Cameron Ridley

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

All season long, I waited for Texas to take advantage of the size.

I’ve waited for them to consistently feed junior center Cameron Ridley and freshman forward Myles Turner. Ridley’s mass is unequaled. Turner’s height and skill unparalleled. Heck, even feed senior forward Jonathan Holmes the rock in the post as he can take advantage of the smaller defenders that constantly guard him.

But time after time, Texas has settled for the three where they are shooting a pedestrian 34 percent.

In the first game of the Big 12 championships in Kansas City, I finally got a glimpse of how effective and efficient this Longhorns offense could be when they look inside first. In a 15-minute stretch against Tech, Texas played the best ball it had all season—and it did so without attempting a three.

Sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor attacked the rim for the dish or the score. Ridley created space and finished. Turner and Holmes also got plenty of touches.

All was going well. The bigs were happy. The guards were happy. Head coach Rick Barnes was happy. It looked like Texas finally figured it out.
Then they regressed right back into their old ways the very next game against Iowa State. They shot 22 threes. Ridley got just four shot attempts. Turner two. Holmes attempted just three from beneath the arc. The fact Texas was making their threes masked that Texas was once against not looking to pound it inside.

In the round of 64, though, Texas will be playing an undersized Butler team that rebounds extremely well. That means the Longhorns will need to force it inside. Ridley’s man will weigh 85 pounds less. Turner will have at least two inches on whomever guards him. Holmes will have a mismatch.
Those three will be the key. They have to want it. Ridley will have to work to create space (a pesky Butler team won’t let him get it easily). Turner has to want the ball and be ready to catch it. Holmes has to find his way inside rather than floating to the corner. That will result in high percentage looks.

If Texas can do that, it should be able to take advantage of its fortuitous draw against an undersized Bulldog team and live to see another day. If they settle for threes, the Horns will cap off an extremely disappointing season in a disappointing fashion.

Check out our additional March Madness coverage:

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Junior center Cameron Ridley has bounced back from his injury with 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in the past two games. This comes after Ridley only scored 7 points in the two previous games, both losses for the Longhorns.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

No. 11 Kansas has won the Big 12 regular season title for 10 consecutive years. The last time someone other than the Jayhawks won the conference, freshman forward Myles Turner was in the third grade. Let that sink in for a minute.

Yes, it’s been a while. But, in the preseason, many deemed this year as the one in which Kansas’ conference dominance could come to an end — not because the Jayhawks lacked the depth and talent of previous years, but because Texas finally seemed capable of dethroning the reigning conference kings.

Saturday at 1 p.m., the Longhorns have their chance to make good on those predictions.

Of course, it won’t be easy. The Jayhawks boast depth and balance few teams in college basketball can match.

Kansas poses threats both inside the paint and around the arc. Turner and the rest of Texas’ big men will have their hands full between junior forward Perry Ellis, who leads the team with 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, and freshman forward Cliff Alexander. Kansas also boasts an impressive trio of guards: sophomore Frank Mason III, freshman Wayne Selden Jr. and freshman Kelly Ourbre Jr.

Texas just might have a shot, as they seemed to be clicking on all cylinders in the last two games. The Longhorns won convincingly over No. 18 West Virginia and on the road against TCU after a pair of ugly losses early in conference play.

Following an up-and-down start to the season, junior center Cameron Ridley seemed to have found himself in the last two wins. He totaled 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in the two victories after scoring only seven points in the previous two games. After the win over West Virginia, Ridley said his goal against Kansas is to replicate what he did against the Mountaineers.

“[I want to] just come in the game with the same confidence and play as hard as I can,” Ridley said. “You play hard and good things happen, so that’s what I’m going to keep focusing on doing.”

The Longhorns need a strong performance from Ridley to combat the Kansas big men. Same goes for sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor against the Jayhawks’ loaded backcourt.

