Shaka Smart

Texas guard Isaiah Taylor (1) drives around Appalachian State forward Jacob Lawson (34) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay

Texas guard Taylor hires agent, will remain in NBA Draft

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Texas became considerably less experienced at the point guard position Thursday, as junior Isaiah Taylor announced that he has decided to hire an agent and remain in the 2016 NBA Draft pool. This past season Taylor averaged 15.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in his lone season playing for head coach Shaka Smart.

The Longhorns also lost senior Javan Felix from their perimeter rotation, but there is some young talent at Smart’s disposal as he looks to build on this season’s trip to the NCAA tournament.

Kendal Yancy will be a senior next season, with Kerwin Roach, Tevin Mack and Eric Davis Jr. all being sophomore. And in addition to that quartet of returnees the Longhorns add freshmen Andrew Jones and Jacob Young. Texas will have to account for the experience lost due to Taylor’s departure, but the cupboard isn’t bare either.

Taylor put together his best season under Smart, with his averages increasing as did his percentages from the field (42.0 percent) and from three (31.1 percent). DraftExpress.com has Taylor ranked 13th amongst college juniors, and he was projected to be a second round pick in next year’s draft.

No. 22 Baylor beats No. 23 Texas 75-61 in Big 12 tournament

Baylor guard Ishmail Wainright (24) saves the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Scott Drew thought his team was playing well entering the Big 12 tournament, but the conference was so challenging this year that Baylor kept coming out on the losing end.

The Bears finally got rewarded for their solid play Thursday.

Taurean Prince had 24 points and 13 rebounds, Rico Gathers added 13 points and No. 22 Baylor’s baffling zone defense shut down No. 23 Texas in a 75-61 victory in the tournament quarterfinals.

“That’s the tough thing in the Big 12. When you’re playing great teams, you can be playing good basketball and not get the win,” Drew said. “I think we were playing decent. We just weren’t winning.”

They picked a fine time to change that narrative.

The fifth-seeded Bears (22-10) opened a 15-point lead in the first half, then used Drew’s trademark defense to keep the fourth-seeded Longhorns (20-12) from coming back. The reward is a date in the semifinals against top-ranked Kansas or Kansas State on Friday night.

“We just wanted to come out with energy, flying around, give good ball pressure,” said Al Freeman, who scored 12 for the Bears. “We wanted to limit them on second-chance points as much as possible.”

They did that by out-rebounding the Longhorns 46-27.

Connor Lammert had 15 points, Kerwin Roach had 13 and Shaquille Cleare had 12 for Texas, but the bigger story was who got shut down: All-Big 12 guard Isaiah Taylor scored just eight, all in the second half.

“We always come out sluggish, come out slowly, and we have to battle back,” said Taylor, who did have nine assists. “We weren’t able to battle back.”

The Longhorns have lost four straight to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament.

Texas was hoping to get a boost from the return of big man Cameron Ridley, who had been out since late December with a broken foot. He was cleared to practice this week and checked in with about 6 minutes to go in the first half, then immediately got fouled and contributed two free throws.

Ridley wound up playing just 2 minutes, though.

“The doctor and trainer gave me a restriction on how many minutes he could play,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “At halftime he was feeling a little pain so that was that. He wasn’t going to play anymore.”

The Bears opened a 31-16 lead late in the first half, slicing right through a Texas defense that held Oklahoma State to 50 points its last time out. And when the Longhorns made a small run to trim their deficit to single digits, Jake Lindsey hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Baylor a 38-27 lead at the break.

The Bears pushed their advantage to 59-40 on Johnathan Motley’s breakaway dunk midway through the second half, and the small contingent of Longhorns fans – with the Jayhawks and Wildcats waiting in the wings, there wasn’t much Baylor flavor either – continued to sit on their hands.

Smart’s bunch finally gave them a reason to cheer.

Taylor’s first basket of the game with 10:36 to go started a 10-0 run, and Prince Ibeh capped it with a rim-rattling dunk over Gathers to make it 59-50 with about 7 minutes to go.

The Longhorns kept the Bears uncomfortable the rest of the way, but they were unable to make the stops they needed to complete their comeback. Prince combined with Al Freeman and Lester Medford to make enough free throws down the stretch to put the game away.

“They were the more aggressive team for the majority of the game,” said Smart, who got his first taste of the Big 12 tournament. “That’s what allowed them to win.”

RICO’S HEALTH

Gathers dealt with an illness late in the season, but said he’s close to being in shape. He played 22 minutes against the Longhorns. “Trying to get myself back into the groove of things,” he said.

TIP-INS

Baylor: Ish Wainwright had eight boards. … The Bears are 22-2 when leading at the half. … Baylor is 11-7 against Texas since snapping a 24-game losing streak in the rivalry.

