Texas was very fortunate to win its first game without starting point guard Myck Kabongo, a home victory over rebuilding Fresno State in which the difference was two free throws in the final 10 seconds. The Longhorns looked marginally better in their second game, but it's hard to know what a win over Coppin State actually meant.
Turns out it meant little, besides maybe providing Texas a false sense of security. Division II Chaminade shattered that in the opening round of the Maui Invitational on Monday night, opening up an 19-point second-half lead and embarrassing the Longhorns 86-73.
"The team that won the game should have won the game," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "They played better. Collectively, I thought they played harder. I thought we played very
tentative. I would probably even use the word scared. We haven't played in the three games that we've played anything like what we've practiced. That's probably the most disappointing thing."
Several of Chaminade's previous six victories at the Maui Invitational were more stunning than Monday night's upset, but none of them were any more thorough. The Silverswords, 6-76 in the tournament prior to Monday, took the lead for good on a Tyree Harrison free throw late in the first half and held it from there, never letting Texas any closer than nine thanks to 34-of-39 free-throw shooting.
Chaminade earns a semifinal clash with Illinois on Tuesday and a chance to make school history. No Silverswords team has ever won two Maui Invitational games in the same year.
"We're ecstatic," Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird said. "That's an incredible win for our program. We believed all along that we had a chance to play with these guys over here, and we knew if we got down to a close ballgame, that there was a good chance we were going to win. I have so much faith in my team. I'll put them up against anybody in the country."
With Kabongo sidelined, freshman Javan Felix is the only point guard on Texas' roster. He may be a better scorer than Kabongo, but he lacks the sophomore's experience, steadiness or playmaking ability, contributing to the Longhorns committing 17 turnovers Monday night compared to just 10 assists.
Considering the talent Texas coach Rick Barnes has at his disposal, however, there's no excuse for the Longhorns not taking it to a Division II team even without arguably their best player.
They didn't hustle for loose balls or contest shots with enough tenacity. They didn't get efficient enough scoring out of Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis. And they were unable to take advantage of their size and skill advantage in the paint.
It remains to be seen whether this loss is an aberration for Texas or a harbinger of the Longhorns missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in Barnes' tenure.
Texas has worn the underachiever label for a while now. Monday night did nothing to help the Longhorns shed it.
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- Myck Kabongo