#7/9 Texas Longhorns 78, St. Francis Red Flash 46

Myles Turner made a quick splash when he debuted for the Texas Longhorns on November 14th. Within 30 seconds of entering the game, he made his first collegiate bucket, and scored in a variety of ways en route to a 15-point night. He added another 10 just a few days later against Alcorn State, but managed to score only five points in each game against Cal and Iowa in New York City.

St. Francis could not stop freshman phenom Myles Turner
(Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman)

Although he was still active defensively and on the glass in those two games, it looked like Turner was out of his usual zone on the offensive end. That changed in a big way in last night’s 78-46 win over St. Francis, as Turner dropped 25 points and tied a 52-year-old school record for field-goal percentage (91.7%) in a single game.

The win, which was never in doubt, moved the Longhorns to 5-0 on the season ahead of their Top 25 showdown with UConn in Storrs on Sunday. Although it’s always hard to glean too much insight from early-season games as mismatched as this one was, we still have seven post-game thoughts to share:

1. The Texas trainers are staying busy

With Isaiah Taylor already in a sling on the bench, the Longhorns had a few more injuries wreak havoc on the rotation last night. Javan Felix did not play — although Texas said he was available, if necessary — as he nursed a sore foot that he played through in New York City.

Prince Ibeh also joined the triage unit after just two minutes on the floor, when he appeared to injure himself while blocking a shot. He grabbed at his hip and shuffled slowly down the court the other way before Texas reclaimed the ball and play was ultimately stopped. Ibeh headed to the locker room during the first half and did return to the bench, but did not see any additional action.

Taylor’s injury will keep him out of action indefinitely, although some reports have predicted he’ll miss four to six weeks. Felix is expected to be back in action on Sunday against UConn, while there are no reports yet on Ibeh’s condition. This is certainly a Texas team with enough depth to absorb that many injuries, and the schedule worked out nicely for Felix to be able to rest up before a much more important game this weekend.

2. The Longhorns fell into the letdown trap early

After a few nice possessions with Demarcus Holland running the point, the Longhorns quickly lost focus in the first half. It was easy to see why, but no less frustrating. Sandwiched between games against Iowa and Cal in New York and big road games against UConn and Kentucky, a mid-week game just before the holidays against a tiny St. Francis team was the type that the Longhorns knew they could easily win.

Unfortunately, they played with that mindset for a lengthy first-half stretch. The Longhorns did not protect the basketball, and an active, hungry St. Francis defense repeatedly made them pay. In the first half, Texas coughed it up on nearly 22% of their possessions, with many of the turnovers coming when the Longhorns didn’t make strong passes or held the ball down low where the quick hands of the Red Flash could swipe at it.

Although Cameron Ridley scored 13 first-half points thanks to his epic mismatch against the St. Francis “bigs,” he was tagged with two early turnovers and finished with four on the night. Ridley had no problem when he caught the ball down low, but looked completely out of sorts handling it anywhere else.

3. Holmes found additional ways to contribute

It was a rough night for Jonathan Holmes from the floor, which started when he had a nice take from the perimeter that ultimately resulted in a shot that rimmed out. The senior finished just 1-of-5 from the field, with the lone make coming on a three. He also was not immune to the turnover problems that plagued Ridley and the team, as he was charged with three of his own in the first half.

However, Holmes logged five assists on the night, with most of them coming early. Thanks to his outside shot, he was able to spread a St. Francis defense that would much rather pack the lane. Holmes repeatedly put the ball right on the money when feeding from the perimeter, setting Ridley up in perfect position down low for an easy bucket. With a Texas team that has quite a few offensive threats, it’s reassuring to see Holmes helping out those other scorers on a night when his shot wasn’t falling.

4. Turner took over the game

As mentioned earlier, Turner tied a team record that dated back to the 1950’s, making 11-of-12 from the field. He scored in a variety of ways, from utilizing the face up game just outside the lane to showing soft touch on a baby hook. Turner also made all three long-range attempts he took, and later used that three-point threat on an impressive play in which the freshman faked the defender from the arc, took one dribble, and drilled a 19-footer before his man could recover.

Turner finished the night with his first collegiate double-double, adding 10 boards to go with his 25-point performance. Even better, he managed to post that line in just 25 minutes of action, giving him an offensive rating of 211 for the night. Sources tell us that’s pretty good.

5. Holland and Yancy held it down

With Felix out of action, Holland was asked to add point-guard duties to his usual defensive-stopper role. The junior guard handled it well, logging four assists while keeping the offense focused on exploiting the team’s size advantage during his 32 minutes of action. As usual, Holland stayed in the shirt of his man on the defensive end, and also added a pair of nice layups on quick, aggressive moves to the basket.

Thanks to the Felix injury, Kendal Yancy made his first start of the season after notching 10 last year. In the second half, he made the most of the opportunity, making confident moves with the ball en route to a 12-point night. Yancy knocked down 2-of-3 from behind the arc, and utilized that three-point threat in making St. Francis pay for late, quick closeouts. He also performed well on the defensive end, making the combination of Holland and Yancy look like a nice future option against quick backcourts.

6. The Horns still hustled in a blowout

The Longhorns fought St. Francis for every loose ball
(Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman)

Although Texas had some ball control issues that indicated a lack of focus, there were still quite a few nice hustle plays for the Longhorns last night. As usual, Connor Lammert repeatedly made the extra effort to track down errant bounces, and his work cleaning up misses inside helped him to an 11-point performance. Holland also found extra bursts of speed to beat St. Francis to a few long rebounds that had bounced into space.

The most impressive hustle play of the night, however, belonged to Ridley. Late in the first half, he found himself isolated against St. Francis star Earl Brown in the midrange. The big man took a good stance and used his length to back Brown up, then sprung off the floor to block Brown’s stepback attempt. Ridley then showed off the nimble footwork of a ballerina, snatching the ball out of the air, while planting one foot just inside the basline, and then swiveling to save the ball back to Turner.

Even though Texas had some lapses in concentration during the first half, the strong effort throughout the game to win extra possessions was a welcome sight. Those possessions obviously didn’t matter in a blowout win against St. Francis, but they could be the difference in a tight game against tougher compeition later in the year.

7. Texas posted some impressive numbers

While the stats in a game like this are not indicative of much in the grand scheme of things, they are still a lot of fun to look at. The Longhorns once again dominated on the defensive end, holding the Red Flash to 31% shooting and just 0.726 points per possession. It was the third time this season that the Horns have held an opponent to less than 0.8 PPP, and it pulled the team’s adjusted defensive efficiency mark down to 0.877 PPP, currently the fourth-best in the nation.

The Longhorns also managed to do that without fouling, as they played nearly 18 minutes before being whistled for their first foul. On the night, Texas only gave St. Francis five trips to the line, resulting in an incredible free-throw rate of just 8.6%. In simpler terms, that means that the Longhorns gave the Red Flash less than one free throw for every 11 shots attempted.

Texas also owned the glass on both ends of the court, which was to be expected against a team that topped out at 6’7″. The Longhorns reclaimed 44% of their own missed shots, and turned that into 15 second-chance points. On the other end, Texas limited St. Francis to winning just 17.9% of their offensive-rebounding opportunities.

Up next: at Connecticut (3-1); Sunday, 11 A.M. CT (ESPN2)