AUSTIN, Texas -- The first time Texas’ leading scorer J'Covan Brown went down he took the team with him.
Up 18 with a little more than seven minutes remaining, Texas lost to N.C. State as Brown watched from the bench after picking up a technical foul.
Six weeks later Brown was back on the bench -- an ankle sprain against Iowa State the culprit this time -- but this time, while Texas still lost, his teammates didn’t crumble.
“The last time that happened was N.C State and this time we didn’t panic,” assistant coach Chris Ogden said.
Instead the team, playing primarily with one senior, Clint Chapman, and four freshmen, cut a 15 point lead to five and stayed in the game until the last seconds. While that was an improvement, it still wasn’t enough as Texas (10-4, 0-1) dropped only its second conference opener in Rick Barnes’ 14 years.
“What we showed our guys on film and what we talked about is we got to understand what goes into winning,” Ogden said.
Winning may not get any easier Saturday night. True the setting, the Frank Erwin Center, and opponent, Oklahoma State (8-6, 1-0), are more conducive to winning, but Brown’s ankle remains a question.
While the junior, who leads the Big 12 in scoring with 19. 3 ppg and produces 32 percent of Texas’ points when he is on the floor, remains a game-time decision. It is not certain how long he can play or how effective he will be.
That means Texas will have to find its points and its leadership from elsewhere.
“We don’t do anything different [when Brown is not on the floor],” Ogden said. “Other guys just do what they can do and we run our stuff. We are not going to put any new stuff in. Other guys got to step up. We’re in conference play now and it’s a big boy world and it’s time to play.”
Myck Kabongo took nine shots against Iowa State. Four of those were in the last seven minutes. He missed all four. But Texas still wants him to shoot more.
“He has got to take his shots,” Ogden said. “If they’re under 15 feet, Myck Kabongo can shoot the ball, he needs to shoot that shot.”
“When he has open shots late in games I feel like he should take them,” forward Jonathan Holmes said.
Kabongo has struggled from the floor and that might be the cause of his hesitation. The freshman is shooting 40 percent overall and 25 percent from behind the arc.
“I just have to relax and calm down,” he said.
Not an easy thing to do at the end of the tight game. And that’s where Kabongo struggled the most against Iowa State. Several times he passed up jumpers at crucial moments.
“Once people get film on you and able to scout you and you are playing different athletes there is just an adjustment,” Ogden said. “He’s learning and he’s watching film.
“We get spoiled around here because we remember D.J. Augustin the year he went to the Elite Eight. He had his struggles as a freshman, as did Kevin Durant. T.J. Ford same thing. We remember him going to the Final Four. Freshman year he had a lot of struggles.”
<--photo2-->The difference with Ford and Augustin is they had superior experienced talent surrounding them. Augustin had Durant. Ford had veterans like James Mouton and Brandon Thomas.
But, again, Texas does not have the other players around Kabongo to help pick up the slack. That means his errors or misses have a more glaring effect.
Among other career highs set by Clint Chapman against Iowa State was rebounding.
The 6-10 senior pulled down 14 of them. It was his third double-digit rebounding effort of the season, after not having any in his previous three seasons. In fact, prior to this season his previous career high was six rebounds.
Chapman credits the increased production to his preseason workouts with former Texas center Chris Mihm. The Longhorns’ all-time leading rebounder worked with Chapman on moving his feet instead of reaching for the ball. That has allowed Chapman to get a better base when jumping for the rebound, thus allowing him to secure it with two hands.
Chapman’s increases production on the glass has also led to an increase in his minutes. He played a career-high 34 minutes and scored a career-high 19 against Iowa State.