November 24, 2014

Texas appears poised to continue its early success even without its injured point guard.

Looking to go 5-0 for the first time in five years, the seventh-ranked Longhorns try to extend their home dominance over unranked nonconference opponents Tuesday night against Saint Francis (Pa.).

A day after sophomore Isaiah Taylor suffered a broken wrist in a 71-57 win over Iowa, Texas (4-0) rolled without its floor leader to a 71-55 victory over California in the championship game of the 2K Classic on Friday. Cal had beaten then-No. 23 Syracuse in the semifinals.

Taylor, who entered the title game averaging a team-leading 15.0 points, will miss an extended period of time, but coach Rick Barnes said Monday the injury is not season-ending.

"... It is what it is and we've got to look at it as an opportunity," Barnes said. "We've got guys that can take advantage of this and get better."

Javan Felix stepped into Taylor's starting spot Friday and recorded nine points with four assists in 35 minutes.

Though Felix averaged 11.6 points last season, he might not need to be a consistent offensive producer in Taylor's absence. He must, however, take better care of the ball after recording eight turnovers in the last two contests.

A majority of the scoring load could fall on Jonathan Holmes, who earned tournament MVP honors with 19 points against the Hawkeyes and 21 plus 13 rebounds versus Cal. The senior has helped put the Longhorns in position to win their first five games for the first time since going 17-0 in 2009-10.

Holmes is especially proud of the way the Texas program has regrouped from the miserable 16-18 season of 2012-13. The low point was an 86-73 loss to Division II Chaminade at the Maui Invitational two years ago last week.

"It's good to do it with this group of guys," Holmes said. "It shows the progress of this group and it's really good to look back and see how we've grown and how much better we've gotten and how we stuck together."

The 6-foot-8 Holmes, 6-9 juniors Connor Lammert and Cameron Ridley and 6-11 freshman Myles Turner have keyed the Longhorns' defensive dominance. Giving up 53.8 points per contest, Texas ranks among the top 10 nationally allowing opponents to shoot 29.5 percent.

Cal made 31.3 percent of its shots to become the first Texas opponent to hit better than 30.0 percent.

"It's like a five- or six-headed monster they've got down there," Golden Bears center David Kravish said. "You cut off one head and they bring three more after you. They're a big team and I don't know if there's any other frontline in college that could match that frontline."

With its tallest starter at 6-7, St. Francis (2-2) is expected to face a daunting task while trying to snap the Longhorns' 50-game home winning streak against unranked, non-Big 12 teams. That run dates back to a loss to Wisconsin on Dec. 29, 2007.

The Red Flash are coming off back-to-back wins over Division III Keystone College and Maryland Eastern Shore. Senior Earl Brown combined for 43 points and 22 rebounds in those victories after totaling 13 and nine, respectively, in road losses to Cincinnati and American University.

"Coach (Rob) Krimmel and my teammates believe in me no matter if I make a mistake or not, just keep playing hard," Brown told Saint Francis' official website after Saturday's 57-53 victory over UMES.

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