Texas Overcomes Rough Shooting Night

Texas pulled off the basketball equivalent of grinding Saturday night, as the Longhorns scrapped past a poor shooting night to hold off Sam Houston State 56-40.

Texas (3-2) scored more than half — 30 — of its 56 points from a combination of points off turnovers and second-chance points. That provided most of the Longhorns' advantage, as the Bearkats (1-5) earned 19 points from those same two categories.

"We were trying to win the game," said Alexis Wangmene afterward. "One thing that Coach (Rick Barnes) has been emphasizing since the New Jersey tournament is to go in and get some more offensive rebounds and make sure we box out on the other end."

Still, the Bearkats, playing just seven healthy players on scholarship and missing three players 6-foot-8 and taller, jumped out to an early 16-4 lead as the Texas struggled from the field. And while Texas rebounded from a 3-for-15 start to hit 6-of-their-next-14 to take a 28-22 lead into halftime, the Longhorns couldn't quite shake free. In fact, Texas led just 39-35 after Michael Holyfield made a layup with 5:52 left.

But Sheldon McClellan sparked a 13-0 run with a layup of his own, then a dunk off a feed from J'Covan Brown. A tip-in from Wangmene, upped the lead to 45-35. After a Brown free throw, the point guard fed Wangmene for another lay-up and a 48-35 advantage. Jonathan Holmes added two free throws and a jumper, and Texas stretched the lead out to 52-35. The scoring burst started at the 5:32 mark and ended at 1:09.

Holmes scored a game high 14 and added nine rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Wangmene had a career-high 13 points and eight rebounds. McClellan had 12 and six, while Brown added 11 and eight. Three other freshmen — Julien Lewis, Myck Kabongo and Jaylen Bond — struggled, going a combined 2-for-17 from the field. As a team, Texas shot just 31.6 percent from the floor and 23.5 percent from three-point range.

"We had a lack of discipline, offensively," Barnes said. "We don't understand flow. You can't go 1-for-15. If you don't score in three possessions, then you have to decide, `Okay, we are going to get something right here.' We don't have the discipline to do that yet."

The undersized and undermanned Bearkats weren't much better, shooting 32.1 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from three-point range. Guards Konner Tucker and Darius Gatson each had 10 for the Bearkats, though they shot a combined 8-for-30 on the night.

But Barnes wasn't happy with the defense, either.

"Defensively, I don't think we were great even though their (field goal) percentage looks like it would be," Barnes said. "I thought they moved the ball around and got some things they wanted."

Texas also had a major advantage at the free throw line, making 16-of-26 freebies. Sam Houston State shot just two free throws all game, missing both.

"We practiced hard the last two days," Barnes said. "We had to work on transition defense, especially, because we were so bad at that in New Jersey. We worked on it long and hard and did it for about two hours yesterday."

Texas will take on another in-state non-conference opponent on Tuesday, when North Texas comes to the Frank Erwin Center. Tip is at 7 p.m.

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