Big 12 Basketball

Three Thoughts from Texas’ 93-74 Win over Gonzaga

The No. 11 Texas Longhorns defeated the No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs, 93-74, on Wednesday night in Austin, Texas. Here are three thoughts on the game.

Texas beat Gonzaga for the first time in five meetings and the No. 2 team in the country for the first time since 2009.

 

Marcus Carr (2020-21 Version) is Back

When Texas signed Marcus Carr from the transfer portal in the summer of 2021, they were signing a player that averaged 19.4 points per game in his third season of college basketball. He was coming off such a good season there was just as good a chance of him headed to the NBA as there was of him transferring from Minnesota to Texas.

To the outsider, last season Carr regressed. He averaged 11.4 points per game. The truth is he walked into a guard room that had three holdovers from Shaka Smart’s last season — Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey and Jase Febres. Jones and Ramey were starters. Febres was good enough to start. Plus, former Kentucky guard Devin Askew transferred in, too.

Carr was asked to facilitate more last season, so his scoring average dropped. The reality is he took one for the team. That probably prevented him from jumping to the NBA after last season.

Now, Carr is the only one that came back. Jones went pro, Ramey transferred to Arizona, Febres ran out of eligibility and Askew transferred to Cal. In came transfer Tyrese Hunter from Iowa State.

The guard room isn’t as crowded now, and that helps Carr. In spite of the fact that both Carr and Hunter are ball-dominant players, they complimented each other on Wednesday night.

Hunter blew up with 26 points, including five 3-pointers. He’ll be a big part of Texas’ potential for success this season.

Carr ended up with 16, but he was incredibly efficient for most of the game, making four 3-pointers. His shooting from the arc could be a key to Texas’ success this season. And, not for nothing, Carr ended up with a team-high seven assists.

One of Texas’ problems the past several years has been 3-point shooting. It’s an area where they haven’t had high-level consistency. And for the first two games the Longhorns were 19 percent from the arc.

On Wednesday night they were 40.6 percent and Carr was a big reason why. Now that he has room to operate, that could become the norm.

 

Texas Learned from Last Year

When these two teams met last year up in Spokane, Gonzaga forward Drew Timme flat owned the Longhorns, scoring 38 points. Texas could not stop him.

Texas wasn’t letting that happen again. Timme finished with 18 points. Texas threw different defenders at Timme this time around. Texas also doubled Timme only when he was in the paint, as opposed to doubling him outside the paint or when he was on the dribble. Plus, these Bulldogs look different without 7-footer Chet Holmgren, who is now in the NBA. He siphoned off some of the attention that Timme would have gotten last year.

But Texas’ defensive domination of Gonzaga on Wednesday night was total. It wasn’t just about shutting down Timme.

Texas took guards Julian Strawther (13 points) and Rasir Bolton (11 points) out of their games for most of the contest. Gonzaga shot 48 percent for the game, but it also turned the ball over 20 times (and Texas committed only 10). That’s one reason why the Bulldogs only had 10 assists. Texas took Gonzaga out of its rhythm and turned the Bulldogs into a team that had to play a lot of one-on-one basketball, and that’s not something they excel at.

This was complete defensive domination by Texas. The Longhorns took the Bulldogs out of everything they wanted to do, which was the complete opposite of their meeting last year.

Welcome to the Moody Center

Wednesday was the national debut of the Longhorns’ new home, the Moody Center. I haven’t been there yet, but I spent plenty of time at the Longhorns’ old home, the Erwin Center (the locals call it the ‘Super Drum’) and it was cavernous. That made it great if you could fill the 18,000 seats, less so if you couldn’t. And Texas typically couldn’t. It was built at a time when capacity mattered and atmosphere and fan experience took a back seat.

Judging simply by the broadcast, the environment was definitely different than a year ago. That’s what Texas wanted — something louder but more intimate. Fans were on top of the action. Students were closer to the floor. The experience looked incredible. Texas sacrificed some butts in seats to do it. But it looks like it worked, especially for a game like Wednesday’s.

Rob Dauster, a national basketball writer, was in the building and provided a shot of the light show just before the start of the game.

 

There was one piece of the Moody Center that drew some attention during the game. Matt Norlander, who writes for CBS and was also in the building, made note of the upper deck being closed. Instead, there were video screens across that seating area that are designed to hold in noise.

The capacity for the game was 10,700 (though the official attendance was 11,313). The capacity for concerts is 15,000. So, it turns out that closing the upper deck for basketball games is by design.

Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself. “Why not open it for a game like Gonzaga?” I suppose Texas could have. But then you create the same problem you just left behind at the Erwin Center.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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