Mo Bamba

Photo Credit: Gabriel Lopez | Daily Texan Staff

After the Longhorns’ thrilling victory over arch-rival Oklahoma at the Frank Erwin Center on Feb. 3, they were on a perfect pace to get into the NCAA Tournament.

Now, Texas has lost three straight — most recently a double overtime loss to Baylor on Monday night — and has plummeted toward the bottom of the Big 12 standings, leaving serious doubt as to whether the team can muster the strength to sneak into the big dance.

Texas is 15–11 overall and a measly 5–8 in conference, which is tied for eighth in the Big 12 standings. The Longhorns have had the lowest-scoring per-possession offense thus far in Big 12 play. Their offense has been extremely inconsistent, with the only reliable source of buckets coming from freshman forward Mo Bamba.

But Texas head coach Shaka Smart’s team has some things going for it: the Longhorns have the second-best strength of schedule and also remain in the top 50 for both RPI and BPI, which are all important factors in the committee’s selection process when the bracket is released next month.

Moving forward, Texas will hit the road to face Oklahoma, Kansas State and Kansas in addition to hosting Oklahoma State and West Virginia in Austin. That’s it — the Longhorns only have five games left plus the Big 12 tournament to decide their fate.

Texas will most likely have to win at least three of those five and do some damage in the Big 12 tournament to punch its ticket to the dance. They’re not done yet, but the Longhorns will need a valiant effort from everyone to keep the NCAA Tournament dream alive this season.

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Freshman forward Mo Bamba has emerged as Texas’ best player this season, and the stats show it’s not even close.

The NBA Draft prospect is averaging a team-high 18.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and three blocks over the last seven games. Bamba is also shooting an outrageous 51 percent from long range during this stretch. Not only is he leading the team, Bamba is leading the entire Big 12 in rebounds and blocks per game. His length and mobility simply cannot be matched by anyone in the conference.

Bamba has become a dual-threat player in the paint, inviting opposing guards to come down the lane and challenge him on defense while being patient and efficient on offense. He stretches the floor, creating his own shot in the post and snatching rebounds away from his opponents. His ability to out-rebound, even with multiple defenders in the paint, creates crucial second-chance opportunities for the Longhorn offense to score.

Despite Bamba’s dominance, Texas continues to struggle in the clutch without the presence of sophomore guard Andrew Jones. The team’s record is now 3–4 over the past seven games. However, three of the four losses have been within three points, including last night’s nailbiter defeat to Baylor. That being said, Texas would likely not even be able to compete in those close games without Bamba’s stellar play.

Moving forward, Bamba will have to keep his performance up at an all-time high to give Texas any chance at making the NCAA Tournament. His stats, as great as they are, need to translate to wins for his team now more than ever.

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

With eight seconds left on the clock in double overtime and a one-point deficit for Texas, junior guard Kerwin Roach II drove right and threw up a long runner in a desperate, final look.

But like so many of Texas’ shots on Monday evening, the floater fell short and Baylor grabbed the rebound.

Baylor 74, Texas 73.

It was a pivotal loss for a sliding Texas team that dampened any hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. After posting an impressive 11–2 home record through its first 13 games, Texas has now dropped back-to-back games at the Frank Erwin Center for the first time this season.

“They are really upset,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “And some of these guys are really angry, because some of those guys put their egos aside and came together in terms of attacking and battling. But obviously we came up one stop short.”

Texas missed 11 of its first 12 shots as Baylor took an early 13-6 lead.

The Longhorns rank at the bottom of the Big 12 in 3-point shooting, a fact that Baylor took full advantage of in the opening half. Even with freshman guard Jase Febres — the team’s top marksman from three — back in the starting lineup, Texas shot a miserable 2-of-11 in the first half from deep.

The Longhorns converted on just one field goal at the midway point of the half. And even then, the points came on contested mid-range jumpers. The offense was flat.

With under 10 minutes to play in the first half, Baylor scored on an easy layup off an inbound pass, forcing Texas head coach Shaka Smart to burn a timeout. That break proved to be the turning point of the opening period.

“Particularly in the first half, they didn’t let (poor shooting) get them down,” Smart said. “We had some good looks we didn’t make. We got the ball inside pretty well a few times where we didn’t put it away. That happened a couple times.”

