Dec. 30, 2012
Dalton Pool, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas — When Saturday’s home contest against Rice was close in the second half, Texas turned to its bread and butter to pull away with the victory — defense.
The Texas D was so suffocating that for the final 13:50 of the game, Rice scored only eight points. Freshman point guard Javan Felix recorded two steals in a 45-second stretch that led to four easy points, turning a 33-32 deficit into a 36-33 advantage with 10:15 remaining. The Longhorns kept the pressure on and closed the game on a 25-8 run en route to the 57-41 win.
“Defense really helped us in the last 10 minutes of the game,” head coach Rick Barnes acknowledged after the game. “That put a lot of pressure on them obviously. Javan [Felix] broke the ball loose twice, when he really got underneath his man.”
Defense has been a consistent positive for the Longhorns all year long. The team leads the nation in field goal percentage defense by holding opponents to just 33.7% field goal shooting on the season. That trend continued Saturday, when the Horns held Rice to just 41 points on 31.9% FG shooting. In the second half, Rice managed just 15 points on 6-of-22 (.273) field goal shooting.
Texas’ dominance on the defensive end has been vital this season, considering UT’s offense has been a work in progress. Rice head coach Ben Braun also talked about the Texas defense after the game.
“They are long and they make you go up over them.” Braun said. “They do a good job. You are not going to get a lot of easy shots, so it makes you think more on the offensive end. They have been a good defensive team all season long. They are pretty tough to score against.”
Texas also dominated on the glass against the Owls. The Horns posted a +23 rebound margin on the afternoon, the second-highest margin of the season (+25 vs. Coppin State on Nov. 12), including a 16-2 edge on the offensive glass. UT turned its rebounding effort into a 16-3 advantage in second-chance points.
The Longhorns’ success on the boards proved to be a team effort, as six different Texas players recorded at least five rebounds on the day. Sheldon McClellan paced the Horns with a game-high nine boards, while Jonathan Holmes (eight), Felix (six), Jaylen Bond (six), Cameron Ridley (five) and Connor Lammert (five) also were factors on the glass.
Bond, who returned to action after missing the last nine games with a left foot injury suffered in Maui, provided a spark off the bench. In just 12 minutes of work, the sophomore forward grabbed six boards (three offensive) and added three points and a steal.
“(Bond) brings energy,” Barnes said. “His intensity and rebounding is going to help us out a lot.”