Texas Basketball: 2 pleasant surprises after UT’s 2 games of 23-24 season

Dillon Mitchell, Texas basketball
Dillon Mitchell, Texas basketball /
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Ithiel Horton, Texas basketball
Ithiel Horton, Texas basketball /

Ithiel Horton’s two-way production and efficiency at the three

Texas brought in the former UCF Knights three-time transfer super senior wing Ithiel Horton via the portal during the offseason to fill a role as an off-ball scoring guard at the three. He’s also a lengthier guard, at 6-foot-4.5, who is a switchable and versatile defender on the wing.

Horton was a solid off-ball scoring guard and an above-average defender playing at the two and the three for the Knights last season. He ranked third on the team in scoring for the Knights last season, at a clip of a dozen points per game, and in the middle of the pack in defensive rating.

Horton wasn’t fully maximized at UCF for a few reasons, including poor scheme fit and the supporting cast. He was frequently put in situations where he was expected to initiate the offense in set plays, which wasn’t the best fit for his skill set.

Texas offered Horton a much better fit regarding play style and supporting cast than the situation he found himself in at UCF last season. He can focus on off-ball cutting and finding space for open looks on offense while playing with two effective ball-handling guards in senior Max Abmas and junior Tyrese Hunter.

Horton also has more outlets to dump the ball down to in the post and the perimeter with the scoring threats Texas boasts inside and shooting from three-point range.

The writing was on the wall during preseason camp (per preseason reports from Horns247) that Horton would be a big-time contributor for Texas on both ends and could also play multiple positions in the backcourt and on the wing.

In the first two games of the season, Horton has exploded onto the scene as Texas’ leading scorer and three-point shooter. Horton was money from deep in the season’s first two games, going 8-of-13 from beyond the arc. It seemed like he couldn’t miss from deep, going 5-of-6 from beyond the arc in the win over Delaware State on Nov. 10.

Horton was efficient in every sense of the word on the offensive end of the floor, registering at least 17 points and three assists while shooting better than 50 percent from the field, 75 percent from the stripe, and 40 percent from deep through two games.

Terry and the staff have put Horton in a role purely as an off-ball scorer, and he has thrived so far. Of the 30 points Horton scored from the field this season, 21 have come on catch-and-shoot attempts, most of which were unguarded. He’s shooting an impressive 58 percent from deep on catch-and-shoot threes.

On the defensive end, Horton was disruptive, seemingly no matter the position he was guarding. He registered at least two steals in each of the season’s first two games.

Texas has a big-time catch-and-shoot threat who can also stroke it from the mid-range and get to the rim when needed in Horton. He also promises to be a disruptive one-on-one defender to help the team get out and run more in transition.