Former Texas coach Leon Black sure had an eye for talent. But injuries happen and the show must go on, too.
Standing in the Erwin Center tunnel with his pre-game coffee, Black learned Texas would be without sensational freshman Mo Bamba against New Hampshire on Tuesday.
“There’s gonna be a lot of disappointed people tonight,” Black said without spilling a drop.
Current coach Shaka Smart walked through the tunnel, straight onto the floor and watched his team dispatch New Hampshire anyway. Five players finished in double figures, and Dylan Osetkowski posted another double-double as the Longhorns won 78-60.
Bamba was relegated to the sideline in a snappy suit and tie combination. He caught an accidental elbow from Osetkowski in Sunday’s practice and had to go through concussion protocol. Smart said he’s “hopeful” Bamba plays Saturday against Lipscomb.
“Hey, y’all heard it was me that did it?,” Osetkowski said with a grin. “It wasn’t me. Whatever anybody told you, it wasn’t me.”
Concussions are apparently as contagious as that nasty stomach virus that’s tearing its way through the Texas campus. A quarterback, running back and center have been sidelined. Cornerback Josh Thompson left practice early on Tuesday because of a head injury. And now Bamba? Is no one safe in any sport?
“We’ve got a whole team of dudes who were ready to go,” said Osetkowski, who finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds. It’s his second double-double in as many games.
Without Bamba, freshman Jericho Sims was inserted into the starting lineup. The ultra-quiet forward from Minnesota appears to get more comfortable every time out. Just don’t expect him to say so. He had eight points and four rebounds and three blocks. Two came in back-to-back fashion. Sims went the other way and caught a lob pass from Andrew Jones for a dunk.
“He’s going to be so good, he’s got as much potential as anybody,” Smart said. “He’s just not fully comfortable yet.”
Smart said he told Sims that he was starting on Monday. “He didn’t have much of a reaction,” the coach said.
Neither did the Longhorns after moving to 2-0 on this young season.
Kerwin Roach Jr. tallied up 12 points and scored on a difficult left-handed layup to give Texas a 10-point lead with 2:47 left in the first half. Jones had 16 points and opened the second half with a steal and dunk. Eric Davis Jr. had 11 points, including a difficult turnaround jumper in the lane that made it an 18-point game.
Davis is so connected to Smart, he’s gone back to drawing a plus sign on his left hand, same as his coach. Smart does it to remind himself to offer players positive feedback during games.
“Pretty happy about it, but not satisfied,” Davis said, even sounding like Smart. “We can keep growing. Lot of areas we need to improve, individually and collectively. We don’t want to get complacent and harp on the positives too much. Just continue to get better.”
In some respects, the Longhorns probably needed to see how they could play without Bamba. “I’m always intrigued to see how guys handle reality,” Smart said. They needed to see they could win without him, too.
“Was I disappointed?,” New Hampshire coach Bill Herrion said with a chuckle. “I wish about four or five other guys were out.”
Osetkowski logged 34 minutes, Sims played 21 and sophomore James Banks got 12. Those three and Bamba will make up a talented front court as the thing rolls along. If nothing else, that’s 20 fouls to give against teams like Kansas and West Virginia.
New Hampshire (1-1) was a good challenge for all three, actually. The Wildcats were a solid front-line squad, which included 6-foot-7 senior Tanner Leissner from Converse Judson. Leissner had 14 points in 37 minutes playing close to home.
Texas had 23 assists in the season-opening win over Northwestern State on Friday. The Horns had only seven assists on 29 field goals against the Wildcats. Freshman Matt Coleman had three assists along with one turnover and one steal.
“He’s the one guy out there who really doesn’t care if he shoots,” Smart said. “That’s nice to have.”
There could be some inconsistent shooting nights ahead. Texas was 7 for 24 from 3-point range but did shoot 48 percent overall. The Horns had just nine turnovers, because as Roach said, “We’re just treating the ball like it’s gold.”
The Longhorns are treating every win the same way.
“Just want more. continue to get better. Just be greedy,” Davis said the coach told them in the locker room. “You can never be too greedy. That’s the main message, continue to get better and lets get another win.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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