Back in January, the nation’s leading scorer strolled into the Frank Erwin Center from Connecticut.
He handed Texas a heartbreaking one-point overtime loss and went on to lead the Huskies to their third national title. Now, the Longhorns are hoping J’Covan Brown can provide the same spark Kemba Walker did for UConn last season.
Brown finds himself in a similar situation as Walker did last season — at a proud basketball program starved for established scoring threats. Three of UConn’s top four scorers did not return a year ago, leaving Walker to become the go-to guy on offense, almost by default. Likewise, the Longhorns are leaning on Brown for scoring production with six of last season’s top seven point-scorers gone.
That’s why six points just won’t cut it.
Going 3-for-10 from the floor when the likes of Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson, Gary Johnson and Cory Joseph surround you is acceptable. But not this year. Brown entered Tuesday as the country’s sixth-highest scorer at 23.2 points per game but has cooled off recently. The junior guard is shooting 28 percent from the field in his last two contests and has hit just one of his last seven tries from beyond the arc.
Brown scored a career-high 35 points in a 10-point win over Rhode Island earlier this season, the only time he’s put up more than 20 shots while Walker topped 20 shots 12 times last season. Texas will need its leading scorer to be more aggressive, rather than confine himself to the corner opposite the Longhorns bench like he did for most of the second half Tuesday night.
Walker, who was a junior last season like Brown is now, practically put a patent on game-winning step-back jumpers. Brown hasn’t had any last-minute outcome-altering shots to boast, but he has been clutch, scoring 12 of his 20 points in the second half of the aforementioned contest against Connecticut. He had 21 after halftime in Texas’ 70-69 NCAA tournament loss to Arizona and exploded for 11 during a five-minute span in the second half of the Longhorns’ historic 74-63 victory at Kansas.
But getting ejected against NC State last week, a miscue that essentially cost Texas a win as the Wolfpack ended the game on a 24-9 run following Brown’s fifth foul, raises a red flag. As fiery of a competitor as Walker was, he never got thrown out of a game.
To his credit, Brown doesn’t have quite the supporting cast that Walker had last season, although most of his teammates are freshmen with a lot of promise and room to improve. Rookies accounted for all three Longhorns that scored in double figures against North Texas and for 54 of their 73 points. But for Texas to have any hope of reaching the NCAA tournament, much less contending for a conference or national title, it will need Brown to step up.
Printed on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 as: Texas needs more than six from Brown to win nightly