Kerwin Roach

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Tremendous, athletic dunks by freshman forward Mo Bamba, the return of junior guard Kerwin Roach II and shocking the No. 8 team in the nation — there were plenty of reasons the crowd at the Frank Erwin Center was on its feet Wednesday night.

The Longhorns not only competed but played an exciting brand of basketball to boost the atmosphere at The Drum in a 67-58 upset victory over eighth-ranked Texas Tech.

“The fans were great tonight, particularly the students,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “They made a huge, huge difference for our team. I really appreciated the way people in Austin, people in the UT community have rallied around our team in a difficult time.”

Bamba’s energy gave the Texas faithful a reason to get excited, producing highlight dunk after highlight dunk and rejection after rejection. The freshman finished with a loaded stat line of 15 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.

“I think he can block the moon and the sun,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “He’s a lottery pick for a reason.”

But the most important dunk of the game belonged to Roach, whose right-handed flush down a wide-open lane mounted Texas’ lead to 64-52 with 2:06 remaining in the game. The 12,396 onlookers responded by achieving a maximum decibel level for the night.

It was a spectacular outing for the junior guard, who returned after a fractured left hand marked him absent for the last two contests. Roach shoveled in a season-high 20 points, and the 59.1-percent free throw shooter showed massive improvement by sinking 8-of-9 shots from the stripe on the night. 

Additionally, he thrived in his primary role as a defensive nuisance, holding Texas Tech senior guard Keenan Evans — who averaged 17.5 points per game entering Wednesday — to just 11 points.

“It was big for us,” Bamba said of Roach’s return. “Snoop (Roach’s nickname) really takes charge in our perimeter defense, and having him back in the lineup made all the difference. Keenan Evans is a really good player offensively, and Snoop really did his job on him tonight.”

Texas moved slightly away from the three-ball and played to its strengths. Smart’s team only attempted 15 shots beyond the arc. The Longhorns finished with 32 points in the paint instead. A high-percentage shot selection led the team to finish 51.1 percent from the floor as the Longhorns obtained their first top-10 win since February 2016.

Despite the ranking disparity and the absence of sophomore guard Andrew Jones — who is battling leukemia — Texas was in control for the majority of the 40 minutes. 

The Longhorns snatched an early 12-11 lead with 10:42 left in the first half and remained ahead until the final buzzer sounded. The Red Raiders provided a brief scare by cutting the margin to five with just under five minutes to go. 

But thanks to a barrage of late layups and dunks, Texas (12–6, 3–3 Big 12) prevailed in an urgent game, avoiding a losing streak while managing to stay competitive against the elite in a challenging Big 12.

“The thing about this league is teams being ranked and where they’re ranked will fluctuate some because people are going through a gauntlet of tough games,” Smart said. “There’s five or six teams in our league that could make an argument to be in the top 10, 15 or 20. 

“We’re not one of them yet; we’re trying to become one of them. Tonight was a good step in that direction.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Freshman forward Mo Bamba delivered a series of dunks and alley-oops in front of a frenzied home crowd on Friday night at the Frank Erwin Center, each seemingly more difficult than the last.

But every bucket in the paint on one end turned into a 3-pointer on the other, as the Longhorns’ league-leading three-point defense was unable to stymie a deluge of Jayhawk threes.

Three Kansas players recorded at least five triples as the long-range attack from the 13-time defending Big 12 champions proved too much for Texas’ defense to handle, as the Longhorns fell 92-86 at home in the first conference game of the season.

“They had probably one of the best three point exhibitions I’ve ever seen in my life,” Bamba said. “They caught fire, and it's hard to defend. Even when you have a hand up. Even when you close out as hard as you do.”

After Texas held Alabama to 20 percent shooting from behind the arc last week, No. 11 Kansas opened the contest with a trio of quick threes and remained dialed in from deep all game, connecting on 17 of its 35 attempts. The Jayhawks’ win earned the program its 27th straight conference-opening victory.

Bamba shined in his first-career Big 12 matchup, keeping the Longhorns within striking distance as Kansas connected on nearly twice as many shots from beyond the 3-point line. The freshman forward recorded a career-high 22 points and 15 rebounds to go along with eight blocks in the loss, cementing himself as perhaps the league’s top defensive talent.

