Dylan Osetkowski

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A season of highs and lows came to an end on Friday night.

And when it did — boy, was Texas low.

After surrendering a 14-point second half lead, the Longhorns found themselves bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive time.

Texas now heads to the offseason with the future uncertain and its most important player on his way out.

Here are four thoughts on the loss:

Ball movement beat out individual talent

Nevada was undersized and outmanned. Three Texas players stood taller than the entire Wolf Pack roster, but better fundamental basketball won out in Nashville.

On the opening play of the game, Nevada whipped the ball through the lane and around the perimeter in a sequence of truly brilliant basketball. The team found a shooter on the wing on its second possession, completely open, to jump out to a 5-0 lead.

While the Wildcats forced the defense to rotate, Texas found the majority of its baskets on isolation opportunities and put backs. For every Bamba dunk and junior Kerwin Roach II step back, the Wolf Pack answered with backdoor cuts and complicated screen plays for shooters.

Up and down the roster Texas boasted bigger and more talented individual players. But Nevada played as five, and advanced as a result.

Bamba's foul trouble exposed Texas’ other big men defenders

When Bamba patrolled the lane, the rim was closed for business. The forward sent away and altered nearly every attempt within three feet, and quickly Nevada got the memo.

Only once in regulation did a member of the Wolf Pack try to meet Bamba at the rim.

Just once.

When they did, Bamba snatched the ball out of the air with almost comical ease, foiling the dunk attempt and ending the possession.

But over the course of three minutes, with time dwindling in the second half, Bamba picked up his second foul, then his third, then his fourth. For much of the remaining time in regulation and all of overtime Texas’ rim protector watched from the bench as Osetkowski and Sims put up all of the resistance of a sieve holding back water.

Osetkowski didn’t pick up a foul for himself until the game had been all but decided. On possession after possession the forward allowed his man to find the rim on backdoor cuts and drives to the rim.

Osetkowski played as if he was the one in foul trouble, and the defensive lapses with Bamba sidelined exposed the slower Longhorn big men.

Even in a loss, Bamba outclassed his opponents

Texas may have been the lower seed, but it certainly wasn’t the underdog. And indeed, according to ESPN, less than half of the submitted brackets picked Nevada to win.

Bamba towered over every other player on the floor, exerting his will on both ends.

Early in the contest the forward muscled his way past a noticeably smaller defender and made a reverse dunk when the defense rotated to contest.

To the 17,552 people in attendance and the millions more watching at home, it was abundantly clear that Bamba was far and away the best player on the floor. But time and time again Texas failed to find its big man under the rim.

Bamba only took 11 shots in 31 minutes, most of which came on putbacks. His limited impact against a team who he should have dominated only highlighted the Longhorn disconnect.

Texas isn’t built to win shootouts

All season long, shooting, specifically threes, has been the achilles heel for this squad. Texas has hung its hat on defensive intensity and interior presence.

By the end of the game on Friday, that strategy had been thrown out the window in favor of a run and gun style. The Longhorns tried to match pace with Nevada, a team whose lack of size has forced them to embrace an offense of uptempo pace and lots of threes.

In overtime, the two teams were simply trading baskets. Bamba’s absence played a role, but Texas abandoned its identity, and in doing so, tried to beat Nevada at its own game.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns’ thrilling, last-second victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon was largely overshadowed by the fallout from documents from a federal investigation published Friday in an explosive Yahoo Sports report on corruption in college basketball.

The report asserted that junior guard Eric Davis Jr. received improper benefits in the form of a $1,500 loan from ASM Sports. UT athletic director Chris Del Conte announced Friday evening that Davis will not play “for precautionary reasons until further notice” while Texas investigates the situation.

Texas was one of more than 20 Division I programs involved in the federal investigation, including North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, Alabama and USC.

A number of high-profile active players were also linked to receiving improper benefits, among those included Michigan State’s Miles Bridges and Duke’s Wendell Carter — potential future NBA lottery picks.

Texas head coach Shaka Smart released a statement on the situation, stating, “I am, and always have been, fully committed to ensuring that our program operates within NCAA rules.”

After Saturday’s victory, Smart and several Texas players spoke publicly about the situation for the first time. Smart reaffirmed his condemnation of the alleged actions, but acknowledged the importance of the discussion they raised.

“Things need to change, and people need to follow the rules better,” Smart said. “We have a long haul ahead of us as a sport — to figure out what the right thing to do is moving forward. There is no easy answer. There is no quick fix.”

Davis continues to practice with the team, but he did not suit up against the Cowboys and will likely not play in the team’s final two regular season games. For now, his future remains in limbo as Texas conducts an internal investigation.

