Bohls: Texas' hot hands demolish Gonzaga, send message to rest of the nation

18 days ago Austin American-Statesman

Bohls: Texas' hot hands demolish Gonzaga, send message to rest of the nation

Bring on No. 1 North Carolina.

OK, that may be slightly getting ahead of ourselves, but the No. 11 Texas Longhorns sure had no trouble getting ahead of No. 2 Gonzaga, staying there and making a huge early-season statement by totally dismantling the Bulldogs 93-74 with one of the most impressive, lopsided home wins in years.

And that statement Texas made is this:

Just three games into the season, the Longhorns are damn good. Look out, college basketball.

Where’s the calendar showing March when you need it? Not to worry, though, because Chris Beard notched it as one more nice win in a 3-0 season that figures to be very promising, given the array of strengths Texas showed Wednesday night.

And a new one at that.

Shooting, of all things. 

Few expected a whopping 13 3-pointers from the home team, which matched the output from Beard’s debut in the Erwin Center against overmatched Houston Baptist last November. But these came against Gonzaga, a team that has advanced to seven straight Sweet 16s and finished 28-4 last season.

“This is a program win,” said Beard about his school’s fourth win ever over a No. 2 team. “They have the kind of program we’re trying to build. Could you say who Gonzaga’s best player was four years ago? You don’t know. But four years ago were they good? You bet they were.”

Texas wasn’t all that good even one year ago, but good enough to go 22-12 and snap an eight-game NCAA Tournament losing streak before bowing out in the second round.

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Of course, a year ago, Beard didn’t know where his next points were coming from. Or if they were coming at all when it wasn’t unusual to have scoring lags lasting eight minutes or more, including against Purdue in Texas’ NCAA loss.

On Wednesday, however, they all got in the act with five players scoring nine points or more and Iowa State transfer Tyrese Hunter pouring in a career-best 26 points. Heck, defensive-minded Brock Cunningham scored seven straight points at the end of the first half to provide great momentum.

Texas at times last year couldn’t hit the side of a barn in a season when it stroked a modest 33% from behind the arc. This year that same barn might be on fire from all the hot shots of Hunter & Co., who collectively sank a hair under 40% of their 3-point tries after hitting just seven of 36 in Texas’ first two wins. 

On this night, five Longhorns hit a three with Hunter drilling five from far, far away and sidekick guard Marcus Carr adding four more.

“We’ve got good shooters,” Beard said. “I told y’all, ‘Don’t panic.’ The best players ever miss half their shots. Dylan (Disu) misses his first one. On the second one, he’s confident and he sticks it.”

Disu pointed out that his coach wanted his bigs not to be shy about putting up shots. And the 6-foot-9 senior wasn’t, with seven attempts as the third most on the team.

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“We didn’t want them to hit us first,” said Disu, the second-year transfer from Vanderbilt whose first year at Texas was hamstrung by his recovery from knee surgery. “Coach preached to us bigs that we have to step out and hit some shots.”

Disu did exactly that, sinking five of his seven shots for 12 points. If Beard’s 6-9 forward is hitting threes for that kind of versatility, opponents might as well trash their scouting reports. And Hunter’s supposed to be the distributor, but he’s got as smooth a stroke from mid-range or long range as there is and has freed up Carr to play more loosely without the burden of running the offense.

It’s an attack that should pay big dividends for Beard, who won’t have to count on any one individual. 

Timmy Allen, for example, was Texas’ leading scorer last year and when he didn’t score, the Horns usually lost. But he had just two points against Gonzaga, his lone bucket coming with 10:48 left to play and the Horns already leading 70-53. That said, the 6-foot-6 senior had six rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.

Contributions came from everywhere.

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Few wasn’t exactly prepared for these sharp-eyed shooters and said as much.

“They hit a lot of deep, deep threes,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We were trying to shore up the guards’ penetration. They had not shot the ball like that.”

And maybe they won’t. Carr hadn’t hit a one in his seven tries in the first two games, but shot with confidence and accuracy Wednesday. But they’ve got enough athletes to slash to the bucket, and through three games they’ve outscored teams 53-3 in fast-break points.

It was as emphatic a victory as there’s been in this town against a team of the stature of the Zags, a perennial high seed in the NCAA Tournament and a basketball powerhouse under Few.

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“We said we’d have to play our best 40 minutes to win this game, and that was our best 40,” Beard said. “But it’s not anywhere near the 40 we can play as the year goes on.”

It’s good to know Texas hasn’t peaked in mid-November. And it truly hasn’t because Beard said his team can rebound better and not foul as much and pose more efficiently for post-game celebrations. Heck, as much as he raved about the sellout crowd of 11,313, he said it could be better, too.

No sense of complacency here.

To be honest, Few looked a bit dazed if not numbed in his postgame press conference, as if he couldn’t believe what he just watched unfold at a packed Moody Center.

“Hey, this is a really, really good team,” Few said. “They’re old. Their guards are terrific. They can shoot. They’re athletic enough to switch on ball screens. They’re the real deal.”

They looked the part.

And shot the part.

And it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

As Beard warned, “We’re just getting started.”
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