Longhorns fail road test in Providence

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

If there’s one positive thing to take away from the Longhorns’ humiliating 70-48 loss to the Providence Friars, it’s that they didn’t give up. 

The Friars cruised out to a comfortable 15-point halftime lead behind graduate student guard Luwane Pipkins four three-pointers and didn’t look back, allowing their defense to dig in and lock down Texas shooters. 

Providence’s stingy defense forced Texas to play outside itself. The Longhorns weren’t close to the “aggressive, loose and confident” team head coach Shaka Smart had cited in the team’s 9-1 start, the best of his tenure at Texas.

“We always talk about competitive effort in our program, we talk about intentional execution and then responding when things do or don’t go your way,” Smart said. “You can’t expect to win if you don’t do those things at a high enough level, at the standard that we work on every day. It’s a lesson that our guys need to learn.”

The Horns’ season-low 31.7% shooting from the field marked the sixth-lowest shooting percentage of the Shaka Smart era, largely due to a stagnant and immobile offensive performance. 

A transformed Texas offense, which hadn’t scored fewer than 60 points in a game this season, reverted to the Longhorn offense of old. Little ball movement with guards running a simple pick-and-roll late in the shot clock resulted in contested shots and turnovers.

“Offensively, we did not share the basketball nearly enough,” Smart said. “Too much probing, too much waiting to see what opens up as opposed to moving the basketball and getting to the next play.”

Texas’ veteran guards, Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey, finished with two combined assists. For an offense centered around its guard play, it’s not ideal for Smart.

“Any time the two of those guys combined have two assists, that’s not a recipe for us to have as good an offense as we want to have,” Smart said, adding that he was more pleased with the team’s shot selection on possessions with better ball movement.

The Longhorns didn’t score in the final 6:13. 

The Friars took full advantage of Texas’ offensive struggles, turning 13 Longhorn turnovers into 14 points. Providence’s senior guard Alpha Diallo led the way for Providence with 14 points and 12 rebounds, torching the Longhorns for the second year in a row. Diallo managed 20 points with a few clutch late shots against Texas in last year’s 71-65 Friar win. 

“In our meeting last night, I told (Diallo and Pipkins) that they just have to be aggressive and attack,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “We can’t wait. We can’t feel the game out. We’ve got to come and play the way we’ve been practicing.”

With a nine-day break until Texas’ next matchup with High Point in Austin on Dec. 30, the Longhorns will have plenty of time to sit on the loss before their next game and the start of conference play on Jan. 4. 

“After a game like this, you want to play as soon as you possibly can. The fact that we have to wait nine days until our next game, that’s tough.” Smart said, emphasizing the need to play with more urgency. “There’s only one way you can come in here and win a game like today, and we didn’t honor that way, we didn’t have enough urgency.”