During every season, teams try to notch signature victories or collect impressive wins on the road to boost their NCAA tournament résumés. Last year, the Longhorns were able to beat a highly ranked University of North Carolina team on a neutral court in Las Vegas. While West Lafayette, Indiana is no Vegas, Texas will have the opportunity to knock off No. 23 Purdue on the road.
The Longhorns were able to start the season with a win over another UNC, the University of Northern Colorado, to gain a little bit of momentum heading into this nonconference matchup. Even though the team has only played one game, one game is all it takes to begin the process of shaking off rust.
“It’s always great to go 1–0 rather than 0–1,” junior point guard Matt Coleman said. “It was a good test for us just to see guys out there playing, some for the first time in college basketball and some guys for the first time in awhile. It was exciting to just play against somebody else.”
The Longhorns beat the Bears by 24 points, with the defense leading the way and holding the offense of UNC under 30% from the field and under 10% from three-point range.
The win was a good sign that the Longhorns were ready for the start of the season. However, there were still kinks that had to be worked through and will continue to be worked on as the season moves forward.
“We started out taking a lot of threes, and that wasn’t in our game-plan,” sophomore guard Andrew Jones said. “We had way too many turnovers which isn’t our standard and we didn’t have enough assists. There’s a lot of room to improve.”
The Boilermakers won the Big 10 last season and will be looking for revenge after a trip to Austin last year went the Longhorns’ way. With 7-foot-3-inch junior center Matt Haarms defending the rim and junior forward Nojel Eastern contributing on defense, the team will have to reach a higher level of play in order to compete.
“We want to play to our standards and making sure we are giving our all for our teammates,” sophomore guard Courtney Ramey said. “Nobody wants to be that person that keeps us from our standards.”
For both the Purdue game and for the rest of the season, the success of the team largely depends on the play and maturity of the backcourt. A talented group that features Coleman, Ramey, Jones and junior Jase Febres must carry the weight as the younger players develop.
“I think that our team is going to go as our backcourt goes,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey are guys that had very good seasons at times last year, but we just have to be more consistent.”