UT basketball: What to expect when Horns play Tar Heels
Barnes could use his point guard, but NCAA investigation continues.
Last December, Rick Barnes banished his starting point guard to the bench during a defeat at North Carolina, ridiculing him with postgame comments about his lack of discipline and dedication.
A year later, the Texas coach wishes Myck Kabongo could be in the lineup when the Longhorns (6-4) face No. 23 Carolina (8-2) in the Erwin Center on Wednesday.
The sophomore point guard’s eligibility is still in limbo over amateurism issues as the NCAA investigates whether an agent paid for a trip Kabongo made to Cleveland in May as well as some workouts with a trainer while he was there.
Kabongo has missed all 10 games this season. As of late November, some at UT were expecting a 10-game suspension.
Barnes has declined to comment about the investigation, other than to say he thinks it should have been completed
by now and that the team misses Kabongo’s talent and leadership.
Barnes was not thinking that way in Chapel Hill last December. On the day of that game, Kabongo declared via Twitter: “Not feeling good at all. 50-50 for tonight.”
Kabongo failed to execute the game plan on the Longhorns’ first possession, and he didn’t improve from there. Barnes benched him for the final 18 minutes, 21 seconds of the 82-63 defeat, and Kabongo finished with one point, one assist and four turnovers in 15 minutes.
After the game, Barnes said he told Kabongo, “We’re going to get guys in here that want to play.”
Kabongo suggested that his back had been bothering him but that he was “OK.” He accepted blame for a poor performance.
Barnes was rough on Kabongo last season, nothing new for the coach regarding point guards.
Point guard “is a guy who you are hoping is going to really understand what you are trying to get done,” Barnes said. “There is a lot of responsibility there.”
More than at any other position.
“You don’t have to just think about your assignment,” Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “You have to think about everybody’s assignment.”
Javan Felix can relate to that. The Longhorn freshman arrived on campus as Kabongo’s backup. Now he’s a starter playing 35 minutes a game.
Felix ranks second in the Big 12 in assists, with 5.8 a game. He has scored 33 points in the past two games, and that average
8 p.m., Erwin Center, ESPN2, 98.1 43 11 35 1 5 James M. McAdoo Brice Johnson Reggie Bullock Dexter Strickland Marcus Paige 10 Jonathan Holmes F 55 Cam Ridley C 1 Sheldon McClellan G 14 Julien Lewis G 3 Javan Felix G *assists per game F F G G G of 16.5 is nearly double his mark for the season.
But Felix has struggled on defense, and his 6-7 6-9 6-4 6-3 5-10 6-9 6-9 6-7 6-3 6-5 Cl. So. Fr. So. So. Fr. So. Fr. Jr Sr. Fr. 6.5 6.1 15.3 11.2 8.7 15.4 9.0 12.2 8.9 7.1 Rbs. 8.0 5.5 4.4 3.4 5.8* 8.3 5.0 5.0 5.0* 2.3 North Carolina coach Roy Williams lost four starters from his team that was defeated by Kansas in the NCAA regional finals last season. All four — Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, John Henson and Tyler Zeller — were selected among the top 17 picks of the NBA draft. But the Tar Heels still have talent. Two of their top four scorers, P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, are reserves. Carolina’s two defeats were against Butler (8271 in Maui) and at Indiana (83-59). ... The Longhorns are 3-1 against North Carolina under coach Rick Barnes. 38 turnovers are secondmost in the league.
Turnovers can be especially problematic against Carolina, which is usually adept at converting them into points with its fast break. The Tar Heels produced 21 points with 13 Longhorn turnovers last season.
Unless somebody delivers to Kabongo a cake hiding a sharp file by Wednesday, Felix will be under a lot of pressure, playing in front of more people than he is accustomed to in the Erwin Center. The Longhorns have averaged 4,758 fans through five home games in the 16,540-seat arena. As of Wednesday afternoon, 3,500 tickets remained for Carolina.
“I want to see him take care of the ball, understand how he can’t have passes deflected because he is lazy with the ball,” Barnes said.
As for his defense, Felix received some advice Saturday from Bruce Bowen, the retired San Antonio Spurs forward who was at the Erwin Center providing commentary for the Longhorn Network when Texas faced Texas State.
According to Felix, Bowen, an all-NBA defender, told him to “just be attached to my man at all times, an arm’s distance away.”
The previous night, Felix walked uninvited into a meeting in which Barnes was explaining to a few reserves what their roles would be if he benched Felix for inferior defense.
“I was showing some tape, and every other word was a jab at him,” Barnes said.
Kabongo, the man he replaced, can assure Felix such scrutiny from Barnes comes with the position.
“He’s hard on guards, but point guards especially,” Felix said. Kabongo “says, ‘Stay positive; see the good from it; stay confident.’ “
And in Kabongo’s case, wait.