After making only 19-of-40 field goal attempts in his first four games back from a broken left wrist, Taylor exploded against TCU on Monday for 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while racking up seven rebounds and six assists. The Longhorns could use a similar performance Saturday to bring down Kansas.

The Big 12 has waited a long time for someone to finally dethrone Kansas as the conference’s tyrant. Saturday, the Longhorns might do just that.

Junior center Cameron Ridley turned in his best performance of the season Tuesday night, racking up 16 points, five rebounds and three blocks en route to a 78-46 victory. 

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

While the Longhorn offense sputtered without its top two point guards at times, freshman forward Myles Turner filled the void.

After a solid first half, which saw him put up 11 points and six rebounds, Turner dominated the second half for Texas with a perfect night from behind the arc and posted his first career double-double, as the Longhorns defeated Saint Francis, 78-46,
Tuesday night.

“It felt great to gain some confidence going into tougher competition,” Turner said. “To play well against a solid team, that was great.”

The No. 7 Longhorns (5-0) started the night behind the eight ball. With sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor out indefinitely with a broken wrist, Texas got more bad news when junior guard Javan Felix was held out of the starting lineup as he nursed a left foot injury.

Even with sophomore guard Kendal Yancy inserted as a starter for the first time in his career, the Longhorn offense got off to a solid start behind junior center Cameron Ridley, who had the first two buckets for Texas and seven of the team’s first 12 points.

But after taking a 27-16 lead with 7 minutes left in the first half, the Longhorn offense ran into trouble, failing to score on six of seven possessions. During that time, Texas turned the ball over three times and allowed the Red Flyers (2-3) to cut the deficit to eight, 29-21.

Head coach Rick Barnes said it was the six turnovers in the first half that bothered him the most.

“We talk about valuing the ball and being tough with the ball and we just throw it away because we’re out there like no one’s defending,” Barnes said.

In the second half, however, the Longhorn offense again found its way.  Texas opened up a 19-point lead in the first six minutes of the half, before Turner caught fire.

With Ridley on the bench for the majority of the second half, the highly touted freshman made his presence known on both ends of the floor. 

On the offensive end, Turner had a stretch where he scored seven of the Longhorn’s nine points to help open up the lead. On the other end, Turner finished the night with nine defensive rebounds and three blocks, two of which led to points for Texas.

Turner said he needed that game to boost his confidence, considering the touch schedule ahead.

“In practice I feel like I’ve been performing well and to be able to come out here and execute in the game, it’s great,” Turner said.

The Texas bigs had a strong night as well, with Ridley finishing with 16 points and junior forward Connor Lammert scoring 11 more. Yancy also finished in double-digits, with 12 points.

The Longhorns have the rest of the week off before travelling to play Connecticut in a tough road contest Sunday.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorn football team is full of big names this year, a few of whom you might see playing on Sundays in the near future. But off the gridiron, there are several other Longhorn athletes who, although you may not hear of them as often, are just as capable at their own respective sports. Here is our look at the top non-football players to watch in burnt orange this season:

Myles Turner: Men’s Basketball, Forward, Freshman

Incoming freshman forward Myles Turner has yet to step on the court for Texas, but the hype surrounding him is comparable to that of Kevin Durant when he first arrived on campus. While he may not play the same position as the former Longhorn legend, the expectations for Turner, who was a five-star recruit coming out of Bedford, are just as high as they were for Durant when he played for Rick Barnes.

Haley Eckerman: Volleyball, Outside Hitter, Senior

The Longhorns’ volleyball team will look to make it back to the Final Four yet again in 2014. In doing so, the team will rely heavily on its experienced seniors, including senior outside hitter Haley Eckerman.

Eckerman is a two-time All-American and was named 2013 Volleyball Magazine Player of the Year. She was also named Big 12 Player of the Year for the second consecutive year in 2013 and was a finalist for the 2013 Honda Sports Award for Volleyball.