Out of the timeout a three by junior guard Eric Davis Jr. gave Texas a badly needed spark. Roach got a dunk off a steal, then freshman forward Mo Bamba brought the crowd to its feet with a thunderous dunk off the lob from the junior guard to cut the lead to one.

Moments later, the same duo connected on an identical, yet even more spectacular, alley-oop, and Texas took its first lead since the opening seconds.

The two teams traded baskets and entered halftime separated by a single possession, with the Bears clinging to a two-point advantage.

The Longhorns missed four uncontested shots from behind the arc to open the second half, including an airball from Davis as Baylor jumped out to an early five-point lead.

But it was Bamba who set the tone again for Texas. A huge rejection on Baylor forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. led to a layup on the other end for Bamba — Texas’ first points of the second half after nearly five minutes.

Baylor maintained a two-possession advantage until the 11-minute mark. Whether it was mismatches or a lack of effort from Texas, the Bears had little trouble abusing the Longhorns on both ends of the court. Texas looked deflated as Baylor pressed the attack, pulling ahead by eight with four minutes to play.

But the Texas players kept grinding. On the heels of a technical foul by Baylor, a late three from freshman guard Matt Coleman and a scoop layup under the rim brought the Longhorns within one with 30 seconds left in regulation. Moments later, Coleman went to the line, calmly hitting two free throws to tie the game for the Longhorns at 56.

Baylor missed a final look from deep as the two teams headed into overtime. Neither squad was able to command an advantage in the ensuing five minutes. After a pair of free throws from Roach tied the game at 64, the two teams headed into a second overtime period.

Again both teams failed to create any meaningful separation.

Texas and Baylor traded layups on both ends as time ran down. With under 15 seconds to play, Baylor took a one-point lead on a dunk inside.

“I knew that Mo was going to block the shot, and I was just hoping for a good miss,” Lual-Acuil Jr. said. “And thankfully I went up and I got it.”

The late runner by Roach proved just off the mark, and Texas (15–11, 5–8 Big 12) saw its postseason hopes suffer a massive blow in disappointing fashion.

“Slow starts make it tough,” Smart said. “That being said, our guys battled and forced overtime, forced double overtime. But even as we took the lead, they weren’t able to stop them.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

FORT WORTH — February marks the last whole month of the college basketball regular season, and there’s only one thing teams fight for — an NCAA Tournament bid.

With TCU having dropped two straight and Texas having lost a heartbreaker at home to Kansas State on Wednesday night, Saturday afternoon’s matchup between the two in-state foes was welcomed with high stakes. But the Horned Frogs left little doubt of their worthiness in their home arena, thrashing Texas, 87-71.

“If we go out and play and bring the same level of spirit and energy to the court that we did today, it really doesn’t matter who we play in the Big 12,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said, “because everybody is good enough to beat that team that played today.”

After tipoff, two immediate Texas turnovers were exchanged for a quick 5-0 TCU lead. The Horned Frogs controlled the game from that moment until the final horn sounded at Schollmaier Arena, never allowing their lead to shrink below eight in the second half.

“We knew that we were gonna have to come in here and make them miss and grab the ball,” Smart said. “We didn’t do either of those things at anywhere near a high enough level in order to win the game.”

TCU sliced and diced Texas’ defense in every way imaginable. The Horned Frogs came out of the gate firing from 3-point range to build a respectable lead in the early stages. Then, TCU began penetrating the lane, passing quickly and finding cutters for open layups.

TCU shooting guard Kenrich Williams and point guard Alex Robinson were key facilitators, and 6-foot-11 power forward Vladimir Brodziansky dominated on post moves to score 25 on the Texas bigs.

“We’re a team that shoots the ball well from three, but it really all starts with penetration,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “To be as good as we are offensively, you have to do a lot of things well and you have to be well-rounded. We can drive it, we can post up, score inside and we can shoot threes. The combination allows us to be pretty good.”

TCU reverted to draining threes late in the second half and ended up converting on 10 triples during the 16-point win.

“We didn’t show enough intensity,” freshman center Mo Bamba said. “We were basically just hoping they’d miss.”

Although Texas’ defense struggled to contain the Horned Frogs throughout the 40 minutes, the Longhorns unleashed one of their best offensive showings of the year.

