Takeaways from Texas men’s basketball exhibition game: finding identity, Askew, Tyson shine

Nicholas Pannes, Christina Huang, Sports Reporters

Texas men’s basketball unofficially kicked off its season Monday night with a 96-33 win over Texas Lutheran in an exhibition.

While the Bulldogs are a Division III school, fans saw their first glimpse of many of the new faces on new head coach Chris Beard’s team. Here are six takeaways from Monday’s exhibition.

Welcome to college basketball, Jaylon Tyson

Freshman forward Jaylon Tyson took advantage of the offensive opportunities that came his way on Monday night. Tyson, one of three freshmen on the team, ended the game with 13 points, three rebounds and one block. If his Monday performance is any indication of how his time at Texas will look, the Longhorns could have a solid, positionless player who can be a true leader one or two seasons down the line.

The Texas roster is currently made up of mostly upperclassmen, with only four players being freshmen or sophomores. Although Tyson is probably not taking on an immediate role as a team leader, he has already shown the drive needed to be a future game changer.

Finding a cohesive identity

Even though the Longhorns absolutely dismantled the Bulldogs, the real win of the night was the formation of the team’s cohesive identity. Head coach Chris Beard emphasized the importance of positionless rotations during the preseason, and his focus on flexibility really showed in the flow of the game.

Four players scored at least 10 points, and three players recorded at least four assists. Although the Bulldogs were no match for the Longhorns to begin with, Texas’ togetherness in its floor movement was inspiring. Beard’s Frankenstein-esque experiment of gathering high-caliber transfers from underperforming basketball programs will look to play deep into March come NCAA Tournament time.

A dream come true 

Tuesday night was also about the fulfillment of lifelong dreams. Graduate transfer Tristen Licon got his first unofficial points as both a Texas Longhorn and as a Division I player. Licon graduated from Sul Ross State with a degree in education and came to Texas hoping to join Beard’s coaching staff. However, Beard was impressed by Licon’s performance in a pickup game, and the guard joined the roster. Licon ended Tuesday’s exhibition with two points, two rebounds and one steal.

Licon’s story is a reminder of what makes college sports so great. Although he may not see as much playing time at Texas as he did at Sul Ross, he serves as a microcosm of Texas basketball’s emphasis on hard work, determination and dedication.

“All Gas No Brakes” comes to Texas Basketball

Longhorns head football coach Steve Sarkisian’s “all gas, no brakes” mentality has been embraced with open arms by Beard’s basketball squad. Beard has always worked to create a no-nonsense brand wherever he coaches, but seeing a 96-33 rout in action shows this Texas team won’t let up on the opposition, even in an exhibition game.

Offensively, the team meshed well. Twenty-one total assists and four players with double-figure scoring reflected the team’s wealth of talented shooters and versatile players. Defensively, the Longhorns’ height, strength and cohesion was suffocating down to the last minute of play. As Beard aptly said after the game, if you hold your opponents to 33 points in 40 minutes of gameplay, “you’re playing some type of defense.”

Big men stake their claim to the post

Texas’ tallest players ran the show Monday night from both sides of the ball. The 6-foot-9-inch, 220-pound junior Tre Mitchell led the team in scoring with 16 points and was virtually uncontested when driving to the basket.

Christian Bishop, clocking in at 6-feet-7-inches and 220 pounds, put the Texas Lutheran offense on lockdown, working with his team to force the Bulldogs outside for a series of deep and awkward three-point attempts when he guarded the post. The senior finished the night with four steals and a block, while Texas Lutheran finished shooting a dismal 2-19 from three.

Devin Askew lives up to the hype

One player Beard has been emphatically hopeful for is sophomore Devin Askew, the 19-year-old transfer from Kentucky. Beard said last week that the former Wildcat had a gift for on-ball defense, which Askew showcased with great intensity on Monday night. In 15 minutes of play, he also scored nine points off a confident shot selection that showed glimmers of NBA potential.

Half of Askew’s points came from the free-throw line, a trend Beard said has to grow for this team to succeed come March. The Longhorns were a perfect 10-for-10 from the charity stripe. If they continue to play at a high intensity against stiffer competition, it’s likely they will visit the free throw line more often.