Cameron Ridley: Men’s Basketball, Center, Junior

Junior center Cameron Ridley had a breakout year as a sophomore, highlighted by his put-back to beat the buzzer against Arizona State and push Texas into the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. 

Ridley averaged 11.2 points per game and 8.2 rebounds last season. Given the potential for this year’s team to make a tournament run, Ridley will be expected to lead Texas as one of the few upperclassmen on the roster.

Isaiah Taylor: Men’s Basketball, Point Guard, Sophomore

Sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor had a tremendous freshman season, averaging 12.7 points and four assists per game last season. The wily point guard will be expected to produce at a similar level this season as the leader of Texas’ offensive attack.

Craig Lutz: Cross Country/Track and Field, Senior

Senior runner Craig Lutz enters his last year on the team and is looking to improve after his individual 15th place finish and the cross country team’s 14th place finish at the NCAA Championships last season.

Lutz has been recognized four times as an all-Big 12 runner in both cross country and track and field.

Nneka Enemkpali: Women’s Basketball, Forward, Senior

As the Longhorn women’s basketball team looks to build on the success of last season’s NCAA tournament run, it will rely on upperclassmen like senior forward Nneka Enemkpali for leadership. Enemkpali, a Pflugerville native, has continued to improve throughout her career at Texas, as she was named to the all-Big 12 first team for the first time this past season. Enemkpali averaged 12 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last year.

Jonathan Holmes: Men’s Basketball, Forward, Senior

As the only senior playing for Rick Barnes this year, forward Jonathan Holmes has seen Texas at its worst and was also part of the surprisingly successful season the Longhorns enjoyed last year. During the 2013-2014 season, Holmes averaged 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. As the only senior four year guy on the team, Holmes will have a major leadership role for the young Longhorns this season.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Just when it looked like a Jonathan Holmes air ball had Texas and Arizona State bound for overtime, sophomore center Cameron Ridley picked up the loose ball, looked toward the rim and put up a prayer.

The ball came off his left hand, sailed over the fingertips of Arizona State’s senior center Jordan Bachynski, kissed off the backboard, bounced around the rim and dropped through the basket, giving the Longhorns the 87-85 victory at the buzzer.

For the first time in more than three years, Texas won an NCAA Tournament game, squeaking past the Sun Devils in Milwaukee, Wis. The March Madness victory was the Longhorns’ first since they beat Oakland University on March 18, 2011.

After struggling to score throughout the Big 12 tournament, the Longhorns couldn’t miss early on against Arizona State. Texas converted each of its first six field goal attempts, scoring 13 points in less than three minutes to open the contest.

The Longhorns managed to hold on to a lead for most of the game, but the Sun Devils closed the gap late in the second half. The two teams traded leads down the stretch before Ridley’s lay-in sealed the victory for Texas.

Ridley’s last second bucket will be what gets remembered, but no individual performance stuck out for Rick Barnes’ squad Thursday night.

Ridley led all scorers with 17, but freshman guard Martez Walker was most impressive, posting a career-high 16 points for Texas off the bench. Walker, who was given more playing time than he is used to, attacked the rim throughout the night, drawing several fouls in the lane. Nine of his points came from the free throw line.

Each of the Longhorns’ other four starters also scored in double figures. Sophomore guard Demarcus Holland had 14, while Holmes, sophomore guard Javan Felix and freshman guard Isaiah Taylor each had 11 points in the game.

Defensively, Texas went with a zone for much of the contest in an attempt to clog up the paint and deny Bachynski. The 7-foot-2-inch sophomore was able to post 25 points despite the added attention, but the extra defenders in the paint prevented the Sun Devils’ guards from getting in the lane.

The Longhorns’ victory sets them up for a third-round matchup with Michigan on Saturday. The Wolverines are the two-seed in the Midwest bracket.

Filling in for the injured junior forward Jonathan Holmes, sophomore forward Connor Lammert made the most of the opportunity, recording a double-double in a 66-54 win over TCU at Tuesday night's game. 