The new information only further stirs the conversation about the role of the NCAA and the student-athlete. The topic remains one of the long-standing and hotly debated issues in collegiate athletics.

“The stuff that has been on the media, obviously it sheds light on something that, as a sport, we need to address and improve,” Smart said. “I don’t have all the answers, but I know there is going to need to be a lot of change.”

Texas players, when asked, offered a more straightforward solution.

“Pay to play is how I feel,” junior guard Kerwin Roach II said. “I feel like if that happens, a lot of allegations and a lot of scandals and all that would be taken care of. But you just have to find a way where everyone gets paid evenly and there won’t be any problems in the NCAA.”

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski echoed that sentiment.

“I’m not going to say too much about it. But like (Roach) said, I think we should get paid,” Osetkowski said.

And does Osetkowski think it’ll happen?

“Someday.”

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

A three-game losing streak paired with a trip to Norman to battle No. 23 Oklahoma didn’t appear to be an appetizing meal for Texas’ plate.

But with the Longhorns’ season seemingly pushed to the brink, Texas head coach Shaka Smart’s squad made a concerted effort and played the best brand of basketball the program has seen since the Longhorns’ win over Oklahoma in Austin on Feb. 3.

Texas completed the season sweep over the Sooners on Saturday with a 77-66 road victory — the program’s first win in Norman since 2012. The Longhorns (16–11, 6–8 Big 12) completed a rare wire-to-wire win and surged in the second half on a 12-0 run from about the 13-minute mark to the 9-minute mark to spoil Oklahoma’s Saturday in front of its home fans. Oklahoma has now lost five in a row.

Smart recycled several key strategies that vaulted Texas over Oklahoma back on Feb. 3.

The primary way to beat the Sooners is to lock down the likely Naismith Award winner, Trae Young. The star freshman point guard scored 26 points on Saturday, but for the second time this season, the Longhorns forced him to earn those points in an inefficient manner.

Young shot 33 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three. It wasn’t until Texas had built a comfortable lead in the second half that Young connected on his first triple, ending a cold streak of 20 consecutive misses from long range.

The Longhorns employed freshman point guard Matt Coleman and junior guard Kerwin Roach II as the chief “Trae Young stoppers.” The two played incredible defense and didn’t allow anything easy from beyond the arc, where Oklahoma shot 8-of-30 as a team. Roach and Coleman combined for 23 points, but Texas received its greatest offensive boost from a familiar contributor.

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski had struggled with his shot lately, faring 14-of-49 in his last five games. But the junior finally delivered the critical performance Texas fans have been longing for with a 21-point, six-rebound outing.

Although his shooting efficiency and resurgence from beyond the arc showed up in the stat sheet, Osetkowski’s game was defined by his hustle. He anchored key sequences in the second half, including rejecting a 3-pointer that led to a fast break, collecting a key offensive rebound and finishing with a momentum-swinging dunk to stave off an Oklahoma comeback with five minutes to go.

With Osetkowski returning to his high offensive caliber from nonconference play, Mo Bamba wasn’t relied on as much offensively. But the touted freshman center corralled a season-high 18 rebounds and stuffed four Oklahoma shots in the 11-point victory. Bamba’s interior presence, combined with the Coleman-Roach backcourt combo, hampered Oklahoma’s ability to score from anywhere on the court.

The win is especially vital for a multitude of reasons. Texas’ tournament odds sharply increased after knocking down another ranked opponent. The Longhorns now share the same conference record as the Sooners (6–8) and match them in the overall win column (16), inching Texas closer to the upper tier of the Big 12.

Texas failed to build momentum after its last victory over Oklahoma, but Smart knows the Longhorns cannot afford to release their foot from the gas pedal in the team’s final four games of the regular season if they want to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

Texas can sustain this level of play, but it'll require a collective effort from the team’s starters, as evidenced by Saturday’s win. The Longhorns take the floor again on Wednesday night when they face Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas, hoping to avenge a home loss to the Wildcats on Feb. 7.

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns took a break from their conference schedule on Saturday and hosted Ole Miss in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Here are five takeaways from Texas' 85-72 victory:

Roach continues shooting streak

Until a few weeks ago, junior guard Kerwin Roach II’s offensive specialty was scoring around the rim. He entered this season as a 30.3-percent 3-point shooter, but since returning from a hand injury, the junior has been lethal from range. In his return to the court against Texas Tech on Jan. 17, Roach drained multiple threes for just the second time in the season. He followed this performance up by exploding for a season-best of four threes on five attempts against Iowa State.

Roach has clearly gained confidence in his shot, and he converted on his first two threes in the early portion of the first half on Saturday against Ole Miss to boost the Longhorns’ offense. Roach now sits at a respectable 9-of-18 from deep in his last four games.

