AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas coach Shaka Smart says he has the components of a good offensive team. Until they are assembled and working properly, the Longhorns will rely more on defense.
On Friday night, Texas forced 21 Prairie View A&M turnovers and limited Chancellor Ellis, a dangerous shooter, to two 3-point baskets while defeating the Panther 70-56.
“We want out defense to be our anchor,” Smart said. “The last two games, we scored 26 points in the first half, but our defense allowed us to have a lead going into halftime both times.”
Indeed, in this game, and a 67-54 win against California Baptist on Tuesday, Texas led 26-22 at the break. In each, Texas improved offensively in the second half.
Matt Coleman III scored seven of Texas’ last eight points against Prairie View, finishing with a game-high 17. Andrew Jones did more damage in the first half, scoring 10 of his 15.
Donovan Williams added 13 points and four steals for the Longhorns, and Jase Febres scored 10. He made two 3-point baskets in a span of less than two minutes in the second half, enabling Texas to create some separation.
Jericho Sims grabbed 10 rebounds.
Texas (4-0) has won nine consecutive games, including five while winning the NIT last spring.
Lenell Henry led Prairie View (1-3) with 12 points but he committed eight turnovers. Ellis scored 11. Ellis made eight 3-pointers against Central Florida on Nov. 9, putting Prairie View’s next two opponents, Texas State and Texas, on alert. He hit 2 of 6 in each of those games.
“I think it’s called a scouting report,” Prairie View coach Byron Smith said. “It’s not gonna be easy to get a shot off.”
Texas and Prairie View spent the first half matching frenetic effort but also striking inefficiency.
Neither team achieved 40% shooting accuracy. Prairie View missed six of its seven 3-point attempts, while Texas hit 4 of 18. The Panthers committed 11 turnovers, the Longhorns nine.
Both teams improved in the second half, Texas shooting 50% and Prairie View 48.
Texas hit 5 of 14 from distance in the second half, and relied more on driving to the basket. Smart move considering Texas has shot 3-pointers with less than 30 percent accuracy this season.
“We wanted to come out more aggressive,” Jones said. “We played a little timid, shot a lot of threes in the first half. We just decided we were gonna play to our advantage and get stops and pound the ball into the paint.”
Texas: The Longhorns were happy, of course, to pull out victories after struggling in the first half against mid-majors Cal Baptist and Prairie View. But they will have to play better at a tournament at New York’s Madison Square Garden next week. They start with Georgetown on Thursday and face either No. 2 Duke or California on Friday.
“We did some good things,” Smart said. “But overall, if we want to go up there and win, we have to play better. We are very, very capable”
Prairie View: The nonconference schedule is like a fundraiser for the Panthers, who collect paydays by playing 11 straight games on the road, including four against schools from Power 5 conferences as well as No. 12 Seton Hall. Prairie View lost at Texas State 75-48 on Tuesday. After that, though, the Panthers move back to their weight class, the Southwestern Athletic Conference, which they won last season – the regular season and the conference tournament.
Texas, 28th in votes received on Monday, will have to wait until those two games next week before playing games that might impact its standing much.
BETTER LUCK LAST TIME
Prairie View coach Byron Smith was a starting guard on a University of Houston team that beat Texas three times during the 1989-90 season. Texas nevertheless advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight. Houston lost in the first round.
Texas: Longhorns face Georgetown at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Thursday in the 2K Empire Classic benefitting Wounded Warrior Project. The Longhorns will meet either California or Duke on Friday.
Prairie View A&M: The Panthers are at California on Monday.