Fans clad in burnt orange lined up outside of Gregory Gymnasium hours before tip-off, eager to watch their beloved Longhorns in action.
Inside, the Texas band blared “Texas Fight” while the Hype Squad did their best to get everyone fired up. Pre-game introductions featured pyrotechnics, dancing and the raucous roars of a packed house.
No, it wasn’t a Texas-Kansas game. It was a scrimmage.
Thursday marked the second annual Texas Tip-Off, an orange-white scrimmage broken up into two 12-minute halves. While the scrimmage helps players adjust to game action, head coach Shaka Smart said it also is a great way for the team to build a bond with the fan base.
“We really appreciate their support. It really means a lot to our guys,” Smart said. “Our guys were nervous tonight because they genuinely wanted to play in front of the fans. What we’re trying to build here is a special connection between our team, particularly our players, and our fans.”
The game itself ended up going down to the wire, with the white team pulling out a 59-56 victory. The white team trailed by two with under a minute left in the game, but a three-point shot by sophomore Eric Davis Jr. put the squad up for good.
“We needed a big bucket,” Davis Jr. said. “I have a scoring mentality, and I said I was going to go out there and be aggressive. I said I was going to go out there and hit a three, and that’s what I did.”
Davis Jr. finished the scrimmage with 14 points. Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski, a transfer from Tulane who is ineligible to play this season, led the white squad with 17 points on a perfect 7–7 from the field.
The freshmen also made their presence felt despite a slow start. Guards Andrew Jones and Jacob Young combined for 20 points and 11 assists and made several pesky plays on the defensive end.
Center James Banks was cool down the stretch, sinking two important free throws for the white team in the waning seconds. Forward Jarrett Allen sat out the scrimmage with a hamstring injury.
“You could tell [the freshmen] had some jitters,” Smart said. “But that’s why we do this, you know, just to have like a dress rehearsal. I like those guys a lot. I think all four of them are really going to help the team this year.”
And while the game may not have any implications on March Madness, the outcome was not without its consequences.
“It’s about bragging rights in the locker room,” Davis Jr. said.
The Longhorns return to the Frank Erwin Center for an exhibition game against Angelo State on Nov. 2. They then begin their season at home against Incarnate Word on Nov. 11.