First look at Bamba and Co. is impressive,
Horns flash major potential against overmatched foe.
The canvas doesn’t get any brighter, the slate can’t be any cleaner, than on opening night. The first markings set the whole tone for what comes next.
The contours come in December, things take shape in January, polish and perfections come in February, and the picture becomes complete in March. Whatever happens on a Friday night in mid-November could mean everything. Or nothing.
Still, Texas passed the eyeball test Friday night with a rollicking 105-59 season-opening beatdown over Northwestern State at the Erwin Center.
“Anybody want to trade places?” Northwestern State coach Mike McConathy said. “My daddy used to say, ‘Son, that’s just a good ol’ country butt-whoopin’.’”
A larger-than-expected crowd of 9,516 fans, which included a strong student turnout, had to walk away impressed. The Horns walked around in style, that’s for sure. Nike provided the team with special green shoes in honor of Veterans Day.
“That’s the style of play that we’ve been wanting to play for, what we’ve been building for,” sophomore guard Andrew Jones said. “It showed tonight. And there’s only more to come.”
Sure, a lot of fans came to see freshman Mo Bamba, and he did not disappoint. Bamba opened his one and only season at Texas with a dunk and finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in 23 minutes.
But this team is more than one 6-11 star center, and that was the clear takeaway.
“Last year, you saw Jarrett (Allen) just get better and better and better,” coach Shaka Smart said. “But we didn’t have enough around him in terms of guys contributing at a high enough level to winning.”
Dylan Osetkowski, the transfer from Tulane, posted his first double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. His turnaround jumper, running put-back slam and 3-pointer were all impressive.
“I’m just trying to bring a level of hustle, spirit, everything, rebounding,” Osetkowski said. “My ability to shoot the ball is only going to get better from here.”
The guard play certainly looked better. Freshman Matt Coleman had 11 points and seven assists. He rifled a pass inside to Bamba for a would-be dunk, but Bamba got raked.
Coleman’s presence helped UT’s core guards play better. Jones had 14 points and looked comfortable shooting beyond the arc and driving home for a slam. Kerwin Roach Jr. had 10 points and four assists. Eric Davis Jr. swished a 3-pointer from the right wing. He played only nine minutes due to a groin injury suffered two days ago in practice.
It’s also apparent this Texas team has depth, something that was sorely lacking during last year’s 11-22 campaign. Jase Febres hit three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points. Jericho Sims had five rebounds and showed hustle.
This team has something. But again, it’s a long, grinding process to reach a finished product.
“We’ve worked hard for this all summer long and preseason,” Jones said, “and now we’re ready to show this is what we’re about and this is the culture at Texas.”
UT forward Jericho Sims had five rebounds off the bench during Friday’s opener against Northwestern State at the Erwin Center.