AUSTIN, Texas — Opposing teams who still have to play this season against the Texas men’s basketball team are not going to like what UT head coach Shaka Smart said about freshman forward Greg Brown Sunday after the No. 11/11 Longhorns’ 77-74 win over Oklahoma State at the Frank Erwin Center.
“He definitely still has a lot of room for growth,” Smart said. “That’s the exciting part.”
Smart’s assessment was, well, smart … and accurate … and to the rest of the teams on the Longhorns’ schedule, a little scary.
Brown had his best game in a Texas uniform, scoring a team-leading and career-high 24 points and pulling down a game-high 14 rebounds for his third double-double, his second in as many games.
His performance helped the Longhorns improve their season record to 7-1 while picking up a victory in their first game of the season against an opponent from the Big 12. The Cowboys slipped to 6-2 overall, and 0-2 in games against Big 12 foes.
“This is by far the best that he’s played,” Smart said of Brown, “and [we’re] just excited about the progress that he’s making.”
The game was the first meeting between two of the best freshmen in the country: Brown and OSU guard Cade Cunningham, who some have projected will be the first pick in the NBA draft. Cunningham led all scorers with 25 points, despite going just 1-of-6 on three-point shots. Despite Cunningham’s scoring, Smart said he was pleased with his team’s defense against Oklahoma State’s young star.
“Other than a few possessions where we fouled unnecessarily, I thought our guys did a nice job on Cade,” Smart said. “At the same time, he scored a really good player — there’s a reason everybody’s got him as the No. 1 pick next year … and when you have a guy like that, I think it gives you chance to be in pretty much every game.”
The Longhorns made enough mistakes in the first half to head to the locker room staring at a 34-29 deficit, but were able to respond after the intermission.
“[I] thought our guys really won this game by the way that they came out of the locker room at halftime — it’s been a big point of emphasis from us,” Smart said.First half, certainly, a lot of things didn’t go our way offensively. We had some guys that were visibly … kind of upset, or not quite in the greatest place, but they did a great job turning the page, and that sparked us. I mean, that gave us a chance to go on a big run, grab a lead, and obviously we needed the lead, with the way that the game ended.”
While Cunningham may have won the scoring battle, Brown was the most complete player in the game for either team. His 24 points came in 26 minutes, 13 fewer than Cunningham played. More than half of his nine rebounds (5) came on the offensive end, and helped UT claim a 44-38 advantage on the glass. For good measure, he chipped in on the defensive end with three blocked shots.
“He’s learning,” Smart said of Brown. “He’s doing what we’re asking him to do, which is take each valuable opportunity, whether it’s practice or games, and learn from them. He did a really good job a couple times today of not forcing the issue, when it wasn’t something there.
“I’m but I’m just really proud of the improvements that he’s making with his footwork, his balance … and then man, he went and grabbed the ball. The way he rebounded was huge — a big difference-maker for us.”
While the freshmen battled for the spotlight, two other Longhorns scored in double digits. Guard Andrew Jones scored 22 points — like Brown, he connected on three shots from behind the three-point line — and guard Matt Coleman added 15, thanks in large part to 9-of-10 shooting on free throws. An argument could be made that the game was decided at the charity stripe: Texas hit 20-of-26 (.769) from the line, while Oklahoma State shot a lower percentage (.619) on fewer attempts, connecting on 13-of-21 from the line.
The Longhorns will return to the court at 7 p.m. Dec. 29 in a non-conference home game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi that can be seen on the Longhorn Network.