By Steve Habel, Senior Contributing Writer
AUSTIN, Texas — If Texas coach Shaka Smart had any hair, he likely would have pulled out great, big handfuls of it by now watching his team try to find some kind of consistency on offense. These Longhorns will have to win games with defense and find points where they can, a strategy that worked well Friday in a 97-69 romp over The Citadel at the Frank Erwin Center.
Forward Dylan Osetkowski scored 15 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead four teammates with at least 12 points, as Texas remained unbeaten at 4-0, albeit after four games against three teams (Eastern Illinois, Louisiana Monroe and The Citadel) it was supposed to handle easily and another (Arkansas) that took overtime to dispatch.
Texas led by 12 at halftime but put its pedal to the metal in the second half, using four three-pointers by Jase Febres and a stifling defense to pull away, eventually building a 29-point margin on a three-pointer by Kerwin Roach II with 3:55 to play.
Roach also scored 15 points for Texas, with freshman Courtney Ramey adding 13 and freshman Jaxson Hayes and Febres pouring in 12 each for the Longhorns, who played their best overall game of the season.
“I told our guys after the game I thought they won the game in the first half with the way they defended and the way they focused on our plan,” Smart said. “The anchor for us last year, and certainly this year, has to be being able to stop the other team, and being able to turn that into offense.
“In the second half, we continued taking good shots and a lot more of them went in.”
Roach’s performance Friday allowed him to become the 37th player in school history to reach the 1000-point plateau.
“Just being here at UT, getting 1,000 points, and getting my name in the record book is amazing,” he said afterward. “We’ve got to make a few shots and get everybody going. That’s just something we haven’t done.”
The 42 three-point shots attempted by the Longhorns established a new record, supplanting the previous high of 40 (which UT had reached two times, most recently in 1995).
The Citadel got a game-high 21 points from Lew Stallworth, while Matt Fierson added 15 and Hayden Brown hit for 10 for the Bulldogs (2-2)
The Citadel more than held its own over the first seven-and-a-half minutes, forging a 16-12 lead while going toe to toe with the bigger Longhorns. Osetkowski had a layup and a jumper to bring Texas even at 16-16 with 11:52 to play in the half, and a three-pointer by Elijah Mitrou-Long put the Longhorns on top at 19-16 on the ensuing possession.
Texas then reeled off the next nine points to build a 28-16 advantage, with a pair of free throws from Ramey capping the Longhorns’ 16-0 run. UT would expand its advantage to as many as 14 point over the final eight minutes of the half before settling for a 42-30 lead at intermission.
The Bulldogs outshot Texas, 43 percent-36 percent, in the first half as the Longhorns hit just two of 20 of their shots from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes. Texas forced 12 turnovers in the first half while committing just one.
Osetkowski led the Longhorns with 11 points in the first half while Stallworth paced all scorers with 12 points on 6 of 7 shooting by halftime.
Next up for the Longhorns is a Thanksgiving night showdown against No. 7 North Carolina in the opening game of the championship round of the Continental Tire Invitational in Las Vegas. Texas then would play either No. 20 UCLA or No. 11 Michigan State in Friday’s follow-up contest.