Myles Turner Dazzles in UT Debut

Freshman phenom Myles Turner lived up to all the hype in Texas' 85-50 win over North Dakota State. That and much more in our HD Rewind of the Longhorns season opener on Friday at the Frank Erwin Center.

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Player of the Game: You’ve got to give it to freshman phenom Myles Turner, who finished with 15 points (6-of-8), six rebounds, and two blocks.

“Well my teammates really got me ready for this,” Turner said. “They kept me amped up all week. It felt great coming out there and starting that way. But there is still a lot too learn. I led the team in turnovers.”

Turner did lead Texas with three turnovers. But what he did on offense far outweighed his three turnovers.

The 6-foot-11 post came out and hit his first three shots, all from mid-range, which really got the crowd going. NDSU called a timeout after he made a step-back jumper on his third shot, and was swarmed by his teammates as he went to the bench.

“Actually the way he started surprise me,” Barnes said. “I thought the way he missed his first three was how he would start the game.”

Turner missed that shot terribly but made everything else look easy when he came off the bench a few minutes into the game.

He was so nervous before the game that Barnes was joking about it in the locker room.

“He was really nervous,” Barnes said. [Strength coach] Todd [Wright] told me he’d never seen a kid that’s played that much basketball be that nervous.”

One area that Barnes did see room for improvement was on the defensive end, which is said to be Turner’s strength.

“Defensively he has to be better,” Barnes said. “He was the guy that broke down in big zone. Those are things he’ll learn. He can shoot the ball. He’s too good a shooter to miss a shot.”

***** Play of the Night: Myles Turner showed off his offensive game early but quickly reminded folks about his defensive prowess with 5:51 left in the first half when he blocked his first of many shots as a Longhorn. That led to an Isaiah Taylor behind-the-back dime to Cameron Ridley, who flushed it home to give Texas a 28-7 lead.

***** Stat of the Game: 3 - Barnes said he was a little surprised that Texas only had three blocks.

That probably had a lot to do with the fact that NDSU barely went inside and shot 29 threes.

He doesn’t expect those numbers to be that low this season.

“I would think that we should be one of the leading shot blocking teams in the country,” he said.

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The curse of being on the cover of Sports Illustrated didn’t impact Isaiah Taylor on Friday as Texas’ point guard poured in a game-high 18 points and grabbed 7 rebounds to go along with two assists in a team-high 28 minutes.

Texas coaches want him to mix in his jump shot a lot more this season along with his driving capabilities, and he proved that he was capable on Friday. Taylor went 6-for-11 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from threes.

He credits much of his success with good shot selection.

“I feel like it was,” he said. “We knew they were going to play a packed defense and were afraid of our size. We knew they would go under screen. Just taking outside shots with confidence just opened up the floor for everybody.”

Barnes was pleased with his PGs performance but saw room for improvement.

“Isaiah got better as game went on,” Barnes said. “We should have been passing up the side all night.”

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Cameron Ridley didn’t have his best game from a shooting standpoint, finishing with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting.

Barnes said that he did a good job of fighting for space but just wasn’t ready to finish when he got possession.

Ridley averaged 11 points on 54 percent shooting a season ago.

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Rick Barnes called Connor Lammert the most improved player on the team during the off-season, and he didn’t disappoint against the Bison.

He’s been a dirty-work machine since he arrived on campus and it was more of the same on Friday as Lammert provided three points, pulled down seven rebounds, and two assists in 19 minutes. His lone basket was a three.

Lammert ranked third on the team in rebounds (5.2), fourth in blocks (17) and sixth in scoring (5.8) last season as a sophomore. He should improve on each of those numbers this season with a hike in minutes.

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Barnes isn’t going to settle for stupid fouls this season, and he made that perfectly clear early on when he took Jonathan Holmes out of the game even though he’d already drained two treys.

“I took him out after the first foul and told him we couldn’t have that,” Barnes said.

Overall, though, Barnes was very pleased with how his senior performed, finishing the game with 15 points and six rebounds with zero turnovers. He was 2-of-3 from three (were two of Texas’ first three made attempts) and hit all three FTs.

“Holmes did what a senior would early,” Barnes said. “They were so packed in he just took his time and hit his threes.”

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The Longhorns do have another freshman on this team and he’s going to be a name you’ll probably grow to really enjoy.

