Texas Men’s Basketball leads wire-to-wire to defeat Rice, 66-44

Three Longhorns reach double figures in scoring; UT closes out non-conference play with an 11-2 record. (Via University of Texas Athletics)
Three Longhorns reach double figures in scoring; UT closes out non-conference play with an 11-2 record. (Via University of Texas Athletics)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Jonathan Holmes scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half as Texas cruised to a 66-44 victory over Rice on Monday.

The Longhorns (11-2), who did not win their 11th game last year until mid-February, wrapped up nonconference play with their ninth straight win over the Owls (5-7), who never held a lead in the game.

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Holmes scored the first five points of the contest before a Keith Washington 3-pointer tied the game at 8. That was the closest Rice ever got as Texas scored the next five points of the game before going on a 13-2 run to put the game away before halftime.

The Longhorns outrebounded the Owls 22-11 on their way to taking a 37-19 lead into the second half and never looked back.

Despite getting only nine points between guards Isaiah TaylorJavan Felix and Demarcus Holland - who came into the game averaging a combined 34.5 points per game - Texas dominated near the basket, outscoring Rice 18-6 in the paint and not allowing any fast-break points.

Cam Ridley scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half while Connor Lammert finished with 10 points and six rebounds for the Longhorns. Ridley, who has missed more free throws than he's made during his Texas career, went 6 of 7 from the free-throw line after going 7 of 10 from the line in his last game against Michigan State.

Rice's Sean Obi recorded his third double-double in the last four games with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Rice was held to 29.1 percent shooting from the floor - the worst mark by a Texas opponent this year - and 20.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

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Texas held Rice scoreless for a 6-minute stretch late in the second half before a jumper by the Owls' Bahrom Firozgary capped the contest's scoring with 27 seconds remaining. The Longhorns, who missed out on the NCAA tournament for the first time in 14 years under Rick Barnes last year, take an 11-2 mark into their Big 12 opener against Oklahoma on Saturday.


--Quotes from Coach--

On the nonconference schedule helping to prepare for Big 12 play:
“We’ve seen a lot of different styles thrown at us both offensively and
defensively. As we get ready to head into conference play, certainly as we’ve
gotten to this point in the season, people have made a really conscious
effort of really playing a tight defense. I think we’ve gotten better. We did a
really good job today of moving it and getting the ball inside a little bit.
Where we are right now, we’ve learned a lot about our team but we still
certainly have a long way to go.”

On scoring in the paint: “We spent a lot of time working on that once we
got back right after Christmas. We haven’t taken a lot of three’s in a lot of
games, but the fact is today we were moving the ball quicker, passing it.
There were some really good possessions where in a couple of them I
thought we just got the ball moving. It was good. It really was. I would have
liked to see us get to the free throw line a little more than we did but I’m
happy with it. Some of the guys are certainly getting better and I think
that’s the best way to work on it – game situations. In the second half, we
weren’t quite as tight as we needed to be with the ball. Overall, I’m happy
with Martez Walker. His hard work is paying off for him. He really can shoot
the ball well and he continues to get better. He’s going to help us.”

On teams trying to slow down the running offense: “People are doing
it. You see how they started the game right from the jump ball and I was
really happy that we still did what we said we were going to do. We took it
and went right at them. It was a great pass from Isaiah [Taylor] but Jon
[Holmes] then caught it and finished it. We’re going to have to deal with that
but today was a tough game. The clock didn’t stop for a minute or a minute
and 15 seconds and that’s hard. We’re pushing it. That’s hard to simulate in
practice even when you run. Overall, we got some good things done today.”

On sophomore center Cameron Ridley’s free throw shooting:
“I thought he was great today. I thought he really walked up confident.
Would like to see him finish it, but one he missed. When he turned it over
that one time, he had already asked to come out of the game. That’s where,
as a team, we’ve got to realize that. We’re still young and we’d worked so
hard all week about putting it in there. They have to recognize when he
really wants it and when he doesn’t. I thought he was really comfortable
from the free throw line but he’s got to continue to build on that.”

On the team’s message heading into Big 12 play: “Well it changes
because the conference season changes a lot. The intensity goes up. It’s
almost like you’re getting started all over again. For the next 18 games,
you’ve got to be ready and you’ve got to be ready to play for 40 minutes.
You can’t play 36. You’ve got to play. At some point in time over the entire
13 games we’ve played, every guy on our team has had their moments. I
think they should have the confidence to know that they can do what they
need to do. That’s something that we can really build on. We’ve played a lot
of different lineups, we’ve done a lot of different things defensively, but now
we’re going to have to tighten up some things. We’ve got to do a better job
with ball screen defense and we’ve got to do a better job of defending the
three-point line. Today, we talked a lot about doing that, and you look at
their stats. They had some looks that they liked. We’ve got to get better

On what he’s learned about the team: “I don’t know if you really know a
lot until you really start playing games, but early, once we did start playing,
the teams we were playing brought back experienced players. With a young
group we would get up, go down, get up, and I think with that schedule we
quickly found out that we had a group of guys that are going to compete and
play. We made a lot of mistakes as a young team early in the year where we
didn’t understand how to finish, we’d be aggressive but then we would take
a few plays off. Now they realize that fine line and really learned a lot from
the Michigan State game where we almost got in a panic mode, which we
haven’t done all year. We got down eight with six or seven minutes to go
and broke from what we are about and have been about. I knew from the
beginning by their preparation through the spring, summer and fall that this
is a group of guys that really do understand being a ‘team’. They like each
other. They work for each other. They’re still learning how to play the game,
but I don’t think there is one guy on our team that would put themselves
ahead of this team. They really like each other and that is something as a
coaching staff that you always want. These guys have been great.”

James Schleicher

James Schleicher is the publisher of Horns Illustrated magazine. He's also a fifth generation Texan and lifelong Austinite. Follow @HornsIllus twitter to keep up with all things Horns Illustrated.