Andrew Jones

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

With Texas fans and players still reeling from Wednesday morning’s announcement, the Longhorns hit the hardwood for their second Big 12 home game of the season.

It was a day bigger than basketball.

Nine hours earlier, the team announced sophomore guard Andrew Jones had been diagnosed with leukemia and was undergoing treatment.

The players sported temporary “AJ1” patches on their white jerseys in honor of their absent teammate. Fans erupted in cheers when Jones’ name appeared on the jumbotron during the game. Shirts with the hashtag “JonesStrong” could be seen around the arena as the Longhorns faced off with No. 16 TCU at the Frank Erwin Center.

Two overtimes and several career performances later, Texas escaped at the buzzer as a layup by TCU guard Jaylen Fisher fell off the front of the rim. The Longhorns earned a 99-98 upset win, their first over the Horned Frogs in the last three meetings between the two programs.

“I could feel an energy from our crowd tonight because of Andrew,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “They really understood it was a game we wanted to go win for him, and they were a big part of that.”

Texas was also without a second piece of its starting lineup. Junior guard Kerwin Roach II sat out with a left hand injury, prompting a three big-man start with junior forward Dylan Osetkowski embracing a role on the wing.

Without two of their top scorers from the guard position, the Longhorns needed a special effort from its supporting cast. And that’s exactly what they got.

Freshman guard Matt Coleman scored 17 points and dished out a career-high 12 assists. Along with career-highs in points from junior guard Eric Davis Jr. and freshman forward Jericho Sims, the Longhorns rallied after losing a late lead to move to 2-2 in Big 12 play.

“I wanted everyone in the building, the team to realize that this isn’t about us,” Davis said. “It's about (Andrew). And like Matt said, playing with joy. He was just with us. He’s fighting a different battle. We still have to fight. I wanted to show everyone that it's deeper than basketball. And just enjoy it.”

Coleman looked aggressive from the opening possession. Burdened with carrying the bulk of the ball-handling and playmaking duties, the freshman point guard sliced through the defense with a long floater to give Texas the first points of the contest. A play later, Coleman found Sims for an easy bucket in the lane, one of his eight first-half assists.

Sophomore guard Jacob Young entered the game and scored five in a row to help Texas jump out to an early 18-8 advantage. Texas started a white-hot 7-of-8 from the floor, including two threes.

Everyone had it going in the first half. Freshman guard Jase Febres, coming off a career-high 18 points against Baylor, started 2-2 from deep to help Texas pull ahead 21-14. Texas headed to halftime up 10, looking dominant after 20 minutes.

The Longhorns executed out of the break with surgical precision. After two games with a clear second-half slump, Texas was locked in during the first five minutes and appeared poised to run away with it.

Freshman forward Mo Bamba recorded a block on the opening possession of the second half, and Coleman immediately got to the line on the other end and drilled both shots to add to the lead. Texas pulled ahead by double-digits, 51-38, on a pair of buckets in the paint.

With every TCU run, Texas seemingly had an answer. Osetkowski completed an and-one to put the Longhorns ahead by eight with 11 minutes left.

But as time ticked on, the momentum slowly shifted in favor of the Horned Frogs. With 10 minutes to play, TCU moved to full-court pressure to try and shake up the Longhorn rhythm, beginning to chip away at the lead.

TCU guard Kenrich Williams cut the Texas lead to five with a huge 3-pointer, then made a free throw to cut it to just four. With seven minutes left the Longhorns were up 63-61 and could only look up and wonder how they had let the lead get away.

TCU completed its furious comeback to tie the game at 77 with time expiring in regulation. Coleman had an off-balance look from deep but it was just short and the two teams headed into overtime.

Davis hit a three early in extra minutes to reclaim the lead. The Horned Frogs answered with a putback before hitting a three of their own to go up by two with two minutes to play. Texas used its final timeout to draw up a play, and Osetkowski buried a three in the corner off the assist from Davis to keep the Longhorns’ hopes alive.

TCU managed to force a second overtime off an uncontested jumper from the elbow, but Bamba fouled out.

With five seconds left in the second extra period, Sims headed to the line. The game was tied. He sank the first shot but the second clanked off the back iron, and TCU called timeout with an opportunity to win the game with a bucket.

But through fortune, fate or an unfriendly roll, the final layup at the buzzer was off the mark, and Texas (11–5, 2–2 Big 12) escaped with the upset at home.

“I think everyone left everything they could on the floor tonight,” Osetkowski said. “For one reason. That was a big win for us.”

Texas combo guard Andrew Jones dribbles the ball during Texas’ match against Oklahoma on Jan. 23. The Long- horns fell in the rematch, but Jones posted 12 points and five rebounds of his own in the 70-66 defeat.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Sophomore guard Andrew Jones has been diagnosed with leukemia, Texas announced Wednesday morning.