Jordan Barnett, who has drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff and teammates alike, didn’t put up jaw-dropping numbers – two points, 1 rebound and 1 steal in 11 minutes. But he was one of the first subs to check into the game at around the 12-minute mark, which speaks to highly Rick Barnes thinks of him.

Barnett was asked to run the baseline as the three and didn’t seem timid. He drove the baseline for a dunk at one point in the first half but couldn’t get the ball down.

He also showed nice hustle after a Myles Turner turnover to provide backside help on a Bison fast break that ended up in a turnover.

Once Barnett gets a true feel for the college game, watch out. He’s unique to anyone that Texas has right now because of his size (6-foot-6) and ability to score from the outside and above the rim.

“I thought Jordan did some good things,” Barnes said. “He has to defend better. You’ll enjoy watching him grow.”

He’s arguably the highest flyer on the team along with Damarcus Croaker.

Barnett averaged 20.8 points per game, 8.2 rebounds, and nearly two blocks as a senior. He had one of the most ridiculous games any high schooler could have when he recorded 43 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks in an 86-77 overtime victory in the state championship game to close out his prep career.

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If Damarcus Croaker plans on staying in the rotation the closer to March we get he’s going to have to start knocking down shots from the perimeter.

Croaker was 0-for-2 from the field (both from three-point range) in six minutes.

He only averaged 9.5 minutes per game last season in large part because of his inconsistency on offense. He shot just 35 percent from the floor and only 29 percent from deep (22-of-74). That’s not going to cut it.

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OK, so it’s early, but the Longhorns look like they should be OK from the free throw line this season in large part because their bigs should be able to knock them down.

Texas was 18-of-21 from the charity strip against the Bison, which is good for 85.7 percent. A season ago, UT shot 67 percent for the season and 70 percent in Big 12 play.

Cam Ridley, who shot just 62 percent last season, hit all three of his. Myles Turner, who figures to draw plenty of fouls, was 3-for-4. And Demarcus Holland, who said he’d improved on his FT shooting, went 3-for-4.

“I’m really happy for Cam,” Barnes said. “We know that. If we are going to put the ball inside we are going to get fouled. I thought they actually did a pretty good job of not fouling more. It’s going to be a big key because we are going to throw it in there.

Texas is going to put some fouls on people because of the matchup problems it presents with its post players.”

North Dakota State A.J. Jacobson’s fouled out with a little less than 10 minutes to go. Bison Dexter Werner fouled out less than three minutes later. NDSU had 20 fouls total to Texas’ 16.

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Barnes joked that he was disappointed in the walk-ons for dropping Texas down to below 50 percent shooting for the game. They entered with a little more than two minutes left when UT was above 50 percent and missed enough that UT dropped to 48.4 percent for the game.

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NDSU head coach David Richman was impressed that Texas only had 10 turnovers on the night given how fast the Longhorns like to play.

“We ran into a team that was far superior,” Richman said. “There is a reason they are No. 10 in the country. They are very long and athletic. And they are a year older. We are the opposite.”

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To say NDSU was baffled by Texas’ size would be an understatement.

When I asked Bison guard Lawrence Alexander about it he chuckled and said, “You aren’t going to see that many teams with that height moving forward.”

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FYI – One of the smartest things the Longhorns did on Friday had nothing to do with what they did on the court but rather who they had in the stands.

Texas had DJ Irie – the Miami Heats’ official DJ - on the 1s and 2s throughout the game, which really helped keep the crowd in the game throughout the blowout.

“If I had to pick an MVP I’d pick our fans,” Barnes said. “I told our coaches in 17 years I don’t think we’d had an opening like that. It was a fun atmosphere.”

If you’ve followed Texas basketball at all you’d know that early season home crowds are usually scarce at best. Not only was the Frank Erwin Center packed – there were people in the upper deck… for a non-conference game… in November – but they seemed to all enjoy the atmosphere that DJ Irie helped create.

Barnes knows that in a city like Austin, the Longhorns have to bring something creative to the table to draw fans.

“That bass had me rattling. This is great,” he said. “People are having fun here. We are in the entertainment business and we know that. It’s got to be something fun.”

This is probably a one-time thing for him but he did announce that Texas would have a DJ for every home game this season, which is an extremely smart move.

Props.

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Longhorns 2015 QB commitment Zach Gentry's junior highlights

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