No. 12 Texas’ newcomers led Longhorns past stout UTEP opponent to victory in season opener


Julius Shieh

Sophomore Tyrese Hunter advances down the court while dribbling during a game against UT El Paso on Nov. 07, 2022. The Longhorns won 72-57.

Payne Williams, Senior Sports Reporter

The No. 12 Texas men’s basketball team fought through a turnover-riddled first half on its way to defeating UTEP 72-57 in the team’s season opener on Monday.

Playing the first official basketball game in the new Moody Center which opened in April, the Longhorns didn’t get off to the hot start they were looking for in their new-arena debut, committing several turnovers off errant passes and failing to convert open shots.

However, the team’s newcomers breathed life into the Longhorns, including New Mexico State transfer Sir’Jabari Rice who led Texas in rebounds.

I don’t think there was a better crowd in college basketball tonight than what we saw tonight.

— Chris Beard

“(Rice) is all about winning, and the exciting thing is, I think he can play better than he did tonight,” head coach Chris Beard said. “He gives us a chance to do a lot of things this season.”

Despite Rice’s contributions, freshman guard Dillon Mitchell’s burst and athleticism looked to wake Texas early in the game. Mitchell threw down a crowd-pleasing put-back dunk midway through the first half, and from that point, it was the Longhorns’ game.

After Mitchell’s dunk brought the score to 16-8, Texas made its next three 3-point shot attempts to help push its halftime lead to 33-20, but Mitchell and Rice weren’t the only newcomers to leave their mark on the game.

Sophomore Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter was the consistent spark the Texas offense needed throughout the game, and his speed and ability to find lanes were on full display.

The former Big 12 Freshman of the Year led the Longhorns with 18 points and didn’t have any problem piloting the Texas offense while senior guard Marcus Carr was on the bench.

Rice provided the energy below the rim on his way to a team-high six rebounds, and UTEP head coach Joe Golding said after the game that he was happy that the Miners are done with having to defend against the 6-foot-4-inch guard.

“I’m glad I never have to see him again,” Golding said. “He’s a winner.”

Despite the Longhorns’ playmaking, their overall lack of rebounding and UTEP’s ball protection dwindled the Texas lead to as little as eight points in the second half.

However, senior forward Dylan Disu was the anchor Texas needed deep into the game. After Rice secured a strong defensive rebound, Carr found Disu on the ensuing fast break for a slashing dunk that extended Texas’ lead to 14 points with six minutes left to play.

The deficit proved to be large enough to be overcome, as the Miners didn’t get within 13 points of the Longhorns the rest of the way.

Monday also saw the debut of the new men’s basketball student section nicknamed “The Corral” in addition to fans’ first taste of Moody Center. Beard thanked fans for the electric atmosphere in the Longhorns’ season opener.

“I don’t think there was a better crowd in college basketball tonight than what we saw tonight,” Beard said. “They impacted the game.”