Already, Bahamian Kai Jones is working himself into the Texas Longhorns’ rotation, and establishing himself as a source of endearment in the Longhorns’ family, giving his team significant minutes off the bench yesterday, and contributing wholeheartedly to a key early-season win at home for the program.
Jones, a freshman, enjoyed double-digit minutes for the second consecutive game, and this time posted a career-high. He scored eight points including a few highlight dunks in a close 73-71 win for the Longhorns (6-1, 4-0 Home) over the McNeese State Cowboys (2-6, 0-6 Away) in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I men’s basketball action on Saturday, at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
Jones’ previous best outing was four points in 17 minutes in a convincing 62-45 win for the Longhorns over the California Golden Bears. All of his points on Saturday came at critical points of the game. In fact, the game was close throughout with neither team leading by double figures.
Jones made a couple of baskets in a row, climaxed with a dunk in which he received a pass from out of bounds, head faked a defender and spun to throw it down one-handed, giving the Longhorns a 15-9 lead at the 11:47 mark of the first half. However, the Cowboys won’t go away. They stayed within striking distance for the remainder of the first half, pulling to within three, 37-34, at the break on a three-pointer from Leondre Washington at the buzzer.
Jones continued to remain relevant in the second half, scoring four points and helping out on the defensive end as well. The 6’ 11” freshman forward finished the game with eight points, one rebound and an assist, and is averaging 3.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.5 assists on the season. He is shooting 77.8 percent from the field.
Washington tried another buzzer-beating three at the end of the second half, which would have given the upstart Cowboys the victory, but it missed.
Sophomore guard Courtney Ramey and redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Jones paced the Longhorns with 14 points apiece. Junior forward Jericho Sims added a dozen on perfect 6-for-6 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds for his second double-double of the year. Junior point guard Matt Coleman III and Jase Febres scored nine apiece, and Kai Jones was their next highest scorer with eight off the bench for the Longhorns. Coleman added 10 assists without a turnover in 38 minutes of play and pulled down six rebounds.
Ramey’s free shots with eight seconds remaining sealed the win for the Longhorns, as they completed the month of November with a 6-1 win-loss record, the program’s best mark for November in the Shaka Smart era.
The Longhorns registered a plus-14 advantage in rebounding (38-24), including an 18-5 advantage on the offensive glass. Texas registered a 14-6 advantage in second-chance points and a 27-17 margin in bench scoring, and McNeese State countered with a good shooting day, converting 52 percent (26-for-50) from the field, including a 50-percent mark (8-for-16) from beyond the three-point arc.
The Cowboys were led offensively by sophomore forward Sha’markus Kennedy with a game-high 22 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Washington had 17 off the bench including a trio of three-pointers, junior guard A.J. Lawson contributed 14 and Dru Kuxhausen, another junior guard, added 12.
Texas improved to 3-0 in the all-time series against McNeese State, but this was the first meeting between the two schools in 17 years.
The Longhorns will remain home as a part of their season-high eight-game homestand, and host the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) Blazers in their next game, at this 8 p.m. this evening.