Matt Coleman

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Exactly one week ago at the Frank Erwin Center, the Longhorns upset then-No. 16 TCU in double overtime in what proved to be one of the more thrilling games in program history.

Three days later, the team fell to Oklahoma State on the road in disappointing fashion, surrendering a 12-point lead down the stretch with two of its starting guards, sophomore Andrew Jones and junior Kerwin Roach II, still sidelined.

The disparity in endings from the two contests just days apart highlights the narrow margin for error Texas finds itself playing with. Given the seven-man rotation, a poor performance by any Longhorn can mean the difference between a win and a loss in a fiercely competitive Big 12 conference.

“To win against really good teams in this league, with the guys we have out, you’re going to have to have the majority of our guys play well on a given night,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “And that’s what we had against TCU."

“Jericho (Sims) played well. Jase (Febres) played well and gave us eight early points. And of course Matt (Coleman) and Mo (Bamba) and Dylan (Osetkowski) — they all played well. And even then it took double overtime. So when you’re down a couple of guys, that’s what it’s got to be.”

Texas hopes to recapture the energy of the TCU win as it hosts No. 8 Texas Tech on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Red Raiders are coming off a home win over then-No. 2 West Virginia, where they erased a late deficit much like the lead Texas saw disappear against Oklahoma State.

With a deep roster of returning talent, including four seniors, the physicality of the Texas Tech matchup could be a problem for a Texas team that lately has been starting all freshmen except one.

“There is something to be said for having guys — whether they’ve played for another coach or not — guys that have been in college and have winning experience and experience in the Big 12,” Smart said. “(Texas Tech) last year had a really good group of juniors that you knew this year were going to be a special team.”

The Longhorns’ lack of depth has forced the coaching staff to experiment with more unconventional lineups. Smart has opened the past two games with the big-man trio of Sims, Osetkowski and Bamba all starting.

While Osetkowski has demonstrated an ability to create and distribute like a guard, Texas’ lack of shooting has largely negated one of its strongest advantages: the interior. Opposing teams have the luxury of leaving the forwards open on the perimeter as they collapse on any post-up opportunity the Longhorns may create.

“Depending on who else you have in the game, teams may or may not have to guard our guys,” Smart said. “So for instance, when we have the bigger lineup in, the defenders are going to be sitting in (Osetkowski’s) lap, if not double- or triple-teaming him with Mo and Jericho’s men.”

The smaller rotation has been beneficial to some degree. Heavy minutes for role players like Sims and junior guard Eric Davis Jr. have led to a surge in production across the board. Three Texas players recorded career highs in scoring in the past week.

When Roach eventually returns from a fractured left hand, Texas will be a better fit for the smaller lineup. For now, consistency is the name of the game if the Longhorns hope to take down a deeper, more experienced opponent like Texas Tech.

“In general, our young guys, with the increased experience that they’ve had … all of them are getting better,” Smart said. “And that’s what you want from freshmen. They are making strides. It never happens as fast as you want it to, particularly when you are depending on those guys. But I do think they are much further along than they were maybe five or eight days ago.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Not the first, not the second, but the third time’s the charm.

Trailing Texas by just one point with 23 ticks on the clock, Oklahoma State’s Jeffrey Carroll drove to the basket for a right-handed layup. The shot swirled out of the rim and landed in the hands of the Cowboys’ Tavarius Shine after he relentlessly pursued the ball.

Oklahoma State’s second opportunity at a game-winning shot bricked off the iron, but Yankuba Sima flew in from the 3-point line and tipped the ball in with eight seconds left before either team could come down with a key rebound.

It took three chances for Oklahoma State to sink the game-winning bucket, but the Cowboys’ intense finish gave them a 65-64 win over the Longhorns in Stillwater on Saturday afternoon.

Despite the closely contested final minute, the Longhorns held a safe lead that was quickly diminished in the last few minutes.

With 5:55 remaining, freshman guard Matt Coleman’s free throw put Texas ahead 62-50. But with the home crowd at Gallagher-Iba Arena on their side, the Cowboys drained a slew of free throws and shot lights out on their jumpers to pull ahead, using a 13-0 run in less than three minutes of clock time.

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski drained Texas’ last field goal of the game on a driving bankshot down the right side of the court. But the Longhorns hit another shot. Unfortunately for Shaka Smart’s team, it didn’t count.

With under 30 seconds to go and a one-point lead, Coleman fired down the lane and shot one of his signature floaters — a move he previously hit a game-winning shot with against Tennessee State. But Oklahoma State clogged the lane with several stationary defenders, one of which positioned himself right in front of Coleman.

The referees issued a charging foul. Instead of a three-point lead, Texas turned the ball over to the Cowboys for an opportunity at the final shot.

Oklahoma State struck gold on Sima’s tip-in. Texas had under eight seconds to respond with a game-winner, but Oklahoma State poked the ball out of Coleman’s hands and the Longhorns’ final shot was reduced to an off-balance, desperation heave from beyond the arc by sophomore guard Jacob Young. The buzzer sounded as the attempt bounced off the rim.

Before that final sequence, Texas played solid defense on the Cowboys’ prior attempts at a game-winner. One of Sima’s previous layups ended in a rejection by Wooden Award watch list member and freshman center Mo Bamba. After being shut down in the opening 20 minutes, Bamba played like a man possessed in the second half. His 11 second-half points, complemented by 10 rebounds and two blocks, propelled Texas throughout the afternoon. But the team still couldn’t escape with a much-needed conference win.

Prior to Bamba’s offensive arrival, the hero of the game was Eric Davis Jr. The junior guard finished the opening half with 15 of his 18 points. He drained 4-of-5 3-pointers and sparked the Longhorns’ offense — a significant reason Texas entered halftime ahead 32-25.

Bamba and Davis played stout individual games, but Texas’ tight rotation — which featured just seven players — ultimately hurt the team down the stretch in the second half. The Longhorns were without sophomore guard Andrew Jones, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia, and junior guard Kerwin Roach II, who is out with a fractured left hand.

For a team that appears to be on the fringe of a NCAA Tournament selection, Texas (11–6, 2–3 Big 12) needs every win it can get, and a road loss to Oklahoma State certainly won’t help when almost every Big 12 matchup is a tough battle. Smart and the Longhorns will return home on Wednesday night against No. 8 Texas Tech.

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.”

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: 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.