November 15, 2014

Rick Barnes wants his Texas players to understand that the effort given early on against a less-formidable opponent is just as valuable as any down the road when the competition is consistently tougher.

Coming off a decisive opening victory, the No. 10 Longhorns look to further please their coach Sunday night against visiting Alcorn State.

With the top six scorers and two more key reserves from last season's 24-win team back to join one of the country's top freshmen, Texas is once again in the national spotlight. The Longhorns had little trouble in Friday's 85-50 victory over North Dakota State, which upset Oklahoma in last season's NCAA tournament.

Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor had 18 points with seven rebounds, and highly touted freshman Myles Turner added 15 points with six boards in 20 minutes. Texas shot 48.4 percent and held the Bison to 27.4 while outrebounding them 51-32.

Like most coaches armed with both talent and experience, Barnes likes to use these early favorable matchups as a chance to better evaluate his team. All 15 Longhorns on the roster played Friday, and only two were on the court more than 20 minutes.

"We want balance," he said. "I'm sure at some point in time we are going to settle into some sort of rotation, but the players are going to determine that.

"We took some guys out (Friday) because there are certain things we want certain guys to do. And if they didn't do it, we took them out and said, 'Look, these minutes are important and you have to take advantage of them.'"

Not long removed from the misery of a 16-18 season in 2012-13, the Longhorns are grateful for a Top 10 preseason ranking and prepared to back it up.

"It feels good to be respected," said Taylor, who averaged 12.7 points and a team-high 4.0 assists last season. "We just grinded all summer in practice, on and off the court. We were pretty amped (to start the season)."

Texas' chances for consistent success improve with the 6-foot-11 Turner in the mix.

The McDonald's All-American from the Dallas-Fort Worth area went 6 of 8 from the field and blocked two shots in a reserve role.

"He's come in and he's worked," Barnes said. "He hasn't done anything besides try to be a part of it. We know he is gifted.

With three turnovers, the humble rookie also knows he's far from a polished product.

"I was able to alleviate some nerves, but there is still a lot to work on," Turner said. "I led the team in turnovers, I need to get on the boards better and block some shots.

"More than anything, I have a lot to work on going forward."

He'll likely get that chance as the Longhorns face one more tune-up before taking on Iowa and either No. 23 Syracuse or California in next week's championship rounds of the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Alcorn State let Cal shoot 52.1 percent in a 91-57 loss Friday. The Braves shot 31.6 percent.

Two of their top three scorers from last season's 12-19 team, LeAntwan Luckett had 18 points and Marquis Vance added 17.

This is the first meeting between the schools since Texas' 103-44 victory Nov. 9, 2006.

You May Like