2000-01 Season in Review
What Many Thought Would be Year of Rebuilding Turns into Year of Reloading
Head coach Rick Barnes said during the preseason that he wanted to establish a consistent program, one in which he would never need to completely rebuild as players came and went. Instead, he thought the program should be strong enough to simply reload.
Despite losing first-team All-American Chris Mihm to the NBA one year early and three other senior starters from the 1999-2000 team which posted a 24-9 record and finished #15 in the final Associated Press poll (highest final wire service ranking in school history), Barnes definitely made good on his preseason promise. On a team which featured eight newcomers, including four true freshmen who played significant roles during the year, Texas managed to post one of its best regular seasons in modern school history. In fact, its 23 wins during the regular season marked a tie for the second-most regular-season victories in school history.
Texas began the year without its top all-around player and team leader in senior guard Darren Kelly. Kelly practiced with the team but missed the first eight contests of the season, as he did not compete in game action during the fall semester. In his absence, the duo of junior forwards Chris Owens and Maurice Evans stepped up to lead the Horns to a 6-2 mark out of the gate, including back-to-back home wins over Navy and California in the Preseason NIT which advanced Texas to New York City for the final two rounds.
Kelly was ruled eligible to play by the school on Dec. 19, following the conclusion of fall semester final exams. He joined the lineup at Houston on Dec. 20 and made an immediate impact. Kelly earned ESPN.com National Player of the Week honors (Dec. 26) and Big 12 Player of the Week accolades (Jan.• ) while leading the Horns to six consecutive wins upon his return, including victories over #5 Illinois, Utah and Oklahoma State.
Kelly posted a game-high 21 points and the Longhorns hit 11-of-15 free throws in the final• :34 to hold on for the 72-64 victory over Illinois before a national television audience on ESPN2. The win marked the first home victory by a Texas squad over an AP Top 5 team since the Horns defeated #3 Arkansas (99-86) on March• , 1991.
After a road loss at Nebraska (Jan. 13), Texas regrouped to post a 60-56 home win over #15 Connecticut on Jan. 15 in front of an ESPN "Big Monday" national television audience. UT followed with a victory at Texas A&M and a home overtime win over Baylor. It was Jan. 20. The Longhorns were 15-3 (best start by a Texas team since the Horns went 15-3 to begin the 1981-82 season) and ranked #20 in the AP poll. Things were about to change.
Texas headed to border rival Oklahoma to begin a brutal six-game stretch, during which it would face four ranked teams while playing four of the six contests on the road. A narrow defeat at Oklahoma was followed by an 80-52 blowout at the hands of eventual national runner-up Arizona. Following a home win over Texas A&M, the Longhorns suffered another double-digit loss at #3 Kansas before winning a hard-fought decision over Colorado in Boulder.
Then came Feb. 10 and a Saturday night date with rival Oklahoma. Riding a 25-game home win streak, the Horns looked to snap out of their recent struggles while playing in the friendly confines of the Erwin Center. What happened that evening was anything but expected. Oklahoma 75, Texas 54 … and it wasn't even that close.
The next morning the players and coaching staff gathered at the arena for practice, but there was no practice that day. Instead, everyone simply talked … and talked … and talked some more. Three-and-a-half hours later, everyone emerged from the locker room and went home.
After the team meeting, Texas became a completely different team. The Longhorns won eight consecutive games after the loss to the Sooners at home (the longest win streak by Texas in the Barnes era), before falling to Oklahoma again in the Big 12 Tournament title game in Kansas City.
The Horns began their late-season run with a 73-56 victory over Texas Tech in Austin just three days after the loss to Oklahoma. Five players reached double figures in scoring for the Horns in the win over the Red Raiders. In a battle of Big 12 heavyweights, Texas posted an impressive 80-69 overtime win at Oklahoma State to hand the Cowboys their lone home loss of the season. Chris Owens paced the UT effort with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
Texas recorded a 69-59 road win over Baylor, before returning to Austin for an important pair of wins over #6 Iowa State and a tough Missouri squad. Maurice Evans posted a career-high 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting (5-of-6 threes) and added eight rebounds to pace Texas to a 94-78 upset of the Cyclones. The Horns were in complete control of the game from start to finish, building the lead to as much as 29 points (88-59) with 7:24 left. Junior point guard Fredie Williams also played the role of hero against Iowa State, recording 14 points and five assists against just one turnover while holding Big 12 Player of the Year Jamaal Tinsley to 6-of-15 shooting and four turnovers before Tinsley fouled out at the 7:53 mark.
On Senior Night against Missouri, Evans recorded 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting (5-of-8 threes) and added nine boards to help the Horns to a 76-61 victory. Texas raced out to a 23-point advantage in the first 13 minutes of the contest and never let the lead fall below 15 points. UT then closed out the regular season with a 23-point win at Texas Tech.
At the Big 12 Tournament, Texas reached the league championship game for the first time in school history with a hard-fought 55-54 win over Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals and a 76-62 victory over Baylor in the semifinals. After jumping out to a 26-8 advantage over #16 Oklahoma in the first 15 minutes of the title game, it looked as if Texas was well on its way to its first-ever Big 12 Tournament crown. But the offense faltered as the Sooners outscored the Horns 40-19 in the second half en route to a 54-45 victory.
Despite 25 wins and a Top 10 RPI ranking entering Selection Sunday, the Horns dropped to a #6 seed in South Region and headed to New Orleans to face Temple in an NCAA first-round matchup. There, Texas ran into a buzzsaw of a squad that would eventually wind up in the Elite Eight.
Quincy Wadley registered 26 points (5-of-7 threes) and the Owls hit 10-of-26 threes as a team en route to the 79-65 win. Twenty of Wadley's 26 points came in the first half, as Temple raced out to a 41-22 halftime advantage and never looked back.
Despite back-to-back losses to close the season, the Horns' 25 wins marked a tie for the fourth-most victories in a year in school history (just one shy of the school record). Texas concluded the year ranked #18 in the final AP poll, marking the first time in school history that the Horns had been ranked in the final AP poll in back-to-back seasons. UT's 49 victories over the last two years also tied the school record for most wins in a two-year period.
The key to Texas' success in 2000-01 lied in a stingy defense. The Longhorns finished the year ranked fifth nationally in field goal percentage defense (.389), posting a 17-1 record when holding their opponent below 40% shooting from the field.
Individually, a trio of Longhorns led the way. Kelly earned team MVP honors after leading the team in assists (76) and minutes (34.6 mpg) and ranking second in scoring (15.3 ppg). He earned USBWA All-District 7 and NABC/Chevrolet All-District 9 second-team honors and third-team All-Big 12 Conference mention. Owens set a school single-season record with 92 blocked shots while leading the team in rebounding (7.9 rpg) and double-doubles (nine). He garnered USBWA All-District 7, first-team NABC/Chevrolet All-District 9 and second-team All-Big 12 accolades. Evans, who turned pro following his junior campaign, led the Horns in scoring (15.6 ppg) and steals (44). A third-team All-Big 12 selection by the league's coaches and Big 12 All-Newcomer team choice, he ranked third on the team in rebounding (5.3 rpg) and blocks (21) and fourth in assists (56).
The quartet of true freshmen (center Brian Boddicker, point guard Royal Ivey, swingman Brandon Mouton and center James Thomas) had a significant impact on the Horns, producing 30% of the team's scoring, 40% of their rebounding and 38% of their minutes played. Boddicker and Thomas earned a spot on the Big 12 All-Freshman team. In addition, Barnes received USBWA District 7 and NABC/Chevrolet District 9 Coach of the Year honors for his efforts.
2000-01 in a Nutshell