Two facets of Texas’ offense were highly functional — Bamba, and surprisingly, the 3-point shooting. Bamba, who has consistently been efficient during the last month, pitched in 23 points in the Longhorns’ highest-scoring road game since Jan. 1.

Texas entered the game shooting just 31 percent from long range, but the team excelled by sinking 10-of-20 threes, including a handful that seemed from NBA range. But TCU’s offense managed to respond every time Texas’ shooters caught fire.

“It was really draining. They made a couple in the second half that were really good defense,” Smart said. “TCU’s a really good team. They move the ball and attack. We needed to do a better job of running them off the line and playing with active hands.”

Texas (15–10, 5–7 Big 12) has dropped two games in a row and five consecutive matchups on the road. The Longhorns’ upcoming schedule bodes unfavorably for a potential NCAA Tournament invitation, but the team can reverse this sudden decline by winning difficult upcoming games.

It will be a quick turnaround, as the Longhorns host Baylor on Monday night.

“This is adversity right here,” junior guard Eric Davis Jr. said. “It’s gonna show what we’re about as a team individually. We’re gonna stay together and get it right.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

Texas suffered a heartbreaker at the Frank Erwin Center on Wednesday night as Kansas State invaded Austin and escaped with a 67-64 victory. Here are four takeaways from the Longhorns’ rare Big 12 home loss, which dropped the team to 5–6 in the conference:

Longhorns miss last-second shot for tie

With 15 seconds to go, Kansas State point guard Barry Brown’s first free throw on a one-and-one clanked out of the rim, and the Longhorns didn’t take advantage. Freshman point guard Matt Coleman drove to the right baseline, created breathing room and threw a lob to freshman forward Mo Bamba. The Wildcats interrupted the pass and corralled the ball.

Kansas State immediately drew a foul, and Wildcats junior forward Dean Wade hit the first of two free throws. Texas earned an opportunity for a tying three-point buzzer beater with two seconds on the clock after Wade missed the second, but junior guard Kerwin Roach II’s desperation heave couldn’t reach the rim.

Texas dropped its first home game since late December.

Bamba shows off versatility, mobility

As a 6-foot-11 center gifted with a jaw-dropping wingspan, Mo Bamba can easily stand on the low block on both sides of the ball. But rather than just shooting point-blank field goals and clogging the paint defensively, Bamba made his presence felt all around the hardwood on Wednesday night.

He was active in running the floor, contesting shots in transition defense and setting screens in a mobile offense. The freshman was a scoring machine in the first half against the Wildcats, contributing 15 of Texas’ 34 points. He sunk 54.5 percent of his shots, scoring from an array of areas — the paint, midrange and beyond the arc.

Bamba’s development has augmented greatly since the season opener against Northwestern State, as he prepares for the likely transition to the NBA in just a few months.

Kansas State’s Dean Wade plays like D-Wade

The Wildcats’ leading scorer had no problem finding the bottom of the net in Austin. Dean Wade brought the heat for a team-high 16 points in the win, proving lethal from mid-range and drawing obvious comparisons to similarly named NBA star Dwyane Wade.

Dean’s offensive prowess helped the Wildcats climb out of an early seven-point deficit, and he ended up sinking a crucial free throw with 3.2 seconds left to lift Kansas State to a win. On the defensive end, he was responsible for putting the clamps on Texas’ leading scorer. Longhorns junior forward Dylan Osetkowski did not score in the first half, and he finished with just eight points.

Texas struggles to replicate Saturday’s upset win

During Saturday’s home upset over then-No. 12 Oklahoma, Texas overcame a 10-point second-half deficit. The Longhorns played with energy and intensity and managed to play at a high level during big moments late in the game.

In an emptier Erwin Center on Wednesday night, the Longhorns seemed to do the opposite down the stretch. Kansas State trailed by as many as seven points in the game, and Texas’ defense had no answer for the Wildcats’ offense once the second half began.

Offensively, Bamba didn’t score in the second half until just 1:38 remained. Texas as a whole shot an inefficient 41.4 percent compared to Kansas State’s 53.7 percent.

Kansas State — a fringe NCAA Tournament team coming off a 38-point road loss — snapped the Longhorns’ five-game home winning streak, which included three AP top-16 wins.

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

Freshman guard Matt Coleman turned the corner near the baseline with his eyes on the rim.

