(Photo credit: Sara Diggins/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK)
No. 19 Texas was successful on both ends of the floor while opening the season with three decisive victories, but the Longhorns take a major step up in competition as they battle Louisville on Sunday afternoon in the semifinals of the Empire Classic in New York.
The winner will play the winner ofSunday's late semifinal between No. 5 UConn and Indiana on Monday evening. The losers will play earlier on Monday.
The Longhorns (3-0) head to the Big Apple after an 80-64 home win over Rice on Wednesday. Tyrese Hunter led Texas with 18 points, with Kadin Shedrick adding 15 points, Max Abmas hitting for 13 and Dillon Mitchell grabbing 13 rebounds.
The Longhorns led by nine points at halftime, by 18 points 6 1/2 minutes into the second half and never let Rice get closer than a dozen points the rest of the way while shooting 60.4 percent from the floor in the victory.
If there's been a bugaboo for Texas this year, it's been turnovers, an issue that Longhorns coach Rodney Terry believes is a result of being too casual with the ball.
"We have to continue to stay locked in with what we're doing in terms of taking care of the basketball," Terry said. "We're never going to play a perfect game in terms of turnovers.
"When there are basketball turnovers, we have no problem with those, but when there are turnovers where we're just kind of casual and careless with the ball, those are the ones that we've got to cut out and get better with, especially when there's no pressure that forces us into turnovers."
The Longhorns have scored at least 80 points in every contest thanks to 54.3 percent field-goal shooting and 45.7 percent success (32-for-70) from 3-point range. Texas sank 10 3-pointers in the opener against Incarnate Word, then added 12 treys against Delaware State and 10 vs. Rice.
The Longhorns' perimeter defense also is getting the job done, as the teams' three foes sank just 11 of 54 3-point attempts (20.4 percent). Rice wound up 4-for-22 (18.2 percent) from long distance, nearly identical to the figures posted by Incarnate Word: 4-for-23, 17.4 percent.
The Cardinals (2-1) travel to Manhattan after a 61-41 home win over Coppin State on Wednesday that allowed Louisville to bounce back from a 10-point loss to Chattanooga on Nov. 10.
Mike James scored 12 points while Skyy Clark and Tre White added 10 each for the Cardinals vs. Coppin State. White also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds in the victory.
Louisville led by nine points early in the second half before it forged a 17-6 run to build its advantage to 49-29 with 11 minutes to play.
"We didn't play great," Cardinals coach Kenny Payne said. "We have a lot of room to grow and get better.
"I know we're headed in the right direction with the type of kids who are in that locker room. It's just the first steps."
Louisville has won four of the five all-time meetings between the teams. In the most recent matchup, the Cardinals beat the Longhorns 78-63 in the Sweet 16 of the 1997 NCAA Tournament.
--Field Level Media