The best defense is great offense: Rodney Terry compares early conference loss to upcoming Elite Eight matchup

Payne Williams, Sports Desk Editor

No. 2-seed Texas is set to face one of the hottest offensive teams in the country in No. 5-seed Miami on Sunday in the Elite Eight, and interim head coach Rodney Terry recalled the Longhorns’ high-scoring loss to Kansas State earlier this season as a reminder that Texas can keep up with the best.

On Jan. 3, Texas fell 116-103 to Kansas State, marking the most points ever allowed by Texas in a Big 12 conference game. And while question marks flooded the defense, it was the second game in a four outing stretch that Texas reached the century mark, and Rodney Terry knew that his team could score alongside the best in the country.

“I thought it was very important that (the defensive performance) didn’t take away from the fact that we could score,” Terry said in Saturday’s preview of the regional final. “We’re a team that can score the basketball. We scored 103 points, and that’s not a fluke.”

Sophomore guard Tyrese Hunter and graduate guard Marcus Carr combined for 56 points against the Wildcats, who also made the Elite 8,  as they helped Texas score 63 points in the second half alone.

However, it was important for Terry that he reestablish the team’s defensive identity after allowing 116 points, and it will prove just as important facing the red-hot Hurricanes.

“It was kind of a give and take there,” Terry said. “I didn’t want to come in and take away from the offense because we can score. But I also had to send a message that, for us to win games … we were going to have to guard and take a lot of pride in guarding.”

Over its past two tournament wins, Miami is averaging 87 points per game, helping it to steep margins of victory in each of its last two contests.

Four Hurricanes average over 13 points per season, including former Wildcat and All-Big 12 First Teamer Nigel Pack, who’s shooting 40% from behind the arc. The sophomore led his team with 26 points in its upset victory over No. 1-seed Houston on Friday.

Senior forward Brock Cunningham reinforced Terry’s defensive mindset heading into Sunday and said the offense will take care of itself.

“(Terry) isn’t too worried about the shots we’re getting because we’ve got a good offense and smart players,” Cunningham said. “I want to say 90% of his focus is on the defensive end because that’s what wins.”

Texas earned a rousing victory over Xavier on Friday as it was successful on both ends of the court, scoring 83 points on 52% shooting on the offensive side and forcing eight steals to go with 12 turnovers on defense.

The Longhorns will need to keep to those trends if they wish to take down the ACC regular season champion and move on to the Final Four.