It wasn’t pretty, but the Texas Longhorns pulled off another win on Monday night, earning a 70-64 win over Vanderbilt at home to move to 7-1 on the season.
Texas head coach Rick Barnes’ hot seat is cooling a bit as the wins keep mounting and the Longhorns had to really hold on to earn this one.
Despite leading the entire game after trailing 2-0 and holding a 13-point second-half lead, Texas nearly blew the game on multiple occasions but their young team rallied and held strong.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor is going to be one to watch for the Longhorns as the season progresses. Rick Barnes can usually find some solid interior play from the combination of Cameron Ridley, Jonathan Holmes, Kendal Yancy and Connor Lammert, but Taylor had 14 points and eight assists and only two turnovers and uses those big men well on ball screens to slip into the lane for the floater or find an open teammate.
Couple Taylor with decent minutes on-the-ball with fellow sophomore guard Javan Felix and Texas is a decent offensive team as long as those guys are steady with the ball.
The Texas defense also held Vanderbilt to 37 percent from the floor and 23 percent from three-point range and was generally aggressive in going for strips and closing out.
Although the Longhorns had some mental breakdowns in the final minutes — including a missed boxout on a Vanderbilt missed free throw that led to Rod Odom’s putback with 1:02 left to make it 62-58 — they eventually made free throws down the stretch, another area Texas will need to improve.
Vanderbilt had a chance to tie with the ball under 30 seconds left, and trailing by three, but Odom tripped and fell as a pass from Austin-native Eric McClellan (22 points) sailed over his head.
Texas capitalized with a Taylor three-point play on the ensuing well-run inbounds play to close the game out.
Demarcus Holland was another sophomore to play well for Texas, going for 12 points and acting as a solid glue guy, and as long as this young group of Longhorns continue to mesh and their guard play is steady, Texas might surprise some people in the Big 12.