UT bas­ket­ball: What to ex­pect when Horns play Tar Heels

Barnes could use his point guard, but NCAA in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark Ros­ner mros­ner@states­man.com

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.

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