Texas Basketball: Longhorns stave off surprising McNeese upset bid

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

A way too close battle that resulted in a win for the Texas basketball program over the McNeese State Cowboys, 73-71, moves them to 6-1 on the season.

What should’ve been one of the easiest games of the remaining schedule of the 2019-20 regular season for the Texas basketball program turned into an absolute battle down the stretch against the lowly 2-5 McNeese State Cowboys.

It looked as if head Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart and his team had a lot of momentum headed into this matchup against McNeese State. A lengthy big of rest after facing the Georgetown Hoyas and Cal Golden Bears in the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City apparently didn’t do the Texas Longhorns basketball program any favors.

The Longhorns came into this showdown at home against McNeese on Nov. 30 at the Frank Erwin Center with a record of 5-1. Their only loss was in the 2K Empire Classic against head coach Patrick Ewing, former recruiting sensation and shooting guard Mac McClung, and Georgetown. But their last outing resulted in a solid win over Cal in the third place game at MSG.

Texas also came into this game as a 23-point favorite over McNeese. But these seem to be the spots where Smart can’t get his team up to the proper level to stave off various upset bids. Last season, Texas wound up getting upset by less talented opposition like the Providence Friars, VCU Rams, and Radford Highlanders.

Something had to be up since the Longhorns weren’t really put on upset alert against any early season opponents that aren’t going to be even close to NCAA Tournament teams like Northern Colorado, Cal Baptist, or Prairie View A&M. McNeese decided to play that role on the final day of November.

McNeese played the Longhorns close the entire way. Texas only had a 37-34 lead heading into halftime this afternoon. McNeese actually wound up winning the score in the second half, 37-36. But that was not enough for McNeese to do better than falling two points short to Texas.

The star that the Longhorns had to watch closely in this matchup against McNeese did have himself a nice outing. Star forward Sha’markus Kennedy was averaging about a double-double in rebounds and points per game this season. He registered 22 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and two blocks against Texas.

But Kennedy wasn’t the only solid McNeese player that gave the Longhorns a run for their money. Guard Leondre Washington registered 17 points, three rebounds, four assists, and one steal off the bench.

Altogether, it seemed like the defense just faded away for the usually stout Longhorns in this game. McNeese shot 26-of-50 from the field and 8-of-16 from three-point range. They also had nine more free-throw attempts than the Longhorns.

What wound up saving Texas in this spot was winning the rebounding battle (specifically hitting the offensive glass) and turning the ball over less. Texas also got up twice as many three-point tries as McNeese. While Texas only shot 30 percent from three-point range, compared to 50 percent for McNeese, they made one more from distance.

Junior guard Matt Coleman continued to come up big for the Longhorns in this game. He posted nine points, six rebounds, 10 assists, and two steals. He also didn’t have a single turnover. Coleman was one point away from a double-double, but he did shoot a solid 4-of-9 from the field.

Redshirt junior shooting guard Andrew Jones also gave the Longhorns a much-needed scoring boost off the bench as he finished with 14 points and three assists. Jones is a solid volume scoring presence that the Longhorns need in a Smart system that doesn’t produce many points.


Sophomore point guard Courtney Ramey tied for the team-high in scoring for Texas, with 14 points. And junior center Jericho Sims showed up in a big way with 12 points, on a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, to give him a double-double with 10 rebounds. Sims also had two blocks on the afternoon.

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With the 73-71 home win over McNeese, Texas moves to a record of 6-1 on the season. That was their final game through the month of November. They also now own a record of 4-0 at home. Up next for the Longhorns is a Dec. 3 home showdown against the UAB Blazers.

Meanwhile, McNeese State moves to a record of 2-6 on the season. This might be their best outing of the regular season so far. Their next game comes against Campbellsville-Harrodsburg at home on Dec. 3.