Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Texas men’s basketball midseason recap: Longhorns on the up-and-up

Lorianne Willett
Head Coach Rodney Terry after Texas’ win against Baylor on Jan. 20, 2024.

Sitting at 14–5 overall, Texas’ 2023-24 campaign has been an up-and-down experience — but zooming out and slotting it into what’s been a roller coaster of a year for the program helps to explain the team’s mercurial nature.

Following the firing of head coach Chris Beard, it felt like just as the program was beginning to take flight, having won six of its last seven games, it had its wings clipped.

None, then, aside from maybe the Texas locker room, could have predicted the meteoric rise of interim head coach Rodney Terry, who guided Texas to a Big 12 Championship and an Elite Eight appearance. Fans clamored for the interim title to be removed, and days after Texas was erased from March Madness, it was made official.

Hiring Rodney Terry felt like Longhorn basketball turning a page, because it was. Terry endeared himself to Longhorn Nation rapidly and his excitement and swagger contrasted the no-nonsense approach of his predecessor. However, his first full season has not been as magical.

Currently 3–3 in conference play, Texas has been decidedly middle of the pack in a fearsome Big 12. The Longhorns started 11–2, but reading beyond the wins and losses painted the picture of an unproven team. In the opening weeks of the season, Texas handled inferior competition by double-digits but struggled to gel with a starting lineup sporting three transfers and without the star of last year’s team, graduate forward Dylan Disu. 

Those concerns spilled over when graduate transfer Max Abmas’ buzzer-beater saved his team from a catastrophic loss to a Louisville team that currently sits at 6–13 and were reinforced when Texas was defeated by UConn in its first real test of the season. The Longhorns didn’t ease those worries, falling flat against former Texas coach Shaka Smart in a blowout loss to Marquette. 

The Longhorns rattled off five straight wins after the Marquette loss, including arguably their best of the season against LSU in Disu’s return. However, with a chance to start on the right foot in its last season of Big 12 play, the Longhorns once again came up short, getting outclassed at home by Texas Tech.

Uncertainty regarding Texas’ trajectory reached a fever pitch following Texas’ 1–3 start in the Big 12, punctuated by a home collapse to UCF in which the Longhorns squandered a 15-point second half lead. Compounded by Terry’s vocal displeasure with UCF flashing the “Horns Down” after the comeback, which made national headlines, the reigning Big 12 Champions appeared to be in free fall, with the feeling that another loss could bury the season.

The Longhorns have temporarily quelled the flames, gutting out a victory in an absolute must-win spot against No. 9 Baylor on a game-winner by junior Tyrese Hunter, and followed it up with its most complete win of the season in a road smackdown of rival Oklahoma.

A week ago, the Longhorns looked like a team that had punched above its weight in 2022 and  had potentially made a knee-jerk hire at head coach driven by good vibes. Another bad loss will likely reignite the discourse regarding both the Longhorns’ and Terry’s legitimacy.

But today, Texas finds itself building momentum when it matters most in a loaded Big 12. Terry’s first full year at the helm hasn’t been perfect, but it was never going to be. He’s already demonstrated competence in postseason play, proven himself on the recruiting trail and, most importantly, displayed an unshakable calmness when it seemed like the sky was falling.

“I think just like anything you’ve got to continue to grind, stay the course, keep working the process,” Terry said to the media. “And at the end of the day, try to have your team in a position where they’re playing their best basketball at the right time of year.”

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About the Contributor
Lorianne Willett, Photo Editor
Lorianne is a Journalism and Global Sustainability junior from San Antonio, Texas. Currently, she is the Photo Editor. In her free time, she enjoys reading and playing tennis.