The team's lone scholarship junior, Holmes has set the tone for the Longhorns early this season with his all-round play and his effort. He showed both on Monday night, scoring a game-high 15 points and then chipping two teeth on the court when diving for a loose ball. For a minute, Holmes and the referees looked along the court for the pieces of his teeth, one of the few moments of drama in a game that was over almost as soon as it started.
"I think it speaks volumes about him," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "We're up by 21 points and he goes on the floor and knocks two teeth not out, but he chipped two teeth.
"I made him smile in front of the whole team to let them see what ugly really looks like," Barnes joked. "But what can you say about him? He goes at it the entire time and he'll be all right."
After conceding the first basket, the Longhorns ripped off 15 straight points and led by double-digits the rest of the way. The Longhorns actually led by 21 at the under-eight minute timeout in the first half, though after getting up big, Texas relaxed a bit and allowed Houston Baptist to climb back to within 11 at one point. The 'Horns led by 13 at the half, and figured to get a talking-to at halftime.
"I think that we kind of started out good and we kind of got comfortable, but in the second half we came back strong," said Connor Lammert. "It was nice not having to come back [from behind], I will be honest."
Whatever Barnes said, it must have worked. The Longhorns opened the second half on an 11-1 run and never looked back.
That Texas won big wasn't a surprise: Houston Baptist was ranked 325th nationally by KenPom. And the Longhorns used their big early lead to rotate through the freshmen with Damarcus Croaker (20), Martez Walker (18) and Kendal Yancy (16) each setting career highs in minutes played."We need to get those other guys ready," Barnes said. "They've got to get ready. Tonight we wanted those guys, if the game allowed us to, to get as many minutes as we could."
In fact, Walker was one of four Longhorns in double-figures, scoring 10 points to go with Holmes's 15, 14 from Javan Felix and 13 from Lammert. As a team, the Longhorns hit a blistering 44 percent from three-point range, making 11-of-25 shots from behind the arc. The margin of victory could have been even bigger, except that Texas had a similar touch from the free throw line. Texas made just 18-of-40 freebies (45 percent) as a team. The worst offenders were post players Cameron Ridley (3-for-11) and Prince Ibeh (2-for-7). Isaiah Taylor scored a career-low two points, but dished out six assists.
It also helped that Texas had such strong performances from the bench. The Longhorns changed up the lineup for the first time this season, electing to go with the 6-foot-3 Yancy at shooting guard over 5-10 Felix. That meant that four of Texas's top five scorers (Croaker had nine) came from off the bench.
Holmes added six rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals in 20 minutes before leaving the game. He went to the locker room before coming back out to the bench, though he didn't return to play. Lammert had a team-best nine rebounds and tied with Holmes and Ridley with three blocks apiece.
Rob Lewis led the Huskies (1-2) with 13 points, while Cody Joyce had 10.
"Overall, I would say that as a team we've learned a lot here in the last 10 days in terms of preparation," Barnes said. "I thought tonight we acted young and when we got the big lead in the first half our shot selection was a little bit quicker than we wanted. We fumbled the ball and picked it up and shot it instead of making the extra pass. There was a lot of good things. We've got a long way to go and we've got to get better, but these guys want to get better."
Texas (4-0) will put its undefeated record on the line next Monday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. That's when the Longhorns will play the BYU Cougars (4-0), a team currently ranked as KenPom's No. 30 team nationally. BYU will be tested before it gets there — the Cougars will host Iowa State on Wednesday.