AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—Gary Johnson says he’s finding his comfort zone in the Texas offense. The Longhorns need him to stay there because the season is about to get much tougher.
The senior forward scored 17 points and tied his career-high with 12 rebounds, helping the 22nd-ranked Longhorns coast past North Florida 70-48 on Tuesday night.
Freshman guard Cory Johnson added 18 points as those two carried the Longhorns through an otherwise sluggish effort.
“I guess I’m just finding a niche,” Johnson said, noting he’s still getting used to playing with Joseph and freshman post player Tristan Thompson in the lineup. “I think we still have a long way to go chemistry-wise.”
Johnson also had to find his rhythm out on the wing when coach Rick Barnes put him farther out from the basket than he’s used to.
“He does a pretty good job, he just needs some time out there,” Barnes said. “Over the last couple of games he’s played really well.”
Joseph kept up his torrid shooting for the Longhorns (8-2) as well, hitting 4 of 8 from 3-point range. Joseph has been Texas’ best scorer of late, leading the Longhorns in points four of the last five games.
But the Longhorns’ run of easy games against overmatched opponents is finished.
Texas has won 25 straight at home against non-conference opponents and now goes on the road to face North Carolina in Greensboro on Saturday and No. 14 Michigan State on Dec. 22. Coppin State, Arkansas and No. 4 Connecticut at home round out the schedule before the start of Big 12 play on Jan. 11.
“I don’t know if the freshmen know what they are getting into playing against opponents like that,” Johnson said. “I think we have what it takes to come together as a team and overcome it.”
Joseph scored 12 points and Johnson had 10 in the first half against North Florida as Texas built a 35-16 lead. Seven turnovers and 33 percent shooting kept the Longhorns from finding much offensive continuity, but the Longhorns outrebounded North Florida 30-16 in the half.
Johnson had eight rebounds in the half and Joseph’s third 3-pointer put Texas up by 19 points.
In the second, Johnson kept finding the mid-range jumper he has used so effectively in recent games. He even tried—but missed—two 3-pointers in the game. Thompson slammed an alley-oop dunk on a nifty pass from J’Covan Brown and Texas built the lead to 43-19.
Then the Longhorns went into a deep slump, going scoreless over the next six minutes until Jordan Hamilton got a long 3-pointer to fall after taking three bounces off the rim. Johnson then drove the baseline and finished a scooping reverse layup and the 3-point play made it 51-25.
Texas kept up the pressure defensively during the scoring drought, allowing North Florida just three field goals over the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“We were lazy offensively. I can’t tell you how many chippies we missed around the rim,” Barnes said.
Brian Holmes and Jerron Granberry each scored 10 points for North Florida (4-6).
Some of Texas’ previous opponents had tried to mix up their zone and man-to-man defenses in hopes of confusing the Longhorns or catching them on a bad shooting night.
If the Ospeys did, it was by mistake, North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll said.
“Sometimes it looked like we did because guys were in the wrong place,” he said.