With Texas trailing by two, the Longhorn point guard had an opportunity to tie or win the game against Kansas State on Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center in the final seconds. Coleman saw an opening and lobbed it up to freshman forward Mo Bamba, but the pass proved off the mark. The Wildcats collected the steal as Texas fell, 67-64, in another tight Big 12 game.

“It felt like our spirit wasn’t there all the way,” Coleman said. “We didn’t have enough energy going into the game. That just comes from within. They wanted it more than us.”

The matchup featured two teams trending in opposite directions. Texas (15–9, 5–6 Big 12) sat as close as it has been since 2016 to a top 25 ranking after Saturday’s home upset win over No. 12 Oklahoma. Kansas State, meanwhile, entered on a two-game skid, including a 38-point blowout at the hands of West Virginia.

The game saw another stellar performance from Bamba. The forward scored a game-high 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds in the loss.

“It hurts to lose at home,” Bamba said. “No game in this league is easy, but home games are supposed to be the ones you can lead in spirit compared to who you are going up against. When you drop one at home it hurts a little bit. But we gotta reset for TCU.”

Texas entered Wednesday knowing this was a game it couldn’t afford to lose. In a conference ripe with ranked opponents, a home matchup with a middle-of-the-pack program is a must-win situation for any team eyeing a NCAA Tournament bid.

The Longhorns looked to create separation in the opening minutes. Texas rattled off seven unanswered points to take control early, 14-7.

Texas never pulled ahead by more than seven before Kansas State began its rally.

The Wildcats closed the gap with the help of eight early turnovers from Texas. The Longhorns coughed up the ball on a series of unforced errors which led to 11 quick points at the other end.

Bamba provided a highlight block and staredown to cut into the lead, but the late surge from Kansas State couldn’t be slowed, and the two teams entered the break tied at 34. Texas head coach Shaka Smart was visibly upset and could be seen exchanging words with his starters on the final possession of the half.

“Disappointing to say the least,” Smart said. “It wasn’t like we didn’t practice well or the guys didn’t give effort. But you can kind of see on our faces tonight, we didn’t have the same collective spirit or will to come together and be about one thing.”

Texas came out sluggish in the second half. A quick four unanswered from the Wildcats had Texas playing catch up through the first five minutes.

The Longhorns reclaimed the lead with 14 minutes to play on a long three from junior guard Kerwin Roach II. After leading the charge for the Longhorns in the first half, Bamba was held scoreless through much of the second. In his absence, junior forward Dylan Osetkowski came alive, scoring eight points in the second half to keep the score close down the stretch.

With just under three minutes to play, the lead was a single possession for Kansas State. With one final, furious rally, junior guard Eric Davis Jr. buried a triple, but Coleman committed a crucial foul on the other end. The error gave the Wildcats the ball with 18 seconds left and no shot clock, forcing Texas to start intentional fouling.

Coleman missed his final shot, and Texas fell below .500 in conference play with a tough road rematch against TCU just three days away.

“Well I think one of the things that really good teams do, and winning teams do, is they have a good result and they say we want more,” Smart said. “That was something I really wanted to put front and center in front of these guys coming off of Saturday. But at the end of the day we didn’t display that tonight.”

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

ESPN’s College GameDay paid a visit, the Frank Erwin Center was sold out and the energy from the fans skyrocketed to a season-high during the Texas-Oklahoma game on Saturday evening. Why?

The Longhorns’ Mo Bamba and the Sooners’ Trae Young were in the building.

One is seven feet tall, the other stands at just 6-foot-2-inches. One excels in rejecting opponents’ shots and grabbing rebounds, while the other has made a name for himself with his uncanny passing ability and the ability to drain shots consistently from Stephen Curry range. But they share one key commonality: The two freshmen rank among the top players in the nation, destined to be selected in the forefront of the 2018 NBA Draft.

Bamba’s team won Saturday’s showdown, defeating Oklahoma, 79-74. Here’s how the two future NBA lottery picks performed individually:

Trae Young, Oklahoma

Young contributed to a plethora of the game’s early points for the Sooners. The freshman point guard recorded an assist in transition as the Sooners etched their name into the scoreboard first. Then, Young stunned the crowd by hitting an off-balance three on Oklahoma’s ensuing basket.

