Texas is off to its best seven-game start under Shaka Smart, but its last performance doesn't figure to quiet the critics of the fifth-year coach who have been hoping he could repeat the same level of success he enjoyed at VCU. Coming off a lackluster victory over a two-win squad, the Longhorns attempt to win a third straight contest Tuesday when they host UAB.
Smart has recently come under fire for being unable to lead Texas to more than 21 wins after guiding the Rams to at least 26 victories in each of his six seasons at VCU, and the Longhorns were pushed to the limit Saturday before holding on for a 73-71 home triumph over McNeese. The same defense that held opponents to an average of 53.2 points in Texas' first five victories was nowhere to be found against the Cowboys, although the Longhorns were able to make up for poor 3-point shooting (9-of-31) with a 18-5 edge on the offensive glass. "The 'Texas fight' ... has to start on the defensive end. Guys got a little bit away from that in the first half. I thought there was a recommitment to it later, but once (an opponent) has gained some aggressiveness, now it's harder. ... That's going to be huge point of emphasis over the next couple of days," Smart said. The Blazers are in the middle of a brutal three-game stretch that ends next weekend at home against No. 18 Memphis and began with Friday's 69-58 loss at 10th-ranked Kentucky.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network
ABOUT UAB (4-2): Freshman guard Jalen Benjamin (team-high 13.5 points) tied a career high with 19 points, while junior guard Tyreek Scott-Grayson (9.2) set a personal best with 19 points against Kentucky, but a 2-for-5 effort from the foul line and 39-26 disadvantage on the boards cost the Blazers a chance to put more of a scare into the Wildcats. Another bright spot for UAB on Friday was 3-point shooting; Benjamin (4-for-5) and Scott-Grayson (3-for-4) led an 8-for-16 effort beyond the arc - ending a four-game stretch in which UAB shot a combined 13-of-65 from long-range. No other Blazer scored more than six points, including second-leading scorer Tavin Lovan (11.3 points), who was held to two points - his second mediocre offensive performance - after averaging 14.8 points over the first four games.
ABOUT TEXAS (6-1): Courtney Ramey (9.4 points) hit the go-ahead free throws with 8.4 seconds left Saturday; the St. Louis native's 14 points came in only 21 minutes and were two shy of his total from the previous three games combined. Fellow sophomore guard Andrew Jones (11.3) rebounded from a tough two-game stretch at the 2K Empire Classic, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-14 from the field after totaling 12 points on 5-of-22 shooting in New York. Matt Coleman III (14.7 points, 5.0 assists, 1.3 steals - all team highs) tied a season low with nine points but matched season highs with six rebounds and 10 assists, while Jericho Sims (9.0 points, team-high 7.4 boards) posted his second double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
1. Coleman has 16 assists and no turnovers over the last two games.
2. The Blazers' 41.4 field-goal percentage against Kentucky was its best effort in the last four contests.
3. Over the Longhorns' last four wins, Sims is averaging 10.3 rebounds.
Key Players to Watch
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