“After undergoing a number of tests and evaluations over the past week, Andrew has been diagnosed with leukemia,” Jones’ family said in a statement. “He has begun treatments, and we hope everyone will keep him in your thoughts and prayers. This is obviously a difficult situation for our family, and we hope everyone will respect our privacy at this time.”

Jones did not travel with the team in Texas’ most recent game on Saturday in Waco against Baylor. Head coach Shaka Smart declined to comment after the game on the specific reason for Jones’ absence but said that Jones wasn’t feeling well. Smart spoke to the media on Tuesday and said Jones would not play Wednesday night against TCU.

“Speaking for our entire team and staff, we love Andrew and will do everything we can to support his family and help him get back to health,” Smart said in a statement Wednesday. “I want to thank everyone for being respectful of the privacy that the Jones family needs at this time.”

Jones missed additional time earlier in the season due to a fractured wrist. After sitting out four consecutive games, he briefly returned for a two-game stint against Kansas and Iowa State, seeing limited minutes in both outings. The 20-year-old NBA Draft hopeful ranked second on the Longhorns in points per game (13.5) and first on the team in 3-point percentage this season.

“We know Andrew’s a fighter with a strong family and our thoughts, prayers and support are fully behind them,” UT athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a statement. “At the University of Texas, we will do everything in our power to provide all of the resources we can to assist Andrew and his family.”

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Fifteen games into the season, and three into conference play, Texas is still searching for an offensive identity.

A late-game road collapse at the hands of Baylor exposed the team's lack of playmaking at the guard position without sophomore Andrew Jones. The Longhorns went scoreless against the Bears in the final five minutes, missing their last eight shots from the floor.

Now the Longhorns (10–5, 1–2 Big 12) return home on Wednesday night hoping to avoid a third straight loss to No. 16 TCU — Texas dropped both games to the Horned Frogs last season — but they will be without Jones for a second straight game. The team’s second-leading scorer returned from a wrist injury in the conference opener against Kansas. But he did not travel to Waco on Saturday due an undisclosed illness and will not suit up against the Horned Frogs.

Head coach Shaka Smart met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming homestand. There he declined to comment on Jones’ status.

“It's a tough situation,” Smart said. “But right now, out of respect for the family, I am not able to provide any information other than to say he won’t be playing.”

Without Jones, the reins to the offense fall squarely in the hands of freshman Matt Coleman. The young point guard has performed well through 15 games but looked out of rhythm down the stretch against Baylor. With Jones sidelined, Smart is hoping Coleman will embrace a more active role in the offense.

“I think this year for the most part (Coleman’s) done a really good job,” Smart said. “The Baylor game, we weren’t as organized. So he and I spent a lot of time together watching tape and getting ready for this next one.”

Texas has leaned heavily on its interior tandem of freshman Mo Bamba and junior Dylan Osetkowski. The pair of forwards have helped the Longhorns lead the Big 12 in blocks while providing plenty of offense both down low and from beyond the arc. But Smart and Texas need a playmaking point guard to create off the dribble. The coaching staff hopes it can unlock that in Coleman.

“I think for (Coleman) as a point guard, particularly when your team doesn’t necessarily have all of your guys, it is all the more important for you to help your team organize on the court,” Smart said. “And obviously that’s much more important in college, and much more complicated.”

With an expanding role comes more pressure for the freshman. Smart has worked closely with Coleman to help with the transition. But with no timetable for Jones’ return, the rest of the Longhorns’ season may hinge on Coleman finding his groove.

“There are two things I asked Matt going into this year to focus on,” Smart said. “Obviously as a freshman point guard you get hit with 2 million things instead of two. But to boil it all down, I said that you and I need to be connected, and you need to play with a level of joy on the floor.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Texas hosted No. 11 Kansas on Friday night at the Frank Erwin Center for the Big 12 opener, but the Jayhawks’ blistering 17 threes overpowered the Longhorns, 92-86, in front of a crowd of 15,802. Here are four thoughts from Friday night’s game:

Mo Bamba takes over

All that Kansas head coach Bill Self could do was scratch his head in bewilderment.

As he briefly reflected on the shot-blocking exhibition that Texas freshman forward Mo Bamba displayed on Friday night, Self sat at the podium incredulously during his postgame press conference.

“The guy could block the sun,” Self said of Bamba.

Bamba finished the night with a career-high 22 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks, but it wasn’t enough to lift Texas to a what would’ve been a mammoth home upset.

It must’ve felt like deja vu all over again for Self, who saw his Jayhawks come into Austin last season and topple the Longhorns 77-67 despite a huge effort from another Texas freshman big man, Jarrett Allen, who now plays in the NBA for the Brooklyn Nets.

