Longhorns Look To Bounce Back From Losses at OU And ISU This Week At Home Against No. 10 West Virginia and No. 25 Baylor

Texas looks to protect its undefeated record at home in league play this week against No. 10 West Virginia on Tuesday and No. 25 Baylor on Saturday.

NEXT UP: HOME REMATCH WITH NO. 10 WVU ON TUESDAY (6 PM)

In the latest AP rankings released Monday, Texas (16-9, 7-5 Big 12) remained at No. 24 and West Virginia (20-5, 9-3 B12) is No. 10.

Shaka Smart called Texas’ 64-59 victory at West Virginia on Jan. 20 one of the strangest games he can remember.

WVU outrebounded Texas 49-33 including a 24-6 advantage on the offensive glass.

That resulted in WVU having 20 more shot attempts (61) than Texas (41).

But Smart recalled how WVU got off to a tough shooting night at the free-throw line (WVU opened 1-of-9 from the foul line and finished 8-of-23 or 34.8 percent) and that seemed to help contribute to a tough shooting night overall for the Mountaineers (19 of 61 FG, 31.1 percent and 3 of 21 3PT FG, 14.3 percent).

Smart said even though Isaiah Taylor was 0-of-8 shooting in the first meeting with WVU, Smart said Taylor played well, because he found other ways to impact the game.

Taylor finished with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 turnovers and 2 steals.

“Outside of Javan Felix in that game (with 17 points), no one was really able to get going offensively,” Smart said. “But the most glaring thing that can’t happen again is we can’t give them 24 offensive rebounds.”

 

THE NEW PRINCE IBEH READY FOR WVU?

Speaking of needing to do a better job of rebounding against WVU …

Prince Ibeh has been a different player since Texas’ first game against West Virginia on Jan. 20, when Ibeh scored only 2 points, went 0-of-4 from the FT line and finished with 5 rebounds, 1 block and 4 fouls.

In the seven games since then, Ibeh has averaged 9.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.85 blocks while hitting 64.1 percent from the floor and 68.2 percent from the foul line (15 of 22 FTs).

“Knock on wood, I think Prince will be good tomorrow (vs WVU),” Smart said. “I saw a determination in him yesterday (Sunday) in practice.”

Smart said more and more NBA scouts are stopping by practice to watch Ibeh.

“There’s a lot to like about an athletic, 6-11 guy who can rebound and block shots,” Smart said. “I just keep telling him, ‘The more you care, the better you’ll do.’”  

 

FAVORABLE SCHEDULE?

A reporter framed a question on Monday to Shaka Smart by saying the fact Texas has four of its final six games at home “is a very favorable” – even though those four games are all against ranked opponents …

No. 10 WVU on Tuesday

No. 24 Baylor on Saturday

No. 3 Oklahoma on Feb. 27 

No. 2 Kansas on Feb. 29

“Favorable would be to play Kenyon College, where I played,” Smart said, drawing laughter.

 

PLAYERS’ OUTLOOK STILL POSITIVE

Despite back-to-back losses on the road last week at OU and Iowa State, Smart said he’s not seeing his team with an ‘Oh no’ outlook on schedule ahead.

“I don’t get the sense from them that it’s, ‘Oh no,’” Smart said. “I get the sense from them that, ‘We could be really good.’

“But here’s the connector: there’s a real challenge in getting everyone playing at a high level at the same time.”

Lately, it’s been two or three players stepping up per game. But it’s been different players from game to game.

Against OU, it was Kendal Yancy coming up big in the first half. Against Iowa State, Javan Felix and Tevin Mack stepped up. 

Smart said the key to getting more players to step up at the same time will come with each player playing for their teammates – and realizing they are playing for more than themselves.

“From the outside, it looks like guys are taking turns playing well,” Smart said.

“It comes down to a guy is feeling about himself. Part of coaching is to create a good feeling for each player. But we can’t skip around in practice singing Kumbaya.

“The answer is about focusing on each other and lifting each other up.”

 

GROWING UP MENTALLY

Smart was asked a question about how this team can avoid some of the late-season flameouts of the past?

“When I first got here, a lot of people wanted to blame past problems on one person,” Smart said. “I’m not just talking about players. A lot of people. But we remind them how that’s changed. 

“So, what are you going to do about it?”

Smart says he sees growth in that area.

“Before going to China, I told our staff, ‘We have a bunch of frontrunners. When something goes wrong, they flip out and guys go their own way in trying to solve it, instead of turning to each other. 

“If I wake up on the wrong side of bed, I still have to think, ‘I care about Tevin Mack and Connor Lammert, and I need to do things to help them today.’”

 

MACK SHOWING A LITTLE SWAGGER

Tevin Mack repeatedly clapped his hands on the court while scoring 18 points in UT’s loss at Iowa State on Saturday.

Smart said he doesn’t mind seeing his guys show a little outward swagger – as long as it’s organic and who they are.

“Isaiah Cousins (of Oklahoma) has decided how his on-court persona is going to be,” Smart said. “It’s some trash talking and some scowling, and it works for him.

“If Tevin clapping on the court is his show of swagger, great. But it’s a chicken and egg thing too. Does the clapping only come when he’s playing well, or can he bring that swagger even before he sees he’s shooting it well?”

Mack had 14 points in UT’s win over Iowa State in Austin, averaging 16 ppg vs the Cyclones this season.

“Tevin told me playing Iowa State in an up-tempo pace felt more like the games he played in AAU,” Smart said. 

 

LATEST ON CAM RIDLEY

Cam Ridley, sidelined with a fractured left foot since suffering the injury on Dec. 27 (14 games ago), met with doctors last week.

Smart said doctors improved the amount of weight Ridley could put on the foot from 50 percent to 75 percent.

“The bone is healing,” Smart said. “But it’s not healed.”

Smart said Ridley has another appointment next week.

“He’s not going to be cleared to play next week,” Smart said. “It’s a gradual progression. We’re hopeful he might be cleared to play at some point in early March.”


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