Before the season, Texas head coach Shaka Smart and his coaching staff made deflections a point of emphasis.
“Deflections is a number we make a big deal out of,” Smart said in a preseason teleconference. “When I’ve been a head coach, we’ve won every game except one where we have 32 or more (deflections).”
In No. 11 Texas’ 79-63 win over Sam Houston State Wednesday night, Smart’s squad reached its goal and more — notching 36 deflections, forcing 17 turnovers and stifling the Bearcats with full-court pressure.
In the first half, the Longhorns proved why they are ranked among the nation’s top defenses, limiting Sam Houston State to just 13 points in the first 13 minutes to cruise to an early 33-13 lead. Junior guard Courtney Ramey came to play on both sides of the ball, scoring 17 points on an efficient 6-10 shooting and making his first five 3-point attempts of the night.
Texas would continue to hound the ball and bother the Bearcats on the defensive end starting in the second half, extending its lead to 65-38 with 11 minutes left in the game.
“I thought our guys started the second half with really good energy,” Smart said. “That was a point of emphasis the last couple of days in practice, to start the second half in a good way on the defensive end.”
But Sam Houston State wouldn’t go away, going on a 16-2 run to cut into the lead while Texas’ offense went absolutely stagnant. The Longhorns wouldn’t score a field goal for a 7-minute stretch during that run before freshman forward Greg Brown made his second three pointer of the game.
“We need to be better than we were in the second half,” Smart said. “I think one of the reasons we got stagnant offensively in the second half is that the ball was sticking too much. Guys didn’t move the ball well.”
Brown had 17 points to share the leading scorer title with Ramey. After a breakout game last Wednesday against Texas State, the freshman continued his up and down start against the Bearcats, committing careless turnovers but also making an impact on defense along with his team-leading scoring.
Since Texas’ game against Baylor was canceled due to the Bears’ failure to meet COVID-19 protocols, the Longhorns will now kick off Big 12 play Sunday against Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State lost 77-76 to TCU today, breaking a six-game winning streak. The Cowboys, led by top freshman sensation Cade Cunningham, will be looking to bounce back and collect their first conference win against Texas at the Frank Erwin Center.
It’s up to the Longhorns to stop the Cowboys and ensure they are ready for the grueling Big 12 conference schedule.
“Obviously the competition level goes up from today to Sunday,” Smart said. “We played some really good teams to this point in the year, but now we get into conference play. Obviously, the intensity always goes up from there.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story said Oklahoma State lost to TCU last Sunday, not today, Dec. 16. This has since been updated and corrected. The Texan regrets this error.