Bamba joined elite company with his block party on Friday night, setting the program's freshman single-game record for blocks.

Former Texas bigs Tristan Thompson and Chris Mihm previously held that record with seven blocks in a game (Thompson did it once, Mihm twice). Bamba was one block shy from tying the school record for most in a game. Cam Ridley holds that record with nine.

Bamba got off to a roaring start with multiple big dunks and rejections. He scored 11 of Texas’ first 13 points, and Kansas knew right away what it was dealing with for the rest of the night. Bamba, however, cooled down in the second half with only six points.

Bamba’s effort was his most impressive to date at Texas, but he knew after the game that the Longhorns still hadn’t made the statement that they desired.

“There’s no such thing as a statement game if you lose,” Bamba said. “But there’s definitely hope out of this.”

Kansas overwhelms Longhorns from beyond the arc

There were times on Friday night when the Longhorns may have felt like they were playing against the Golden State Warriors. But you could make the argument that the Kansas Jayhawks are already college basketball’s version of the NBA’s 3-point shooting powerhouse.

Just ask Texas freshman point guard Matt Coleman.

“It’s like playing the Warriors almost,” Coleman said after the game. “That’s what it looked like.”

The pure shooting talent of Kansas’ guards was on full display. The trio of Devonte’ Graham, Lagerald Vick and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk led the way for the Jayhawks, combining for 64 points on 16-30 shooting from beyond the arc.

Self said afterward that he told his team before the game it needed to shoot 35 threes. The Jayhawks finished the night 17-35 from beyond the arc. It was ultimately the difference in the game, as the Longhorns just couldn’t keep pace in the second half with Kansas’ hot shooting. Texas was just 7-25 from the 3-point line.

“It definitely shifted the energy of the game,” Bamba said.

Kansas’ shooting proves gap between Texas

The Jayhawks have always been the Big 12’s perennial authority in the conference. Kansas has won 17 regular season conference titles since the Big 12’s inception in 1997. Kansas has won outright or shared every Big 12 regular season crown since 2005.

It’s a program that Texas has at times flirted with, but has never really been able to come close to matching.

Head coach Shaka Smart wasn’t necessarily hired away from Virginia Commonwealth to make Texas into Kansas. The Longhorns aren’t known historically for their basketball prominence. But Smart does know Texas is capable of beating a team like the Jayhawks on any given night.

Of course, year in and year out, the Jayhawks produce tremendous 3-point shooting — stuff that has been a foreign concept around the 40 Acres for a long time. J’Covan Brown and A.J. Abrams — two of Texas’ most recent and successful sharpshooters — have long been gone, and not having consistent shooting that those two players provided has likely held Texas back the past few seasons.

But Kansas seemingly possesses players like those every season. Texas just doesn’t.

Asked after the game how big the gap between Texas and Kansas is right now, Smart admitted that 3-point shooting was the outlier in all of this.

“Well, tonight (the gap) was six points,” Smart said. “Obviously they’re one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country. Tonight was an extreme for them, but they make shots at a high level. It’s probably the biggest difference.”

Andrew Jones returns, but is limited

Sophomore guard Andrew Jones had missed Texas’ last four games with a wrist injury entering Friday night’s bout with Kansas. Smart said on Thursday that Jones was not going to start but that he could still possibly play.

Jones was a full-participant in pregame warmups on Friday night and didn’t appear to be bothered by his wrist when shooting the ball.

But he logged only nine minutes against Kansas, chipping in five points on 1-3 shooting. Jones will have to get back to full strength soon as the Longhorns are beginning their Big 12 schedule. It’s a conference that night in and night out is arguably the most demanding in the country.

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

Friday night was supposed to usher in a new era of Texas basketball, and based on the Longhorns’ performance, it lived up to expectations. Loaded with a combination of young talent and returning veterans, Shaka Smart’s team delivered plenty of hope for the upcoming season to the 9,516 fans that watched the lopsided spectacle.

Texas rolled Northwestern State throughout, ending the contest at the Frank Erwin Center 105-59. And on an even more encouraging note, plenty of Texas’ struggles from last season became strengths in the 2017-18 opener.

“We still have a long way to go, a lot of things to improve on, but I think our guys shared the ball really well,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought Mo (Bamba) and Dylan (Osetkowski) as a twosome just gave us a great spark early with the way that they played, the way that they rebounded.”

The night started with an emphatic putback dunk by five-star freshman center Mohamed Bamba. Bamba, a 6-foot-11 center with an NBA future, anchored the paint defensively and scored at will near the basket on offense. Bamba stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high 15 points, eight boards and four rejections.

“Whenever you can start off with a dunk on your first play, it pumps everyone up,” Bamba said. “Our message was we had something to prove. Last year wasn’t the greatest year for us and I’m saying ‘us’ because I was a part of that too.”

