team.

Along the way, Davis became known for his ability to show up in big contests. In his third collegiate game, the guard scored a team-high 19 points in a losing effort to No. 25 Texas A&M. A few weeks later, Davis drained four of his five triples to help Texas knock off No. 3 North Carolina.

In the Longhorns’ NCAA tournament bout with Northern Iowa, Davis was a standout, scoring 13 points on a night when other Longhorns struggled from the field.

With the departure of Taylor and Felix, the stage was set for Davis to embrace and thrive in an expanded role this season.

“Last year I learned from guys like Javan Felix and Isaiah Taylor, and different times I had to step up and be leader (of the) freshman,” Davis said in a preseason interview with Longhorn Network. “In the summer, me and coach Smart, we talked and he told me this is  your team.”

But things haven’t come easy for the sophomore this year. Despite receiving more than seven extra minutes per game, Davis has only increased his scoring average by a point.

Davis has also seen his shooting percentages plummet from where they were a year ago. He’s shooting only 36 percent from the field, down from 37 percent, and 69 percent from the charity stripe, down from 80 percent.

And after a season in which he made nearly 40 percent of his triples, Davis is shooting only 27 percent from deep.

Despite the shooting woes, Davis’ confidence in his game has not faltered, thanks in part to the support of his team.

“I always have confidence, it may not look like it, but I always have confidence,” Davis said. “Players, coaches, and the whole staff have been supporting me. They have the utmost confidence in me.”

All the confidence may be starting to pay dividends. Over the past six conference games, Davis has seen a resurgence in his game. He’s drained 13 triples over the span and has averaged more than 11 points.

The clutch gene he possessed has a freshman has resurfaced, too. In last week’s win over Texas Tech, Davis hit the game winning three with half a
minute left. A week prior, the sophomore sank a clutch triple with 12 seconds remaining to help the Longhorns come back and beat Oklahoma.

Smart believes Davis’ funk was a result of overwhelming expectations, but said the sophomore’s recent play is encouraging. The team will certainly need Davis as the regular season winds down and the conference tournament approaches. He’ll look to continue his resurgence as Texas takes on Oklahoma State this Saturday. 

“There was probably a little bit of a thought going into the year that sophomore year was going to be this unbelievable launching pad after a solid freshman year,” Smart said. “But there’s still a lot of ground to gain. He’s made progress, and he’s realized over this (recent stretch) the team needs him more than ever.”