AUSTIN, Texas (AP)During Shaka Smart’s first four seasons as Texas coach, the Longhorns lost four games at home to mid-major opponents, including Radford last November.
Courtney Ramey would not allow that to happen again. After Texas led California Baptist by only four points at halftime, Ramey rallied his team. He scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, and Texas defeated the Lancers 67-54 Tuesday night.
”It was like this is our Radford game,” Ramey said. ”We can’t lose this one.”
Texas (3-0) shot just 28.6% in the first half. But the Longhorns made a 15-5 push to start the second half, Ramey contributing five baskets and an assist. The Longhorns shot 64% in the second half, with Ramey hitting six of seven.
Ramey, a sophomore, matched his career-high while helping Texas extend a winning streak to eight games, the first five while winning the NIT last season.
”When you are training defensively to start the year, you tell players you are ultimately gonna run into players who can shoot it, drive it and make shots off the dribble,” California Baptist coach Rick Croy said. ”He’s that. He’s very confident and they give him space.”
Jericho Sims had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Longhorns. Andrew Jones scored 11.
Milan Acquaah led Cal Baptist (2-1) with 17 points and Ferron Flavors Jr. added 14.
Texas led by 14 early in the second half, but Cal Baptist cut the deficit to three with consecutive 3-point baskets by Acquaah and Flavors with 7:23 left.
Texas responded with a 3-pointer by Jase Febres, a dunk by Sims, and two free throws by Ramey.
Febres’ 3-pointer from the right corner, assisted by Matt Coleman, came after a timeout.
”He stuck a big one,” Croy said. ”At that point of the game they were struggling to make field goals. That kind of openeds things up for them. We couldn’t really touch them after that.”
California Baptist: In their first two games, the Lancers averaged 30.5 3-point attempts with an impressive 42.6% accuracy. Part of Texas’ strategy against the Lancers – and other opponents – is to limit 3-point shots. Cal Baptist converted just 8 of 23, attempting only nine in the first half. The difference between the first two games and this one?
”Texas,” Croy said. ”They are committed defensively. They made it really hard on us. The energy and effort they are playing with, it’s gonna be tough for anyone to score against them.”
The Lancers missed 10 of 16 free throws.
Texas: The Longhorns were wildly inconsistent during Smart’s first four seasons as coach, so close observers were interested in how they would perform after a big victory at then-No. 23 Purdue on Saturday. Texas did not seem to suffer a letdown in defensive effort against California Baptist, but the offense was lacking for a half until Ramey steered them in the right direction to start the second half.
Will Baker, a highly recruited 6-foot-11 freshman for Texas, has missed all eight of his shots this season, seven of them 3-pointers. Smart has no issue with Baker’s shot selection. Baker has a reputation for making perimeter shots.
”One of the best things he does is shoot the 3,” Smart said. ”It’s easy for anyone to say well, he hasn’t made anything. We’ve played three games. You gotta give the guy a chance.”
Texas did not receive a single vote in the AP preseason poll. But the Longhorns vaulted to No. 28 in votes received on Monday after winning at then-No. 23 Purdue. They weren’t overwhelming against Cal Baptist but didn’t do anything to hurt their standing.
Texas is at home on Friday against Prairie View A&M. They have met only once, a game won by Texas 110-38 in December 2005. Current NBA players LaMarcus Aldridge and P.J. Tucker were on that Texas team.
Cal Baptist is at California on Friday. It will be their first meeting.