Texas had been featuring its adeptness from the outside, then recently showed it can also rely on interior play.
That frontcourt has even more depth now.
Boosted by the addition of freshman Mike Williams, the 14th-ranked Longhorns look to use their size advantage Tuesday against a smaller North Texas team.
Texas (5-1) got off to a strong start thanks greatly to its 3-point shooting, making at least 10 in each of its first five games and hitting 50.4 percent from beyond the arc heading into Saturday’s visit to Seton Hall.
That’s when the Longhorns’ long-range shooters went a bit cold, making 6-of-17 from 3-point range. But the starting frontline played well and reserve center Jason Klotz had another strong game as Texas won 70-62.
“It’s great having big guys like that in the paint, that when you are closing the game out you can just give them the ball and pretty much get out of the way, and they are going to make something happen,” point guard Daniel Gibson said.
“Now I know if we put the ball in (Brad Buckman) and Jason’s hands we’ll be all right.”
Klotz scored in double figures for the sixth straight game with 14 points, and Buckman added 11 to go with his eight rebounds. While Texas’ perimeter players combined to shoot 6-for-25 (24 percent), its big men made 16-of-31 (51.6 percent).
The Longhorns also saw Williams make his debut, just hours after being declared eligible. The 6-foot-7 high school All-America missed the season’s first five games while the university sorted out questions regarding his amateur status.
Williams, known as a ferocious rebounder, had six boards and two points in 13 minutes.
“I thought Mike responded well being here for the first time,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “Mike through this whole process has not withdrawn from his team and his teammates. The most excited the guys were after the game was for Mike.”
Williams could end up forming an impressive freshman duo with Gibson, who had 15 points and five assists Saturday. Gibson is averaging team highs of 13.5 points and 4.5 assists.
As impressive as Gibson has been, Texas may rely on the frontcourt as it meets the Mean Green (3-2).
North Texas’ starting lineup includes three guards and only one player— center Justin Barnett—that is taller than 6-foot-7 or more than 210 pounds. Klotz and the Longhorns’ starting frontline averages nearly 234 pounds and all but one are at least 6-8. Williams is 6-7 and 220 pounds.
The Mean Green’s three starting guards—Leonard Hopkins, Isaac Hines and Calvin Watson—combined for 47 points Saturday in an 88-78 loss to TCU.
Hopkins averages a team-high 18.2 points per game for North Texas, which lost 85-71 at then-No. 18 Alabama on Nov. 21 in its only previous game against a ranked opponent this season.
The Mean Green’s only win in 22 road games in this series came in 1930, and Texas has lost only once in its last 33 home games overall. The Longhorns lead the all-time series 27-5.