AUSTIN, Texas – Texas, fourth, lacked three key players for Saturday’s 82-67 Big 12 Conference win over Kansas State at the Erwin Center as a forward Greg brown, Brock Cunningham and Kai jones were not available to play. The school didn’t provide a reason these three Longhorns missed the game, but they weren’t dressed weren’t on the bench for Texas (11-2, 5-1 Big 12) as as head coach. Shaka Smart and Co. rebounded well after a 79-77 loss to No.15 Texas Tech on Wednesday.
“We knew we had to move on, the guys were really mature with Thursday approaching in the trials and our movie shoot and on Friday we find out we’re going to be without a few guys,” Smart said. “It was different from any other season, that’s how the season went, but I thought the guys tonight had really executed what we were trying to do.
Next up for the Longhorns is a road trip to Iowa State (2-7, 0-5), a game scheduled for Wednesday, Jan.20 at the Hilton Coliseum and it’s a game where they will be. again shorthanded, assuming the game. is played. The Cyclones were recently forced to suspend basketball activities due to COVID-19 issues within the program, but even if Texas can play the game, they will again be without the three Longhorns that missed the rout. of K-State (5-9, 1-5).
“I don’t even know because they haven’t played today in Iowa state so I have to get along with (associate director of athletics) Arthur johnson and determine what the status of this game is, ”said Smart. “These guys, if we go to Ames, these guys won’t go. I guess that’s the main thing I can say is that they are not available. “
Brown, Cunningham and Jones are three of the team’s top four forwards with Jericho sims, who was available and in the starting lineup on Saturday. The Sims scored 14 points, caught seven rebounds, distributed an assist and recorded a steal in 24 minutes, but the story of the game was the way Rock Hepa stepped up and filled the void alongside the Sims created by Brown’s absence with 15 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot in 26 minutes of action.
Hepa took advantage of a 5 for 8 night beyond the arc, helping the Longhorns reach a score of 12 for 31 (38.7%) from 3 points. Originally slated for redshirt for the 2020-21 season before the NCAA froze eligibility for winter sports athletes, he basically provided Hepa with a free season as far as his clock was concerned, he played a total of nine minutes in three games (he hasn’t played since a 77-74 home win over Oklahoma State on Dec. 20) before bursting for a monster outing on Saturday when Texas needed the former The 6-foot-9, 220-pound four-star prospect (No.58 overall in the 247Sports Composite Ranking in 2018) transfers the juice he brings to the bench by cheering his teammates on the court in a bad way.
“I thought about it like any other time,” Hepa said after trying his career single-game record scoring and setting a new personal best for all three points in one game. “Obviously I was a little more excited about tonight just because I got to be there with my teammates on the pitch. Just because of my situation and the situation of our team this year, I don’t necessarily have the opportunity to do that, but I enjoy every second with my team and I love playing my role and it was really nice to just be with my teammates. play basketball.”
Even without Brown (11.8 points, eight rebounds, 1.4 blocks per game), Cunningham (1.9 points, 3.4 rebounds per game) and Jones (8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds per game) on the field, the Longhorns finished even in the rebounding battle (34-34), turned seven offensive rebounds into 12 second chance points, blocked four shots, scored 26 points in the paint and managed to get 12 points off the bench with Jase’s fever (six points, three assists, five rebounds, two blocks and one steal in 22 minutes) getting half those on two 3-pointers in his season debut after undergoing microfracture knee surgery last spring.
Even though K-State is shorthanded and six players recorded at least 26 minutes on Saturday, the Longhorns won convincingly without three of their biggest guns. It helped get Andrew Jones’ high 19 points (7 of 12 shooting, 4 for 8 3-point, six rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block) with Courtney ramey scoring 14 points on a 5-for-7 night from the floor with nine assists and three rebounds, the season high, but Hepa and Sims stepping up and Febres bringing a lift in his opening minutes of the season have helped Texas to move from the first loss stage of conference play emphatically.
“It’s really the way a team is meant to be, but I think, obviously, we’ve learned over the years not to take this for granted,” Smart said. “These guys all come here as highly touted and highly regarded individual players. They all have very big individual goals, which they should, but we ask them to come together around a common cause. We can only have five in the field at a time. We knew that with these three players, we would need some major contributions from players who had not played so much.
“The more guys you have like that who have a passion for each other, the more fun it is and the more successful you become.”