Fans at the Frank Erwin Center got their first small taste of freshman forward Greg Brown’s potential Wednesday night.
Texas State kept within striking distance of Texas for much of the night in the Longhorns’ 74-53 win. But it was Brown who finally helped Texas pull away, hitting three straight 3-pointers and scoring 12-straight points with five minutes left to seal the win.
“We want him to take open, in-rhythm threes,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “That’s what happened on those last three he made — stepped in, left, right, good balance, rose up and made them. … The exciting thing is that there’s so much room for growth.”
The No.9-rated recruit by ESPN scored a career-high 18 points and made three blocks while shooting 7-14 from the field after starting the season on a slight shooting slump.
“It’s been a struggle on the offensive end,” Brown said. “A lot of the time, when I struggle, (my teammates) pick me up fast. Matt (Coleman), Courtney (Ramey), everybody on this team are juniors and seniors. They’ve really helped me throughout this whole college transition.”
It wasn’t a particularly inspiring win for the No. 13 Longhorns, who will begin conference play against No. 2 Baylor Dec. 13.
“This win right here, that wasn’t our full potential,” Brown said.
Texas seemed in control from the opening tip, jumping out to an early 21-10 lead, but the Bobcats went on their own run to bring the score down to 23-18 before Smart called his first timeout of the half.
Smart inserted junior forward Kamaka Hepa for his first minutes of the game, and Hepa would help spark a 10-2 Texas run to end the half.
The Bobcats would continue to stick around in the second half, cutting the Longhorn lead to seven at one point in the second half with second efforts on the offensive glass. Texas State had 13 offensive rebounds.
“We’re going to need to play tougher than we did tonight on the glass,” Smart said.
Enter Brown. The freshman had struggled with foul trouble in the Maui Invitational Tournament last week. He traveled several times in the 68-64 loss against Villanova Sunday.
However, Brown did much more than hit one jump shot against Texas State. The freshman’s three-straight three-pointers were accompanied by a monster two-hand block on the defensive end.
“The main thing I want to get better at is just playing with patience, knowing where the next play is,” Brown said. “Just having that next step of basketball IQ. Once I have that, everything else will fall into play.”
Before the season, Smart talked about how Brown in game one was going to be extremely different than Brown in game 15 due to the difficulty of the transition from high school basketball to college basketball.
Just like any freshman, Brown’s transition to college has come with its growing pains. He’s also had to deal with an extremely tough early schedule, including playing North Carolina and Villanova in consecutive games.
“I think about that almost everyday,” Brown said. “Those are two really great basketball programs. It’s just like, ‘Dang, the next game we play, I play Baylor on a Sunday.’ It’s just crazy how fast things come.”