In the face of the imposing 280-pound, 7-foot frame of Kansas center Udoku Azubuike, Bamba provided Texas eleven of the team’s first 13 points on five shots at the rim, including an and-one slam to put the Longhorns ahead by one.

On the other end, Bamba swatted away shot after shot, finishing one block shy of the school record.

“He played really well,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “We ask him to do so much. But his defense in the first half around the basket was terrific. He blocked shots all night long. He rebounded all night long. He got offensive rebounds. I think he’s making progress.”

Down 25-17 in the first half, sophomore guard Matt Coleman found an open look in the corner to cut the lead to five. Moments later, Bamba drained a wide-open three to put Texas within a single possession.

Bamba managed another block on the other end, and sophomore guard Andrew Jones  — who had missed Texas’ last four games with a fractured wrist — tied the game with a pair of free throws.

“Everybody has to do their role,” junior guard Kerwin Roach II said. “Mo did an excellent job today defending inside and protecting the rim and the paint. All our guards need to do a better job closing out on the defensive end.”

Texas entered the locker room down 37-34, propelled by Bamba’s 16 points and eight rebounds.

Though the presence inside was as dominant as it has been all season, Texas struggled defending Kansas’ sharpshooters. The Jayhawks’ guard trio of Lagerald Vick, Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk combined for 64 points on a 16-30 shooting from deep.

“(We were) not good enough,” Smart said. “I think Kansas deserves a lot of credit for the shots they knocked down. When three guys hit 16 threes, you gotta really take your hat off to them. But we’ve defended on the perimeter really well all year. And we were not as good, obviously, defending out there. Kansas had a lot to do with that.”

The Jayhawks came out of the break and looked to pull away. A pair of threes gave them a 51-41 lead.

A Bamba slam off of an offensive board cut the lead to six with under ten minutes to play. But Graham answered as he had all night — pulling up from behind the arc and draining one.

With under four minutes remaining and Kansas pulling ahead, 81- 69, Smart received a technical for arguing a call as the Jayhawks closed it out to move to 1–0 in the Big 12 standings.

“There were a couple of stretches where we didn’t have the defensive energy that we needed to have to stop a team like Kansas,” Smart said. “To stop those runs, particularly to start the second half.”

The Longhorns continue conference play on Monday with a road contest against Iowa State.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Isaiah Taylor has got until Sunday to figure out if he’s as ready for the NBA as Johnny Manziel was for the NFL. There’s no question in my mind: Taylor should stay for his junior year, further develop his skills and delay entering the NBA draft.

Taylor is a 6-foot-1-inch tall point guard who is astonishingly quick, has a unique ability to drive the ball and is a feisty ball defender. But he lacks a consistent jump shot and weighs a mere 170 pounds.

If Taylor chooses to stay at Texas, he’d be the driving force for head coach Shaka Smart’s new offensive and defensive scheme.

Taylor was already the head of the snake whenever the Longhorns decided to press opponents last season. He only averaged one steal per game in 2014–2015, but Smart’s “havoc” system will increase that number — Smart’s system demonstrably produces steals.

Since Taylor flourishes in the open court, the up-tempo pace Smart employs on offense will allow Taylor to drive the ball and have the defense on its heels.

Furthermore, with Taylor breaking down defenses as a result of his driving, he’ll be able to produce shots not just for himself, but also for his teammates. Texas’ two incoming recruits, Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach, are both players who can shoot and attack.

When Taylor blows by his man, it will force the next defender to help on the drive, if that defender helps off someone such as Davis, Roach, rising senior guard Javan Felix or any other player Texas has that can shoot (sorry, Demarcus Holland). From there, they’ll have fairly open looks at the basket.

Taylor’s drives will have the defenses scrambling from all of the team’s help and the knowledge that Texas has shooters on the perimeter. It’s often not the first drive that hurts the most — it’s the second drive. If Davis, Roach or Felix can drive the ball after getting a kick out pass from Taylor, then that will put even more pressure on the defense.

In order for Taylor to be as effective as possible, he will have to develop a jump shot. Without a jump shot, the chain of events that he causes as a result of his drives are unlikely to happen because Taylor’s defender could simply play off him. A consistent jump shot would make Taylor the best point guard in the nation because of all the threats he would pose. It’d be hard to guard someone with his quickness and a consistent jump shot.