Texas: Taylor also contributed three rebounds. … The Longhorns had won three of their last four, with their lone loss to Kansas. … Texas lost to Baylor in the Big 12 semifinals two years ago.

UP NEXT

Baylor faces the Jayhawks or Wildcats in Friday night’s semifinals.

Texas awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding on Sunday.

Niang, Morris lead No. 14 Iowa State past No. 24 Texas

Iowa State forward Georges Niang drives past Texas guard Tevin Mack, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
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After falling at Texas Tech for the second straight season midweek, No. 14 Iowa State needed to bounce back with No. 24 Texas visiting Hilton Coliseum. The return of Jameel McKay, who was suspended for two games, certainly helped the Cyclones and the play of Georges Niang and Monte Morris was key as well. But the biggest difference on this night was the fact that Iowa State was able to limit the effectiveness of Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor.

 

Taylor scored just nine points on 3-for-14 shooting from the field, and with Morris and Niang scoring 24 points apiece the Cyclones won by the final score of 85-75.

Taylor had multiple opportunities to make plays around the basket thanks to his ability to beat defenders off the bounce, but he struggled to finish. Add in a 0-for-4 night from three, and Texas’ most dangerous offensive option was unable to duplicate his performance in the first meeting between the two teams. In Texas’ 94-91 overtime win over the Cyclones January 12, Taylor scored 28 points and dished out six assists with just one turnover, shooting 11-for-17 from the field.

Four Longhorns finished in double figures, with Tevin Mack and Javan Felix scoring 18 apiece, but with Morris decisively winning the point guard matchup Texas was unable to pick up the win on the road.

For Iowa State the aforementioned tandem of Morris and Niang performed as they did in the first meeting, which should come as no surprise. What helped them, especially when it came to Texas attacking the basket, was the presence of McKay. McKay finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes of action, and to have their best interior defender back on the floor certainly helped the Cyclones on this night.

With their lack of depth Iowa State’s margin for error is small, especially when it comes to foul trouble, injuries and disciplinary reasons. Even with Texas’ size advantage Iowa State outscored them in the paint 48-34, and McKay’s defensive ability factored into that. The Cyclones can put points on the board with the best of them, but at some point they’ll need to string together stops as the games get even bigger.

Iowa State managed to do that down the stretch, with Morris and Niang running the show offensively. And that’s a good formula to be able to rely upon as the season approaches its most important month.

Texas throws wrench into Big 12 race, beats No. 6 West Virginia

Texas guard Javan Felix (3) drives past West Virginia forward Jonathan Holton (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan, 20, 2016, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Raymond Thompson)
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With No. 6 West Virginia convincingly beating No. 3 Kansas last week and losing to No. 1 Oklahoma on a Khadeem Lattin tip-in with less than five seconds remaining, Bob Huggins’ team rightfully moved up in the national polls released Monday. But Wednesday night’s home game against Texas served as a reminder of what can happen to “Press Virginia” when they aren’t forcing turnovers and can’t make free throws.

Shaka Smart’s team took good care of the ball throughout, committing just eight turnovers, and West Virginia managed to shoot just 8-for-23 from the foul line. Add in a 31.1 percent shooting night from the field, and the end result for the Mountaineers was a 56-49 home defeat few saw coming.

Of all the players on the court Texas senior Javan Felix was the only one who could put together a respectable night offensively, as he scored a game-high 17 points on 4-for-9 shooting from the field and 7-for-8 from the foul line. As important was the fact that he and fellow guard Isaiah Taylor combined to commit just one turnover, quite the achievement when considering what West Virginia is capable of doing with its full-court pressure.

The lack of live-ball turnovers kept West Virginia from getting scoring opportunities in the open floor, and as a result the Longhorns were able to force the Mountaineers to find (and make) shots in the half-court. WVU couldn’t make those shots, shooting 3-for-21 from three, and despite rebounding 47.1 percent of their misses (24 offensive boards) the Mountaineers produced just 14 second-chance points.

These kind of offensive nights were always the concern regarding West Virginia, even with players such as Jevon Carter and Jaysean Paige stepping forward at various points into the “shot-maker” role held by Juwan Staten in each of the two seasons prior. Texas took away the “easy” shots by taking care of the basketball, and the end result was a quality win for a team that’s already beaten the likes of No. 2 North Carolina and No. 19 Iowa State.

Minority coaches push for NCAA to adopt a Rooney Rule

John Thompson III
Associated Press
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A group representing minority coaches is pushing the NCAA to adopt a rule that would require member institutions to interview a candidate of color for all head coaching and leadership vacancies.

The National Association for Coaching Equity and Development is joining longtime equality crusader Richard Lapchick in lobbying for an “Eddie Robinson Rule,” which would be college athletics’ version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule.

