Shaka Smart’s pre-game motivational mantra to his Longhorns practically writes itself.
Texas whipped Northwestern State by 46 points last Friday in the season opener. Everybody played, seven players finished in double figures and it was just the type of blowout this program needed.
Then the Longhorns checked their phones. Texas A&M, a team that UT beat in a preseason exhibition, had just blasted 11th-ranked West Virginia 88-65 in the Armed Forces Classic in Germany.
Smart’s message to all his talented freshmen: It’s not going to be this easy.
Texas (1-0) will see a step up in competition Tuesday night against New Hampshire (1-0). This will be a far bigger test for UT forwards Mo Bamba and Dylan Osetkowski. The Wildcats have two native Texans in the middle and plenty of motivation to excel at the Erwin Center.
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“Basically what I’m asking our guys to do is to continually raise the standard they have for themselves in terms of our competitiveness, the way we prepare and the way we adhere to the cultural principles that we talk about every day,” Smart said. “But obviously talk is cheap. We want to raise our standard there.”
Smart knows his players fully enjoyed the weekend after Friday’s win. Several were hamming it up on the sideline at the end of the Texas-Kansas football game. Sophomore James Banks stood at attention for post-game singing of “The Eyes of Texas.”
The football game ended early enough for all UT students to go have a great night on the town.
For what it’s worth, Northwestern State players spent their Sunday losing an exhibition game to Division III LeTourneau.
“In a lot of ways, this requires battling human nature,” Smart said. “We won a game by 46. It was the first time we had played in a long time. Guys got some pats on the back, even though that’s a game you should win, were expected to win. So we’ve got to battle any type of feeling that we’ve done anything.”
To be clear, there were lots of reasons to pat the Horns on the back. Bamba had a team-high 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks. He was named Big 12 newcomer of the week, the first of likely many honors. Dylan Osetkowski had his first double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
The Horns shot 49 percent overall and hit 10 3-pointers. Texas won the rebounding battle 48-33. There was excellent ball distribution; UT had 23 assists on 37 made field goals. And excellent ball protection — five turnovers.
“In terms of areas we can improve,” Smart said, “there’s a ton of stuff on defense that we need to do better.” The coach harped on transition defense, even though the Horns didn’t not allow any points off turnovers. If you want to nitpick, the Demons did get four second-chance points.
Good luck finding any coach who was happy with a season-opening win, though.
“Just our level of readiness on plays all the time,” Smart said. “Some of our freshmen, some of our new guys, just have a long way to go in terms of understanding some of the concepts and some of the rotations.”
The Longhorns also play Friday against Lipscomb ahead of next week’s trip to Portland, Ore., for the PK80 tournament. That’s when the competition goes up dramatically against Butler and possibly Duke.
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