No. 4 Texas will bring plenty of swagger and continued expectation with it when it hosts UT Rio Grande Valley on Saturday afternoon in the Leon Black Classic in a unique throwback game.
The contest will be played at Austin’s Gregory Gymnasium on the University of Texas campus as part of coach Chris Beard’s move to focus on the tradition and past of Texas basketball.
It’s just the second time the Longhorns have played a men’s basketball regular-season contest at the historic building since 1977. Gregory Gym served as the home of Texas basketball from the 1930-31 season through the 1976-77 campaign. Beard began the annual throwback tradition last season.
The contest also honors Black, who was a player and coach for the Longhorns and a mentor for Beard before he died last year at age 89. Black was head coach at Texas from 1967-76 and is credited with recruiting the first Black men’s basketball players in program history.
The Longhorns (4-0) enter the game in good form following a 73-48 win over Northern Arizona on Monday at a neutral site in Edinburg, Texas. Texas led by 28 at halftime and let up in the second half, having done more than enough to secure the win while getting everyone in uniform into the game.
It was the first time the Longhorns played a regular-season game in the Rio Grande Valley.
Marcus Carr scored 17 points, 14 of them in the first half, while Arterio Morris added 11 points, Dylan Disu and Tyrese Hunter hit for 10 points apiece and Timmy Allen grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
No Texas player was on the court for more than 24 minutes, and 10 players scored. The Longhorns shot just 29.2 percent in the second half and still won by 25.
“We talk a lot about handling adversity, and sometimes success is adversity because you know success can get to you just like adversity can,” Beard said Wednesday. “To me, it’s all about validating the last possession with the next possession. You’ve got to validate practices.
“There are a lot of distractions going on with holidays. Distractions doesn’t necessarily mean negative. It just means there are things going on where we have to kind of lock in. So can our team handle it? We’re about to find out.”
The Vaqueros (4-2) head to Austin on the heels of a 91-79 home win over Northern Arizona on Tuesday. UT Rio Grande Valley was at its best late, when it closed with a 21-9 run after being tied at 70 with 4:48 to play.
“I just think our guys were well-conditioned,” UT Rio Grande Valley coach Matt Figger said. “We’re pretty good offensively. … I think we’re (fourth) in the country in transition baskets. We’re shooting over 50 percent as a team from the field. We’re a good offensive team. We just have to become a better defensive team at times.”
Justin Johnson paced the Vaqueros with 26 points (19 of them in the second half). Will Johnston added a career-high 20 points, Ahren Freeman pumped in a career-high-tying 19 and Sherman Brashear scored 11. UT Rio Grande Valley has won four of its past five games but will have to contend with a much better opponent on Saturday afternoon.
–Field Level Media