The group says such a rule would “address the negligent hiring practices which consistently exclude racial and ethnic minority coaches and administrators from positions of leadership in intercollegiate athletics.”

“It’s not about supply anymore,” Merritt Norvell, NAFCED’s executive director, said Friday. “There are plenty of qualified racial and ethnic minority coaches. It’s about the hiring process, which has historically and systematically excluded minority coaches by denying them an opportunity to compete in the process.”

NAFCED was formed last year to combat the dwindling numbers of minority coaches in college sports after the once powerful Black Coaches Association faded. Prominent members include Texas Tech basketball coach Tubby Smith, Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson III and Texas coach Shaka Smart.

Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida released an annual study before the college football season that reported 87.5 percent of the 128 head football coaches in the NCAA’s Bowl Subdivision were white. That includes all four teams that made it to the playoff – Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Michigan State.

Further, nearly 80 percent of college presidents and athletic directors at FBS schools are white males.

Lapchick has long advocated that the NCAA adopt a rule similar to the NFL, and he named it after Robinson, the revered coach at Grambling State who died in 2007. He called the endorsement from NAFCED “an enormous boost” that he hopes will help the proposal gain traction.

“I think what has been lacking is a forceful group of prominent sports leaders backing this,” Lapchick said. “This is such a group. In the absence of the BCA, this organization has the potential to have an impact on their own campuses as well as the NCAA.”

Norvell said NAFCED leaders plan to meet with NCAA leadership and conference commissioners in coming months.

“I do think for the health of the game we need diversity on the sideline,” former Georgia Tech and George Mason coach Paul Hewitt said. “It’s vitally important. We’re going through a very critical stage here and we need a lot of different ideas, a lot of different thoughts, a lot of different perspectives so we can arrive at the best place for the game and the kids who play the game.”

The biggest question will be whether the NCAA, or any other governing body, can enforce the rules on such a wide swath of public and private institutions. In 2009, Oregon passed a law that requires all of its public universities to interview minority candidates for coaching positions, but the law does not penalize schools that do not follow the rules.

Norvell said NAFCED, which is partnering with the National Consortium for Academics and Sports and The No Hate Zone in pushing for an Eddie Robinson Rule, said the public pressure that could be generated from such a measure would help schools adhere to the rule. Lapchick said he thinks legislative action would be more compelling than any perceived punishment that the NCAA could hand out.

“Having Congress rattling the sword as a result of this announcement by NAFCED would be an additional vehicle that would make the possibility of the NCAA moving more likely,” Lapchick said. “But I think this is the first step. Bringing Congress in to act would be a positive second step.”

Rebounding the difference as Texas clips No. 3 North Carolina

Shaka Smart
Associated Press
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Entering Saturday’s game at Texas No. 3 North Carolina was ranked sixth in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, as opponents were managing to grab just 21.4 percent of their available offensive rebounds. That wasn’t the case in Austin, and it was fitting that Javan Felix’s jumper as time expired to give the Longhorns the 84-82 victory came on a second-chance opportunity.

Texas grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, which worked out to an offensive rebounding percentage of 41 percent and 21 second-chance points. In a game that played as if the team with the ball last would win, the rebounding was the biggest separator between the two teams.

Texas senior center Cameron Ridley, who grabbed six offensive rebounds and finished the game with 12 points and 13 rebounds, proved to be the toughest matchup for North Carolina on the boards. Ridley outplayed Kennedy Meeks, who finished with four points and six rebounds and struggled defensively when involved in ball screens. That led to Meeks at times being replaced by the slender Isaiah Hicks, who chipped in with 14 points and three rebounds off the bench.

Hicks’ contributions were key, especially when also considering Brice Johnson’s early foul trouble, but the Tar Heels’ lack of rebounding ultimately caught up to them.

Ridley wasn’t the only Longhorn who gave North Carolina issues either. Felix scored 25 points, combining with fellow guard Isaiah Taylor to score 43 points on the day. Add in 16 points and four rebounds off the bench from Eric Davis Jr., and Texas’ three most effective guards outscored the North Carolina triumvirate of Marcus Paige, Joel Berry II and Nate Britt 59-33.

While Paige scored 20 points to lead North Carolina, Berry (eight points, no assists) and Nate Britt (five points, two assists) were largely ineffective against the Texas perimeter. That represents a step back for those two, who had played well for the Tar Heels to this point in the season.

Of course, whether or not a foul should have been called when Connor Lammert ran into Marcus Paige before Felix’s shot will be debated ad nauseum. But when looking at why Texas had a chance to win the game, look no further than the rebounding numbers. North Carolina didn’t take care of business on the defensive glass as they had in their first eight games, and in the end they paid for it.