No. 17 Texas opens six-game homestand vs. Radford
Texas has leveraged a quick start to the season, a win over then-No. 7 North Carolina and a close loss to No. 11 Michigan State in the Las Vegas Invitational last week to move into the Top 25.
Now the 17th-ranked Longhorns are looking to build on that resume with a six-game homestand that begins on Friday with a dustup against dangerous Radford at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.
The game against Radford won't be an easy one for Texas (5-1). Longhorns coach Shaka Smart understands that his team may experience a bit of a bounce factor after playing so well, but not finishing, in Sin City.
Texas returns home after a 78-68 loss to the Spartans in Vegas. The Longhorns controlled that game for the entire first half, owning a double-digit lead for a good portion of it, before Michigan State finally cracked the Texas defense and dominated on the glass while forging a big second half run.
"There's some real humble pie that should come out of (the loss to Michigan State)," Smart said about the way his team collapsed on the defensive end after halftime. "Right now we are looking for consistency that all teams at this time of year are working toward. We've got a long way to go in that regard."
Prior to this week, Texas had never been ranked higher than 22nd in three-plus seasons under coach Shaka Smart. The Longhorns picked in a tie for fourth in the Big 12 in preseason. "I definitely think we can be a lot better than people gave us credit for going into the season," Smart said.
Defense has been the Longhorns' hallmark this year. Texas has forced an average of 18.8 turnovers per game in its first six contests. During the last four games, the Longhorns have registered a plus-70 margin (105-35) in points off turnovers as Smart has employed a variation of the "Havoc" pressing attack.
Texas registered a 22-3 advantage in points off turnovers in the loss to Michigan State and forced 24 Spartans turnovers in the contest.
Senior guard Kerwin Roach II earned a spot on the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational All-Tournament Team, averaging 23.5 points, 6.0 assists, 3.5 steals and 4.0 rebounds in 33.5 minutes per game in the two contests.
Freshman forward Jaxson Hayes claimed Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors on Monday for the second straight week by averaging 13.0 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks per game while converting 9 of 11 field goal and 8 of 10 free throws in the two outings in Vegas.
Radford (5-1) heads to Austin after a record-setting 102-69 win over Glenville State on Monday. The Highlanders used a balanced attack that saw 12 different players score while setting season-highs in points scored, field goals made (40), field goals attempted (77), 3-point field goals attempted (27), free-throw percentage (86.7 percent) and rebounds (48).
With the win, Radford secured its best start to a season since 1990-91 when they began 8-0. It was the first time Radford scored more than 100 points in a game since defeating Central Penn, 123-63, on Dec. 27, 2015 and it was the first time five or more players finished in double figures since defeating Central Penn on Nov. 16, 2016.
Despite the blowout win, Radford coach Mike Jones thought his team could have played much better.
"We came out of the gate just a little nonchalant and casual and that gave Glenville State a lot of confidence in the first half," Jones said. "The second half was completely different since we finally focused on the game plan more and made it tough of them. I'm proud of the win and the way our guys responded."
The hot start to the season, which includes a road win at Notre Dame, has garnered Radford a No. 22 spot in the first-ever NCAA NET rankings that was release this week. The NET relies on game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, and the quality of wins and losses.
Friday's contest marks the first meeting between Texas and Radford.
Updated November 29, 2018