Texas handled DePaul 77-59 in the consolation game of the CBE Classic on Tuesday, but perhaps the best thing Longhorns coach Rick Barnes will take from his trip to the Sprint Center was his team’s reaction to Monday’s loss.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
The Longhorns dropped a heartbreaker to Brigham Young, and when Barnes reached the locker room, he liked what he saw.
“My guys were disappointed,” Barnes said. “They cared enough to be disappointed.”
That wasn’t always the case last season, when Texas finished 16-18 and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Barnes’ 14 seasons in Austin.
This time a year ago, when some players didn’t feel the same pain and dejection as Barnes after the Longhorns fell to Chaminade in the opening round of the Maui Invitational, “I knew we had problems.”
The perception of more trouble followed Texas into this season. Gone were team’s top four scorers, three sophomores and a freshman.
Center Cameron Ridley, who had an excellent tournament with 31 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks in two games, individualized the trouble.
“The guards didn’t really look for the big men last year,” Ridley said.
They have this season. There’s only a two-week, six-game sample size and plenty of nonconference challenges, like a visit from top-ranked Michigan State, await. But in Kansas City, Texas didn’t look like a team that will live down to its eighth-place Big 12 projection.
Texas rebounded superbly and can match up with most inside with Ridley and athletic sophomore center Prince Ibeh. Freshman guards, Isaiah Taylor, Damarcus Croacker, Kendal Yancy had good moments. That, plus stretch forward Jonathan Holmes, who likely will wind up as the team’s leading scorer. The Longhorns can go 10 deep.
“They have really quick guards, they have two monstrous big kids that can make things happen inside,” said DePaul coach Oliver Pernell. “They have a lot of pieces.”
And, in a most positive sign, they care about outcomes.