On to Kentucky after 10-point win over UTA

It wasn’t pretty but the Longhorns (7-0) still found a way to defeat UT-Arlington (3-4) pretty handily, 63-53, on Tuesday at the Frank Erwin Center. Here are several takeaways from UT’s victory.

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Had it not been for Holmes in the first half, I’m not so sure Texas ends the first 20 minutes with the lead.

Texas was struggling to get anything going offensive (shot 35.5 percent from the floor), was 4-of-16 from three, and gave up six threes.

But Holmes did what he does, attacked the glass on both ends with a reckless abandonment and was a terror in the paint defensively. He finished the first half with six points, 10 rebounds (five offensive), three blocks and one assist.

On the night, Texas’ lone senior finished with 9 nine points, tied a career-high with 16 rebounds, three blocks and an assist.

He was uncharacteristically inconsistent from outside shooting just 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. But the seasoned vet found a way to impact the game, and Texas might not have escaped without him.

Holmes knows he and the team can’t shoot as poorly as they did to start the game on Friday.

“We came out slow,” he said. “We have to do a better job. If we do this against Kentucky we aren’t going to win.”

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If the first half belonged to Holmes, the second half really belonged to Myles Turner. He started a little sluggish in the first half scoring only five points on 0-of-3 shooting in six minutes. But he flipped a switch in the second and finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for his second collegiate double-double.

Turner said the whole team came out with the wrong type of attitude. They weren’t hungry enough.

Turner couldn’t find any rhythm on offense as he was just 2-of-10 from the floor. But he crashed the glass, which played a large part in him getting to the line where he made 14-of-17 FTs.

“It’s just something I know I can contribute to the team,” Turner said of his FT shooting. “Big men aren’t expected to knock them down. I just work on it every day in practice.”

The 6-foot-11 freshman also used his 7-foot-4 wingspan to block a team-high five shots.

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The Longhorns tied a school-record with 13 blocks in this one.

Texas’ eight blocks in the first half were one shy of tying the team record for most block shots in a half.

UT has already had games of eight and 10 blocks this season. Not only is Texas blocking a lot of shots, it’s how they block them that’s been really impressive. Very rarely do you see the Longhorns blocking a shot out of bounds. They normally manage to keep the ball in play with hopes of turning it into an easy bucket the other way.

In addition to blocked shots, UT dominated UTA on the glass 52-25. UT had 28 offensive rebounds (nine by Holmes and six by Turner).

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I thought the Longhorns did a better job of fighting for space down low, but it still has to get better. Part of that is sheer want-to from UT’s posts but it also has a lot to do with Texas’ guards not getting them the ball early enough.

Barnes thought the effort was better to.

“I do. I think they did. It’s hard,” he said.

The Longhorns managed only 16 points in the paint compared to UTA’s 2, and that’s against a Mavs team that played only one player at 6-foot-10 or taller. Those numbers are a little misleading considering how many times UT went to the line from fouls in the paint, but you still expect Texas to get more inside.

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Barnes said that Cameron Ridley isn’t playing with a whole lot of confidence right now. He followed up a five-point, 0-rebound effort at UConn by scoring eight points but grabbing only two rebounds.

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The free throw line used to be a place of horrors for the Longhorns, but that’s not the case this season. Far from.

Texas, which came in shooting 74 percent (89-of-120), hit 22-of-27, including 13-of-16 in the first half.

Almost as important for UT was its lack of fouls. The Longhorns made UTA earn its points by only sending the Mavericks to the line 9 times, including just two times in the first half.

Texas has shot 34 more free throws (120-104 coming in) than its opponents this season.

Turner and Kendal Yancy each hit two huge free throws in the final few minutes against UConn, which helped Texas escape with the victory.

The Longhorns will need every single one of them on Friday against Kentucky.

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I though Kendal Yancy did a much better job of penetrating and creating in this one. In fact, it was probably his best job of it yet.

Barnes said on Monday that he wanted the sophomore from Richardson (Texas) to drive to the basket because it was in his “wheelhouse,” but that he needed to make sure to create something out of it, even if his shots not there.

Yancy did a really nice job of that on Tuesday, creating open looks for others off penetration.

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Longhorns point guard Javan Felix injured his left foot trying to get around a screen with just over 14 minutes left to play in the first half.

Felix sat on the floor for a few moments while play continued before finally getting up after a Texas foul. He then hobbled over to the bench but seemed to shake it off.

He ended up entering the game less than three minutes later and tied the game at 18 with a three-pointer less than two minutes after that. Felix ended up playing 21 minutes while scoring seven points, grabbing six rebounds, two assists and a steal.

The junior from New Orleans was wearing a boot on his left foot on Monday during Rick Barnes press availability. He twisted his left ankle late against UConn.

It sounds like he’ll be just fine against Kentucky.

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In an attempt to lengthen his bench, Barnes put freshman wing Jordan Barnett into the game at the 15:07 mark after not playing him at all against UConn.

Barnett has really struggled with his shot early on converting just 4-of-19 (.221) shots coming in, including 1-of-9 from beyond the arc. He started this game 0-for-4 in the first half and finished 0-for-6.

The head-scratching part of all of this is he can shoot. He’s just in a really bad slump right now and the only way to do that is to shoot your way out of it. I’m just not sure when those chances are going to come. He was getting great looks.

Barnett did have two offensive rebounds and a blocked shot, so he did hustle in his eight minutes.

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Now it’s on to the big one for the Longhorns as they travel to Kentucky to take on the No. 1 Wildcats in Rupp Arena on Dec. 5 as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The game tips off at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

To a man everyone we spoke to after the game said they weren’t looking past UTA to this game. But now that it’s here the players seem excited about the matchup, which will feature two of the tallest teams in the country.

“We go against some big guys every day in practice,” Holmes said. “It will be fun going against some guys with the same size that we have. We haven’t played anyone like them and they haven’t played anyone like us. We’ll see what happens.”

Turner said he knows many of them from the McDonald’s All-American Game and the summer circuit.

UTA head coach Scott Cross, whose Mavs lost at Kentucky 92-44 on Nov. 25, thinks the Longhorns can hang with UK.

“I honestly think they can play with them,” he said. “Watching Texas on tape, they match up with them very well. Their big guys are just as good as Kentucky’s. They have just as good a chance as anyone in the country to play with them.”

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