Texas Basketball: 3 biggest disappointments after first 8 UT games

Tyrese Hunter, Texas basketball. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Tyrese Hunter, Texas basketball. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /
1 of 3

After the season’s first eight games, No. 12 Texas basketball and head coach Rodney Terry are 6-2 (0-0 Big 12). Texas is still looking for its first big win of the season after it fell short of the No. 5 UConn Huskies and No. 8 Marquette Golden Eagles in the only two ranked matchups in the first month of the 2023-24 regular season.

Terry and the Longhorns fell short of UConn in the final of the Saatva Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Nov. 20 by a score of 81-71. Texas at least kept that game close for a decent stretch of the second half.

Texas basketball players off to disappointing starts after the first month of the regular season

But the loss to Marquette on the road in Milwaukee on Dec. 6 was a different story. Former Texas head coach Shaka Smart and the Golden Eagles dominated the Longhorns for most of that game in the Big 12/Big East Battle at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee earlier this week to the tune of a 86-65 win for Marquette.

This Texas team has shown flashes of potentially becoming a great team this season. Texas lost many key pieces during the offseason from last year’s squad that made that magical run to win the Big 12 Tournament and go all the way to the Elite Eight. Senior departures such as guard Marcus Carr, shooting guard/wing Sir’Jabari Rice, and forward Timmy Allen were huge reasons for this team’s success last season.

When senior guard Max Abmas and junior Tyrese Hunter are both playing well, this team is really difficult to deal with on the offensive end of the floor.

And the Longhorns’ frontcourt will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12 once senior big man Dylan Disu makes his season debut after he recovers from a lower-body injury. But Texas is still a team largely searching for their identity as all the new pieces on this roster try to build chemistry and find their roles in the lineup.

Here’s a look at three players off to disappointing starts through the season’s first eight games for the Longhorns.

Ithiel Horton, Wing

Super senior wing Ithiel Horton got off to a scorching hot start through the season’s first two games, as he averaged 17.5 points per game, three rebounds, three assists, and three steals in wins over Incarnate Word and Delaware State. Horton shot the lights out in those two games to start the season, going 11-of-20 from the field and a sparkling 8-of-13 from beyond the arc.

But Horton has been searching to find that same spark on both ends of the floor in the last six games that he had at the beginning of the season. Horton has hit a wall with his production on the defensive end of the floor in the last half dozen games. And his shooting efficiency has dropped significantly in the last couple of weeks.

After notching five steals in the first two games this season, Horton only has one in the last six. He also doesn’t have any blocks on the season.

On the offensive end of the floor, Horton’s efficiency has slipped in the last few weeks. His shooting efficiency has taken a major hit, as he’s shooting just 31.6 percent from deep and 42.9 percent from the charity stripe in the last six outings.

Horton was brought to Texas during the offseason via the transfer portal from UCF to fill a depth need on the wing. Horton fit the profile of the off-ball scorer Texas needed with proven two-way experience and length to play valuable minutes at the three this season.

He’s always been a streaky shooter, especially from deep. And Horton is still shooting better than 43 percent from deep this season. But those numbers are anchored by his strong start after the first two games of the campaign.

As a result of Horton’s struggles in the last half dozen games, his minutes have dropped. In the last two contests, Horton has played 16 and 14 minutes, respectively, good for the least playing time he’s received this season.

Sophomore guard Chendall Weaver and senior forward Brock Cunningham have seen a rise in their minutes at the three in the last two games.