Young wasn’t money from long range on the night, shooting just 2-of-14 from beyond the arc. He accumulated only five first-half points and struggled with his jumper. But what makes a player like Young special is his ability to attack in other ways. His passing was stunning, and he was able to throw darts behind defenders’ backs and attack Texas’ defense with no-look assists in transition. The nation’s leader in assists dropped nine dimes in the first half and finished the evening with 14.

"I just try to find different ways to affect the game,” Young said. “My shot wasn't falling early, so I was trying to get everyone involved.”

The point guard matched his first-half points total less than two minutes into the second half. Young penetrated the lane numerous times, but his tendency to shoot in these situations increased in the game’s final 20 minutes. Young’s floaters were the primary source of his 19 points, but Texas’ Kerwin Roach II and Matt Coleman managed to limit him well below his season average of 30.3.

“One thing that he’s really improved on is his passing ability,” Bamba said of Young. “We did our job making it as tough as possible on him, and we came out victorious.”

Mo Bamba, Texas

Bamba collected most of his baskets in the win from point-blank range. He used his 7-foot-9-inches wingspan and capitalized on being the tallest player on the floor. The center from New York hauled in 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds over a mismatched Sooners team.

Bamba is one game removed from setting the single-season record for blocks at Texas, but the freshman tallied zero in the first half. An astounding 34 of Oklahoma’s 40 first-half points were pitched in from the paint. The Sooners often relied on speed and quick ball movement to defeat Bamba’s length and shot-altering ability — and it worked.

But Bamba adjusted and was a force to be reckoned with during the latter sequences of the game.

“Mo didn’t have his best offensive night, but he didn’t cave,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “He was a presence on the defensive end, and he did a very nice job in all the blitzes on pick-and-roll.”

Bamba’s first block nearly blew the roof off of the Erwin Center. It occurred right after the Longhorns surged from a 10-point deficit to tie the game at 52 apiece early in the second half. He then hauled in a key offensive board to retain possession while Texas was up two with two minutes left. But with 33 seconds left and a six-point advantage, Bamba perfected the highlight of the night.

The big man sealed the envelope on the game by catching an alley-oop from junior guard Eric Davis Jr. and finishing with an emphatic reverse jam. It brought the crowd of 15,533 to its feet and injected an unheard-of amount of energy into the Texas faithful.

“It was surreal,” Bamba said. “Eric told me before the game he was going to throw a lob. I looked at him, I read him, he didn’t want to throw it but he was like, ‘dang, I promised him,’ so he threw it. It was a little short, so I improvised.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

With 10 games remaining in an up-and-down season, Saturday’s bout was about setting the tone for the final stretch.

And the message was clear.

Looking as dominant as the conference they represented, the Longhorns (14–7, 4–4 Big 12) cruised to an 85-72 victory over Ole Miss in the Big 12/SEC challenge at the Frank Erwin Center. The win gave Texas back-to-back wins for the first time in over a month.

“We came out here wanting to win,” junior guard Kerwin Roach II said. “We were just more hungry. We also wanted to win once we got back on the road, and this was a great way to start it.”

For a second straight game, freshman forward Mo Bamba recorded a career-high scoring performance, earning 25 points and collecting 15 rebounds to go along with four blocks.

“Mississippi came in with a level of physicality and aggressiveness — especially against Mo — but against all of our guys,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “We needed to stand up to that, and our guys did a nice job.”

Texas went straight at Ole Miss from the opening tip. The Longhorns’ starters came out firing, looking to punish the Rebels’ smaller lineup.

Bamba drew a foul on the opening possession while wrestling for position on the block. On the next possession, he motored into the paint and missed his first shot but corralled the rebound and laid it up amid the sea of arms around the rim.

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski built on the early aggression, getting to the line twice in the first five minutes to give Texas an early 7-3 lead.

Roach picked up right where he left off after a career night against Iowa State on Monday.

Osetkowski skipped a pass outside after being double-teamed in the post, and Roach buried the open triple. Moments later, Roach connected on a second shot from three off a high screen, and Texas took a 15-10 lead over the Rebels.

But midway through the first half, Texas was briefly without its interior stopper as Bamba headed to the locker room to be evaluated for a left thigh injury.

Ole Miss took advantage of Bamba’s absence and began to close the gap, as sophomore forward Dominik Olejniczak rattled off 14 points in the first half.

