Nov. 10, 2012
Dalton Pool, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas Men's Basketball won its 88th season-opening game on Friday night against Fresno State, 55-53. This victory to start the 2012-13 campaign, however stands out among the rest.
UT started three freshman and two sophomores, which tied a school record for most freshmen starters in an opener.
The Longhorns featured at least two freshmen on the court at all times, and did not play a single upperclassman. The Longhorns' only two upper classmen are walk-on seniors Andrew Dick and Dean Melchionni.
While UT's youth was obvious at times, so too is the team's hustle and competitive attitude.
"I really like these guys - the way their demeanor was great during the whole game in the huddle and the way they were talking," head coach Rick Barnes explained. "Some of the things that we had talked about - just being together. That part was really, really good. They found a way to finish the game."
The contest evolved as a low-scoring, half court game that was slowed down by Texas' decision to start off in a 2-3 zone, and Fresno State's methodical approach on offense.
"We really thought that they would come in and hold the ball in long possessions, which they did," Barnes said. "The majority of their possessions when they didn't turn it over, they came down and ran the clock for about 20 or 25 seconds, whether they meant to or not. We didn't want to chase guys around all night long. We knew Javan (Felix) would play a lot of minutes. We wanted to be able to utilize Cam (Ridley) and some of those guys in there."
With sophomore point guard Myck Kabango out, UT did indeed rely heavily upon the exploits of freshman Javan Felix. Felix played 38 of the 40 minutes and recorded 10 points and nine rebounds in his first game as a Longhorn. Felix was just one rebound shy of becoming the first freshman to record a double-double in his debut game since P.J. Tucker in 2003.
"In our transition game, Javan had some great looks," Barnes said. "We had looks that we had to take. We're a tired team right now, and that's my fault. We've had to remake ourselves in the last 10 days with Myck (Kabongo)'s situation and with (Jaylen) Bond going down. We came out with two guys out who were starters last year that didn't play. But I like this team."
Sophomores Sheldon McClellan and Jonathan Holmes led the Longhorns on the offensive end. McClellan had 20 points and became just the 20th player in UT history to go perfect from the free throw line while recording more than 10 attempts. He finished 14 of 14 from the foul line.
Holmes only had six points but his eight offensive rebounds in 32 minutes of play set the tone for the Longhorns in terms of hard work and hustle. Holmes finished with 14 total rebounds, which was a career high.
"We have a tired team because of me," Barnes said. "This is our sixth straight day. Of the last eight or nine years, we've never practiced more than three days in a row without taking time off. We're trying to establish something with this group - what we want and what we feel like our program is about. We always talk about `every-day guys.' We had a great week of practice, but it's not just practice, it's the mental side of it."
Other freshmen that made their debut Friday night were Ioannis Papapetrou, Cameron Ridley, Demarcus Holland, Connor Lammert and Prince Ibeh. Ridley showed he could anchor the middle of the 2-3 zone for the Longhorns.
Papapetrou exemplifies the workman like demeanor Barnes holds highly.
Papapetrou, or "Papi", is already becoming a fan favorite and showed his grit and competitiveness with a go-ahead field goal in the waning minutes on the offensive end and then corralled a key defensive rebound on Fresno State's three point shot with 24 seconds to go in the game.
UT takes on Coppin State on Monday Nov. 12 at 7 p.m. Central in an Opening Game of the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational at the Frank Erwin Center.