AUSTIN — The Longhorns fell 54-53 to head coach Shaka Smart’s old team, VCU, on Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center. Texas has now dropped three consecutive games after a 5-0 start to the season.
Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s game:
1. Another sluggish night for Texas
Texas trailed VCU, 32-31, at the half after some inconsistent offense from both teams. The Rams still led by one despite shooting 26 percent from the field. The Longhorns, meanwhile, shot 39 percent. That became a theme for the night.
After going 5-of-27 from beyond the arc during Friday’s loss to Radford, the Longhorns were a bit more prudent and efficient in the first half, hitting 4-of-10 from 3. VCU went 5-of-14 from downtown in the first half.
In the second half, it was more of the same for both teams. Inconsistent offense, followed by more inconsistent offense. Texas led 49-45 with under seven minutes in the game.
VCU then climbed back and led 54-51 with under two minutes to play before senior guard Kerwin Roach II stole a pass and finished a layup in transition to cut the deficit to one. The Longhorns forced a shot clock violation on the other end and then called a timeout with 53 seconds to play. But freshman guard Courtney Ramey missed an ensuing 3 from the wing.
Texas stole the ball on the other end and had one last chance with 6.6 seconds left, trailing 54-53. But sophomore guard Matt Coleman III’s 3-point heave from the top of the key clanged off the rim to give VCU the victory.
The Longhorns out-shot VCU, 42 percent to 28 percent, and still lost. Texas also finished just 4-of-17 from 3 after going 0-for-7 in the second half.
2. Jericho Sims finding a groove, while Kerwin Roach struggling
It was a quiet, slow start to the season for sophomore forward Jericho Sims, a player who entered the season with high expectations after showing some serious promise late in the 2017-18 campaign.
Sims finished in double-figures just once in Texas’ first six games. After Wednesday night’s outing, Sims now has posted double-figures in the last two games.
He scored 16 points and collected eight rebounds during Friday’s loss to Radford. On Wednesday night, Sims was the Longhorns’ leading scorer with 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting. He also had six rebounds.
Smart said before the season that Sims is going to have to be better more consistently with his added responsibility on this year’s team. He’s come alive late and broken from his slump.
But equally troubling has been Roach’s slump in the last two games. After a seven-point outing on 2-of-12 shooting against Radford, Roach — who is arguably Texas’ best player — managed just four points on 1-of-11 shooting against VCU.
There are certainly plenty of issues with the Longhorns right now, but Roach’s poor play over the last two games may be the most glaring.
3. Texas has dropped three in a row
Texas entered Wednesday night’s tilt riding a two-game losing streak, after a loss to Michigan State in the Las Vegas Invitational championship game and a demoralizing home loss to Radford this past Friday night.
The latter was a head-scratcher to say the least. How could a team that knocked off then-No. 7 North Carolina and led No. 10 Michigan State by 19 in the first half lose at home to a program that had never beaten a ranked team in its 35-year history? But with that loss to Radford on Friday, the then-No. 17 Longhorns abruptly fell out of the top 25.
Texas did nothing on Wednesday to show that Friday night’s loss was some aberration. The Longhorns struggled throughout on the offensive end again and could never get a run going. Texas also played extremely sloppy in the final few minutes and looked like a team that didn’t know how to finish. What’s more, Texas has dropped two straight games at home.
The reality is that this Texas team plays to its competition and is wildly inconsistent from game to game. The jury is clearly still out on the Longhorns, but it’s still early in the 2018-19 season.
The Longhorns (5-3) host Purdue (5-3, 0-1 Big Ten) on Sunday at the Erwin Center. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.
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