Following a bitter Tuesday night loss to Michigan at the Frank Erwin Center, Texas forward Dylan Osetkowski declared this would be the mentality of the Longhorns for the upcoming home stretch.
And Texas (8-3) did respond, amending plenty of mistakes from the Michigan loss en route to a convincing 75-60 victory over Louisiana Tech (7-5) on Saturday afternoon. The Longhorns shot out of the gate with a 7-0 advantage and never trailed the Bulldogs for a single second.
“Coming off of the Michigan game, guys knew that we were far from what we wanted to be, so they wanted to be better,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “But at the same time you can’t play not to mess up.”
In the wire-to-wire victory, Texas led by as many as 17 points. But Louisiana Tech slowly chipped away at the lead in the second half, trimming the score to a deficit as close as four points with 9:30 left.
But freshman forward Jericho Sims — who experienced a breakout nine-point, eight-rebound game — shifted the momentum with two explosive shots in the low post, allowing the Longhorns to extend the margin. Then, a Jase Febres to Mo Bamba alley-oop connection recreated a 10-point lead with under six minutes to go, ultimately leading to a triumph over the Conference USA foe.
“This is easily a two-possession game, so I’ve got to kick it up,” Bamba said of his thoughts during the middle of the second half. “I just wanted to attack aggressively while playing smart at the same time.”
Osetkowski led the charge with 22 points and seven rebounds. His versatility on offense was on full display as the 6-foot-9 forward sunk three three-pointers and controlled the post throughout the 40 minutes.
“We just got to continue to stay aggressive,” Osetkowski said. “Whether it’s missed shots, turnovers, we can’t dwell on that. And if we stay aggressive — guards and bigs — that’s going to help us tremendously.”
A lack of physicality was one factor that contributed to the Longhorns’ first home loss of the season four days ago, but Osetkowski ensured a physical mindset played in Texas’ favor against Louisiana Tech. The aggressive Longhorns team outscored the Bulldogs 32-30 in the paint and drew a total of 28 fouls in the game. But in one case, overaggressive play led to immediate foul trouble.
Bamba only played 18 minutes, due to entering foul trouble early in the contest. When he collected his fourth foul, he only had four points registered to his name.
But Bamba still finished with 14, along with nine boards and five blocks. Bamba completed several key plays around the rim during Texas’ 15-6 run late in the contest, delivering when the Longhorns needed him most.
“I think he played with an aggressiveness and elusiveness about him when he went back in,” Smart said. “At the end, he said, ‘Forget it. I’m going to go attack. And whatever happens, happens.’”
With a restored confidence after a strong finish to the second half, the Longhorns’ talented frontcourt will return to the Erwin Center on Monday night for a matchup with Tennessee State.