AUSTIN, Texas —
After an uninspired start to conference play, the Texas men are now facing what borders on an identity crisis.
Head coach Shaka Smart lamented Tuesday that he hasn't been able to commit to a rotation of players because no one has been consistent enough.
Smart said he was open-minded to giving other players more minutes in hopes of finding the most productive group.
"We’re not at a point where it’s set in stone," Smart said of the rotation. "Partially, to be honest with you, [it's] because we don’t necessarily have six, seven, eight guys that have demonstrated, 'Hey, every night this is what you’re going to get.' With that being our present reality, there has to be a time where you take a look at other guys.”
In the Longhorns Big 12 opener against No. 6 Baylor, a combination of 10 missed free throws, an inability to finish at the rim and a poor night from the field led to just 44 points — the worst output of the Smart era.
Smart said he thought a few of his players let poor starts drag them down throughout the remainder of the game.
"I thought Jase [Febres] and Andrew [Jones] really allowed that to affect them in the game," Smart said. "They have to be tougher-minded than that. They know that and they’re very motivated to go into our next game.”
When pressed about who he thinks his go-to scorer and playmaker is when shots aren't falling, Smart said the jury is still out.
“We don’t have that as much as we would like to have that," he said. "From a scoring standpoint, it can be Andrew when he’s in a good place. He wasn’t necessarily in his best place [against Baylor]. Courtney [Ramey] is a guy that has it in him to be just an ultimate competitor who can go out and make a winning play in a crucial time ... he’s just not all the way there yet. I do believe he can get there. But we’re going to have to do that by committee this year, that’s just the makeup of our team.”
Perhaps offensive struggles could be masked by disciplined defense. In the Longhorns' loss to Baylor, however, they allowed 19 offensive rebounds, which led to 21 second-chance points for the Bears.
After the loss, Smart wondered if the entirety of Monday's practice should be spent rebounding.
"We spent a ton of time on rebounding yesterday, probably over an hour," Smart said. "It’s something that’s going to continue to be a huge emphasis ... Baylor deserves a lot of credit for the aggressiveness with which they played. We certainly need to be better in that area.”
Smart specifically pointed to the guard position as a group that had to improve in the rebounding efforts. He said too often they were trying to get out and run and push the tempo, instead of ensuring the ball had been completely secured.
“Rebounding on the defensive end is a five-person endeavor," he said. "We told our guys, we want ten hands to the ball. We have put a ton of emphasis on transition offense, but that cannot and should not begin until we secure the ball. There’s been some rebounds lately where it’s literally been in our hands until it’s not."
Texas will aim to rebound, in more ways than one, when it takes the court next against Oklahoma on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.
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