Bamba soon returned, and the momentum shifted firmly back in Texas’ favor. With time winding down before the break, Roach found Osetkowski under the rim on a no-look assist for the and-one play. On the next possession, Coleman hit Osetkowski in the same spot, and Texas took a 33-28 lead — part of six straight points for Osetkowski.

Freshman guard Jase Febres connected on two threes, and Osetkowski converted a third layup as Texas pulled ahead by double-digits. Texas led 45-36 at halftime with two players already in double-figures.

On the opening play of the second half, Coleman dropped off a pass to Bamba under the rim for a two-handed slam. On the next two possessions, the Rebels sent Osetkowski and Bamba to the line to add to the Texas lead.

Roach then found a layup in transition, and Bamba pinned his defender for another easy dunk as Texas built a double-digit lead. By the 12-minute mark, the Longhorns’ second unit had ballooned the lead to 60-45.

Bamba added a few more rim-rocking slams and a highlight block as Texas coasted down the final stretch.

“We needed to get on a win streak,” Bamba said. “This was a very challenging team. But we see no reason why we can’t keep winning.”

Texas now sets its sights on the second half of Big 12 play, starting with a road game against Texas Tech on Monday. The Red Raiders have yet to lose at home this season.

“We wanted to get our mind right going back into conference,” Roach said of Saturday’s win. “Start the second half of conference on a new page, and just get on the road and get into it.”

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: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Less than two minutes into the game, junior guard Kerwin Roach II pulled up from beyond the arc at the Frank Erwin Center. 

Bucket. 

Then he launched another triple. Bucket. 

His next two threes? Both buckets.

Roach’s offensive surge has given the Longhorns a spark in both of the past two home games now. On Monday night, Roach bolstered Texas’ 73-57 win over Iowa State. 

Entering the matchup as a 29.5 percent 3-point shooter, Roach’s immaculate 4-of-4 shooting from deep in the first half lifted Texas to one of its best offensive showings of the season. Surprisingly, Roach’s recent breakthrough simultaneously lines up with his return from a fractured left hand.

“I’m a junior, so I’ve been playing the game for a while,” Roach said. “Just being out just burned that fire into me. The time I spent off, I did a lot of form shooting and got my mechanics together — just slowed down and took my time during my shots.”

The junior guard tied his career high with 22 points, but Texas was blessed with a second star on the offensive end — Mo Bamba. 

The freshman forward splashed onto the scene Monday by sinking a spot-up three and slamming multiple authoritative dunks over the Cyclones’ defense. Bamba posted a career-high 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in his strongest game at Texas.

“His motor has really improved,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “He’s really responded better and quicker, when before, it just took him longer. I thought tonight was about as clean of a game as he’s played in terms of efficiency.”

Iowa State’s offense gathered some momentum in the second half and managed to strike as close as six points. But before the Cyclones could turn the corner, Bamba’s scoring swung the game back in the Longhorns’ favor. The future lottery pick nailed 9-of-11 shots on the night and refused to allow any easy baskets on the defensive end.

Texas relied on its defense in the closing moments. The Longhorns didn’t score a single point from the 6:24 mark until just 1:03 remained in the game. But the Cyclones hit a skid of their own, going scoreless over the last four minutes and 10 seconds. The final buzzer concluded a rare wire-to-wire Big 12 victory for Texas — good for a third-straight home win.

“We tried to go small the last couple minutes, and I don’t know if that was a factor with our rhythm because we don’t play that a lot,” Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said. “We were going to try to go small and see if we could cause some problems for them down the stretch. It wasn’t good for us.”

Both teams in this Big 12 clash fared very differently in their games this past Saturday. Texas suffered a 35-point demolition to a talented West Virginia team, while Iowa State breezed past then-No. 8 Texas Tech, 70-52. But the Longhorns and Cyclones trended in opposite directions when battling Monday night.

“It was a quick turnaround, but at the same time, we had to go into self-reflection mode and build off of what we could do better,” Bamba said. “Our motto coming into this was ‘somebody has to pay for it,’ and unfortunately for Iowa State it was them. The league is very competitive, and you definitely don’t want to go on a losing streak.”

Texas (13–7, 4–4 Big 12) hasn’t won consecutive games since mid-December. The Longhorns will get the opportunity to finally do so on their own hardwood on Saturday when they host a 10–9 Ole Miss squad in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.