AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Last Saturday, after the Texas Longhorns made three late 3-point baskets that enabled them to survive another poor shooting game and scrape by McNeese State, guard Andrew Jones offered a prediction.
“Eventually, the floodgates are going to open for us,” Jones said after a two-point victory.
Eventually arrived three days later, and Jones unlocked the gates. Jones, sophomore reserve, matched his career-best with 20 points in 27 minutes, converting a career-best six 3-pointers, and Texas defeated Alabama-Birmingham 67-57 on Tuesday night.
Jones is a crowd favorite, having returned to the lineup this season after an absence of nearly two years while receiving treatment for leukemia.
In his first game back, opening night against Northern Colorado, Jones scored the career-best 20 points that he matched against UAB.
“Any given night, we have such great shooters on the team, anybody can have a night,” Jones said. “It just happened to be me tonight.”
Courtney Ramey scored 13 points for Texas, and Jericho Sims added 10.
The Longhorns (7-1) are off to their best start since winning their first seven games in 2014-15, Rick Barnes’ last season as coach.
Texas began the game ranked No. 268 nationally in 3-point shooting accuracy with 30.5%. The Longhorns converted 11 of 25 (44%) against UAB. The 11 equaled their season best. Jones hit 6 of 8, and Ramey made 3 of 6.
The Longhorns finished 9 for 31 against McNeese after missing 11 of 14 in the first half.
“We talked about in our scouting report that Texas is a streaky shooting team,” UAB coach Robert Ehsan said. “We were hoping that we would get the team that shot it versus McNeese.”
Tavin Lovan led UAB (4-3) with 12 points. Tyreek Scott-Grayon scored 11, and Tamell Pearson had 10.
Texas built a 17-point lead in the first half before settling for a 38-25 edge at the break. The Longhorns hit six 3-pointers in the half, three by Jones and two by Ramey.
The Blazers cut the deficit to five with a basket by Lovan early in the second half but moved no closer. Texas limited UAB to 41.5 percent field goal accuracy. The Blazers hit 4 of 13 3-pointers.
Even so, Texas coach Shaka Smart was not completely satisfied.
“On the defensive end, I would say 75 percent of our possessions were very good,” Smart said. “We’re still searching for a 40-minute effort. I don’t mean from a standpoint of trying. I mean from a standpoint of competitiveness, execution, details.”
UAB: The Blazers biggest strength this season is offensive rebounding. They averaged nearly 14 a game before Tuesday, 18th best in the country. They started slowly in that area against Texas but persisted, finishing with 11. UAB converted those into 13 second-chance points.
Texas: Longhorns fans have learned that they can’t assume victories will come easily against less talented opponents. Texas lost twice at home to mid-major teams during the 2016-17 season, and twice more last season. This season, California Baptist and Prairie View A&M provided more competition than expected while losing to Texas in November, and the Longhorns needed two free throws by Ramey with 8.4 seconds left to beat McNeese State 73-71 on Saturday.
COLEMAN SOLID AGAIN
Point guard Matt Coleman leads Texas in scoring, 3-point shooting accuracy, and assists. Smart has said Coleman is the best Longhorn player so far this season. Coleman hit just 2 of 8 shots, scoring seven points against UAB, but he made four steals and four assists against two turnovers. In his last three games, Coleman has 20 assists and just the two turnovers against UAB.
Kai Jones, the 6-foot-11 freshman reserve for Texas, blocked three shots in 19 minutes against UAB. He made four dunks against McNeese.
“He’s a tremendous talent,” Ehsan said. “His upside, I would think, is as high as maybe anyone in college basketball.”
Texas fell from 31st in points last week to not receiving a single vote on Monday after winning its only game in between – by two points against McNeese States. The Longhorns, despite a 7-1 record, are a long way from being ranked.
UAB plays host to Memphis on Saturday. UAB lost at Memphis 94-76 last season.
Texas faces Texas A&M on Sunday at a neutral site in Fort Worth. This is their second meeting since Texas A&M left the Big 12 Conference in 2012. A&M defeated Texas 84-73 in November 2015 at a tournament in the Bahamas.
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