Bamba beats Bama in key non-conference game

PORTLAND, OR - NOVEMBER 24: Marvin Bagley III /

In a battle of elite freshman, Mo Bamba and the Texas Longhorns outplayed Collin Sexton and the Alabama Crimson Tide in a key non-conference matchup.

The result was Texas taking a 66-50 win over Alabama in Birmingham. Although the game was not played on Bama’s campus in Tuscaloosa, it was considered a road game for Texas, which is huge for their NCAA Tournament resume.

The Longhorns rode Mo Bamba throughout the game, as his elite defense led to an improved offensive attack. This was one game after the Horns only scored 47 points in a one-point home victory over Tennessee State last week.

How did Bamba fare?

  • 17 points
  • 11 rebounds (including 4 offensive)
  • 6 blocked shots

Bamba set the pace for the Longhorns to hold Alabama to 34 percent shooting overall and only 20 percent from behind the arc. Texas also limited Bama to only nine trips to the foul line.

Perhaps the key play of the game, though, was from the enigmatic Eric Davis coming off the bench.

Welcome to the Season, Eric Davis

Eric Davis had a solid freshman season before falling off the map his sophomore season. This year, he was expected to be an upperclass leader on the court. But, Davis has been up and down this year, including being a liability in the Michigan loss two weeks ago.

After sitting out the last two games against Louisiana Tech and Tennessee State with a hand injury, Davis returned to the court against Alabama. And, he finally made an impact on this season late in the second half.

With the game still hanging in the balance, Texas was up 51-46 with about six minutes remaining. Alabama’s John Petty missed a close-range shot and Davis made an excellent rebound that required effort to snare the loose ball in traffic. It also maintained Texas’ two-score advantage and cut off Bama’s comeback.

That may have seemed like a small play in the grand scheme of things, but it was huge for Davis. Throughout his career, he has been the type of player where if one little play goes wrong, he goes in the tank for the rest of the game. But, if one little play goes right after he gives maximum effort, it suddenly gives him a boost of momentum.

Immediately after that rebound, Davis knocked down back-to-back three-pointers, erasing some of his early season struggles from deep. One little play turned into six points. Then, Texas took over from there with Mo Bamba slamming home a dunk to give Texas a double-digit lead they would not surrender.

That’s just been the type of career Davis has had at Texas. Going forward, the Horns will need more positive plays leading to positive results in Big 12 play.

What did the Alabama Win Mean for Texas?

The Longhorns finished this part of their non-conference schedule with a 2-0 road mark. That is a huge improvement after the Horns did not win a single road game the entire season last year.

More from Texas Basketball

Texas still has one more non-conference game against Ole Miss in the Big 12 vs. SEC Challenge later this season, but that’s at home in Austin. That’s why beating Bama was significant for NCAA Tournament positioning.

Now, Texas can try to beat their first ranked team of the season when they open Big 12 play against Kansas on Friday in Austin.

Texas has had a few games to figure things out without Andrew Jones, who remains sidelined with a wrist injury. They must play well against Kansas and try to get a win because the first quarter of their conference schedule is brutal.

We know the formula. It starts with defense from Mo Bamba and the rest of the Longhorns, leading to easier offensive opportunities to score points. That’s what Shaka Smart wants to see and what will work to win big games in the conference to make the tournament.