Bamba’s partner-in-crime, power forward Dylan Osetkowski, impressed in his Texas debut as well. The versatile big man displayed his arsenal of skills, nailing outside shots, boxing out to earn tough rebounds and even demonstrating an ability to handle the ball up the floor. The junior finished with a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double. He’ll be counted on throughout the season, bringing Texas’ rebounding and high-post success that it lacked a year ago.

“I’m just trying to bring a level of hustle, spirit, rebounding,” Osetkowski said. “My ability to shoot the ball is only to get better from here. And I’m gonna help space the floor out.”

The Longhorns shot 29.2 and 65 percent from three-point range and the charity stripe in 2016-17, respectively. Both of these facets of the game were noticeably improved in the early going on Friday night. Texas drew plenty of contact down low, resulting in numerous trips to the line. The team finished the first half 17-of-19 from the line and 5-of-14 from downtown.

But most importantly, Texas drilled each of its first four three-pointers and finished several dunks to establish early momentum and ignite the offensive attack. Seven Texas players scored in double-figures as the Longhorns finished over the century mark for the first time since December 2015.

Despite the offensive flashes, the Longhorns’ defense was arguably the strongest aspect of Texas’ game. Northwestern State couldn’t break through the Longhorns’ press in the first half and Texas’ aggressive defense, led by Kerwin Roach, forced 19 turnovers in the contest. Additionally, the Longhorns blanked the Demons 28-0 in points off of turnovers.

“With the new group we got in, we were able to pressure more, rotate guys in and we’re long and fast and athletic, so the more we can pressure people, we can get in our element playing fast,” sophomore point guard Andrew Jones said.

After completing the second largest blowout of the Smart era, Texas will look to continue the success on Tuesday night when New Hampshire comes to town.

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

A new season of Texas men’s basketball ignited on Friday night at the Frank Erwin Center as the Longhorns throttled Northwestern State, 105-59, in the season opener. With year three of the Shaka Smart era in Austin underway, there are high expectations for this team to turn things around after a dreadful 11-22 finish last season. Texas fans got to see a little bit of everything from Smart’s retooled roster on Friday night. Here are three thoughts from the season opener.

Mo Bamba makes his highly-anticipated debut

What Texas fans most wanted to see on Friday night was 6-foot-11, 225-pound freshman forward Mohamed Bamba. In pregame introductions, Bamba was the last starter to be called, and he subsequently received the loudest cheers from the crowd.

Bamba scored Texas’ first points of the game in thrilling fashion. Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski’s shot from the left side of the paint traveled too far, but Bamba was waiting for it on the opposite side. Bamba elevated to throw down a put-back slam to amp up the crowd in the early going. Not a bad way to begin his collegiate career.

Bamba led all Texas scorers with 15 points on 6-9 shooting, collecting eight rebounds along the way.

“We won’t see the best version of Mo this year,” Smart said after the game. “That’s way down the line. But we can see a really good version. I thought tonight was a precursor of that.”

Osetkowski showcases his versatility

Since last season, Smart has raved about Dylan Osetkowski and his untapped potential. The junior forward had to sit out last season after transferring from Tulane. All of that potential was forced to reside on the bench for a full season. But Osetkowski finally got to show off his versatility and athleticism on Friday night.

Both of those qualities were put on display in one standout play midway through the first half. Junior guard Kerwin Roach II fired a three from the corner, but the ball rattled off the front of the rim. Osetkowski came sprinting down the lane from near midcourt and in the blink of an eye slammed home a forceful put-back dunk to bring the crowd to life.

“Coach Smart always calls me a unicorn — a man of many talents,” Osetkowski said. “I was just so happy to get back out there and enjoy the experience.”

Osetkowski finished the night with a double-double, totaling 13 points and 10 rebounds. He may be the Swiss Army knife on this Texas team. He has a very good handle for a big man and can bring the ball up the floor in transition. He’s a scrapper down low in the paint and will do much of Texas’ dirty work this season — defending, rebounding and fighting for loose balls. And Osetkowski can also step outside and knock down a three, making him that much more difficult to guard.

Seven Longhorns finish in double figures

If Texas is going to be a serious competitor in the Big 12 this season and get back in the NCAA tournament, it will have to show consistent improvement on the offensive end, specifically from beyond the arc.

The Longhorns got off to a sizzling start from the three-point line on Friday night, opening the game 4-4. Texas finished 10-33 from three and shot 49 percent from the field. Seven Longhorns finished in double figures. Freshman point guard Matt Coleman had 14 points in his Texas debut and showed great poise running this improved run-and-gun offense.

“That’s the style of play we’ve been wanting to play for and we’ve been building to play for,” sophomore guard Andrew Jones said. “It showed tonight, and there’s only more to come.”