Bamba briefly leaves game with injury

Freshman center Mo Bamba quickly impacted the game with his rebounding. But during the early stages of the opening half, Bamba also left the court and headed to the locker room with a trainer. Bamba’s left thigh was evaluated during the time, per Texas.

He quickly returned to the hardwood and was inserted into the game with 9:52 left in the first half. Bamba played the remainder of the game without any struggle, dropping in a new career-high 25 points and hauling in 15 rebounds in just 28 minutes. Bamba’s shooting has improved as of late as he swished his only three of the day and knocked down 12-of-13 from the charity stripe.

Osetkowski’s offensive rebounding pays off

Dylan Osetkowski absolutely dominated from the low block on Saturday. The junior power forward finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Four of those rebounds occurred on the offensive end of the floor, and Osetkowski was easily able to get in position to grab boards as soon as a shot was launched.

Texas scored 14 second-chance points in the victory, and Osetkowski’s presence was a primary reason why the Longhorns were able to make the most out of their offensive possessions.

Texas struggles to stop post-hook, but adjusts

Although Bamba and Osetkowski dominated in the paint offensively, the Longhorns initially struggled with containing Ole Miss center Dominik Olejniczak. The 7-foot Polish big man dropped in 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting in the first half alone, often repeating the same move in the post.

His hook shot from down low was virtually unstoppable without a double-team, and it was a surprise Ole Miss didn’t use him more often. All but two of his points were in the first half, and the Rebels’ offense vanished during the second half when Olejniczak wasn’t frequently utilized. Olejniczak attempted just four field goals in the second half, none of which landed in the cylinder.

Longhorns continue to thrive at home

Big 12 play hasn’t been too kind to the Longhorns, as they entered Saturday with a conference record of 4–4. Texas (14–7) got four days off without traveling before the matchup with the SEC’s Ole Miss, and the Longhorns were able to coast to a 13-point victory over the Rebels.

The win marked Texas’ fourth consecutive home triumph, and head coach Shaka Smart’s team improved to 10–2 at the Frank Erwin Center this season. Although the Longhorns have consistently brought their A-game in Austin, this was their first double-digit win on their own hardwood since Dec. 16’s 75-60 final over Louisiana Tech.

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski set his feet and buried a 3-pointer with 30 seconds remaining in overtime, helping Texas rally past Iowa State at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, on Monday night, 74-70, for its first conference road win since 2016.

After surrendering 17 threes in the loss to Kansas on Friday, Texas responded by holding Iowa State to only seven of its 27 attempts from behind the arc.

Two days after freshman forward Mo Bamba exploded scoring 11 of the Longhorns’ first 13 points against the Jayhawks, Osetkowski poured in eight of Texas' first 10 points against Iowa State — part of a career-high 25 points to go along with the junior forward's nine rebounds.

“Coach in practice has been adamant with me to shoot the ball, regardless of whether it is going in or not,” Osetkowski said. “They believe in me and I just need to have confidence. And going into this game my confidence was through the roof.”

Head coach Shaka Smart took full advantage of the Texas bench, subbing regularly to keep the pace in the Longhorns’ favor. Iowa State’s lack of depth forced the team to lean heavily on its starting rotation.

Texas also showed a full court press for much of the second half and overtime, negating the energy from the crowd of more than 14,000, limiting the Cyclones’ explosiveness down the stretch.

“We knew it would be a very similar environment to VCU,” Osetkowski said. “Great crowd. We knew Iowa State would be fighting the whole night. But those are the games you come to Texas for. This is Big 12 play, and it's what we love to do.”

The Longhorns kept the pace through the opening 20 minutes, propelled by 14 first-half points from Osetkowski. The two teams entered the locker room tied at 31.

But just as Kansas found separation early in the second half on Friday, the Cyclones seemed poised to run away with it coming out of the break. A quick six-point run gave Iowa State a five-point lead, prompting a Texas timeout with 15 minutes to play.

With the growing threat of starting conference play 0–2, the Longhorns found an unlikely hero in junior guard Eric Davis Jr. After creating consecutive and-one possessions to narrow the lead, Davis hit a 3-pointer with under two minutes left to give Texas a one-point advantage. All 15 of Davis’ points came in the second half as the Longhorns rallied to forced overtime.

From there an Osetkowski three and pair of free throws from freshman guard Matt Coleman made it a two-possession game with under two minutes to play. Texas was able to close out the contest and move to 10-4 overall and 1–1 in conference play.

“Whether it was run the clock or get a great shot instead of a good shot, we just wanted to finish the game strong,” Osetkowski said. “And we did that.”

The Longhorns continue their road trip with a matchup against No. 18 Baylor on Saturday in Waco.

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.”