The jump shot wouldn’t just elevate Isaiah’s game to a whole other echelon, but it would improve his draft stock. A former Arizona State point guard told me that when he would go up against point guard Avery Johnson, he would play off him because Johnson didn’t have a consistent jump shot.

Taylor would be guarded similarly, but his unique skill set merits something different. He should stay at UT and develop those skills further.

Texas basketball lands four-star recruit

It was quite the eventful birthday for Kerwin Roach on Oct. 24th. Roach, the four-star guard from North Shore high school in Houston celebrated his birthday in style, verbally committing to play for the Longhorns, becoming the second high school player to do so in the Class of 2015. 

Along with guard Eric Davis from Saginaw Arthur Hill high school in Saginaw, Michigan, Roach is the Longhorns second commit from the Class of 2015. Both players are listed as shooting guards, but according to most scouts, Roach is a versatile combo guard, who will be seeing a lot of time at point guard. According to Roach, he has often drawn comparisons to current NBA point guards Russell Westbrook and Derek Rose, both of whom are viewed as some of the top athletes in the league. 

“Roach is an combination guard that is a terrific athlete,” ESPN recruiting analyst Dave Telep said. “He is a quick first step slasher to the rim not only on the break but from the top and wing in the half-court set as well.” 

This athleticism and ability to attack the basket will make Roach a very nice compliment to Davis, who is known as one of the premier three-point shooters in the Class of 2015.

Landing Roach was key for the Longhorns in their recruitment of the Class of 2015, as Roach chose to play for the Longhorns over Big 12 rivals Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Within the Longhorn program, it is always stressed that in the recruiting sphere, head coach Rick Barnes and his staff must “seal the borders” and land all possible prospects from the state of Texas. With the addition of Roach, Barnes and his staff did just that. 

"It's so close to home,” Roach said following a visit with his family to the University on Oct. 17th. “It's good to have a powerhouse school in the state, where your family can go see you play.”

Roach is the 34th ranked player in the nation per rivals.com, and along with Davis provides the Longhorns with two top tier, four-star guards. The Longhorns will still look to the forward position to solidify the front line in their continued recruitment of the Class of 2015, but via the commitments of Roach and Davis, the Longhorns backcourt looks to be one of the strongest in the nation for years to come. 

With sophomore guard Martez Walker removed from the team, the Longhorns will need to pick up two other guards in the next recruiting class to sure up the backcourt.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Following a season that concluded with a five-game stretch in which he averaged 11.8 points per game, many had high expectations for sophomore guard Martez Walker.

However, these high expectations ended earlier this month when Walker withdrew himself from the University following two arrests in the past month. 

Walker was one of three freshman guards — along with Isaiah Taylor and Kendal Yancy — to play for the Longhorns last season, and many viewed him as one of the anchors of the Texas bench.

But, because of Walker’s absence, the Longhorns will have to look to the recruiting class of 2015 to fill the void Walker has left at the guard position. While the class of 2014 was strong — including McDonald’s All-American center Myles Turner, the class did not include the guard position.

When looking at the guard position, two prospects stand out — Kerwin Roach from North Shore Senior High School in Houston and Admon Gilder out of James Madison High School in Dallas.  

Roach, who will be visiting Texas on Oct. 17, plans to make his official decision on Oct. 24, according to Horns247. Currently, the Longhorns are in competition for Roach with four other schools; however, many consider the Longhorns to be the favorite to land Roach, according to 247 Sports.

Roach is currently the No. 34 ranked player in the nation on Rivals.com and has thoroughly impressed scouts with his long wingspan and ability to score in transition. 

Gilder, the No. 65 ranked player in the nation, is one of the premier three-point shooters in the class of 2015 and has been compared to Eric Davis, the Longhorns’ first basketball player to commit from the class of 2015. However, many suspect Gilder will take his talents to SMU or Oklahoma State, according to 247 Sports, despite taking a visit to Texas earlier this month.

Walker’s departure will hamper the progress of a Texas program coming off of an encouraging 2014 season that included an NCAA Tournament win for the first time in two years.

The Longhorns may struggle with depth in the backcourt this upcoming season; however, if they are able to secure the commitments of Roach and Gilder, Texas will boast one of the strongest backcourts in the nation in coming seasons.