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Not even beer could bring excitement to a lethargic matchup at the Frank Erwin Center on Wednesday night.

In the first game at which alcoholic beverages were served at a home Texas basketball showcase, the Longhorns took on a lowly TCU in front of a lackluster crowd. Texas outlasted the Horned Frogs 66-54 in the Longhorns’ last home game of the season.                               

“I think this was a good win for us,” freshman guard Isaiah Taylor said. “Coming off a tough loss at Oklahoma, we needed this one to help move us forward.” 

Texas dominated most of the first half after sophomore center Cameron Ridley started the Longhorns’ scoring with a two-handed slam. Texas (22-8, 11-6 Big 12) was able to move the ball well and make open shots as it took an 11-5 lead to start the game. 

The Longhorns had little trouble stopping the Horned Frogs (9-20, 0-17 Big 12) on defense, except for guard Kyan Anderson, who scored 18 of TCU’s 27 points in the first half. It wasn’t until the 5:20 mark in the period that another Horned Frogs player recorded a basket. 

In the second half, Texas never trailed TCU, but allowed the Horned Frogs to hold onto hope of gaining their first Big 12 win. Both teams lacked energy and consistency as they exchanged baskets until Texas eventually wore down TCU. 

“Fouls kept them in the game,” Taylor said. “We kept fouling and putting Anderson and [Hudson] Price on the foul line. Putting them on the foul line stopped the flow of the game. And they are a good free throw team so it kept them in it.” 

Texas’ senior night — with no seniors — was led by Taylor with 21 points and five assists. The Longhorns were without starting forward Jonathan Holmes, who missed the game with a right knee injury. Both Ridley and sophomore forward Connor Lammert, who stepped into his place, recorded a double-double on the night. Ridley’s 14 points and 10 rebounds tallied for his third straight double-double while Lammert recorded a career-high 13 rebounds. 

“Unfortunately we had to deal with Holmes being out again,” Lammert said. “But we know the team isn’t about one person. I knew my teammates would have confidence with me so I just went out there and gave it my all.” 

The Longhorns have had little trouble at home this season. They finish with a 16-2 mark at the Frank Erwin Center, which is one shy of their single-season record for most home wins. 

Texas, who has put a large focus on confidence, especially after trouble on the road, now has a chance to finish tied for second in the conference if it can win its last regular season game against Texas Tech at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Lubbock. 

“I don’t think our guys have lost any confidence,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “Why wouldn’t we be [confident]? We got a group of guys that on Saturday have a chance to finish second in the best conference in the country.”

Sophomore guard Demarcus Holland penetrated the Baylor zone in a 74-69 win Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center. Despite being up by 18 in the first half, the Longhorns had to hold off a second-half Baylor rally to secure the win.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

A left-handed layup high off the glass by freshman point guard Isaiah Taylor put Texas ahead by 3 points with 43 seconds left in Wednesday’s game. But it was a one-handed block by sophomore center Cameron Ridley on the other side of the court that sealed the victory for Texas.

After back-to-back losses, the Longhorns (21-7, 10-5 Big 12) moved back into the win column Wednesday night against Baylor. Among a rowdy crowd at the Frank Erwin Center, the Longhorns beat out the Bears 74-69 to gain their first Big 12 win in more than 10 days.

“This was a big game because of the way we played,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “We hadn’t given ourselves a chance in the last two games. But there are teams that at this time of the year think championships and teams that are just in survivor mode. So we told them they are going to want to play a lot of basketball.”

Texas looked dominant in the first frame, and at one point led by 18 points. The Longhorns overpowered a lethargic Bears team with an energized offense. Fueled by sophomore guard Javan Felix’s five 3-pointers, Texas shot 51.6 percent from the floor in the first frame to give it a 15 point lead heading into the break. It was no different on the other side of the court, where a hard-nosed defense held Baylor to just 25 percent shooting.

It was a different story in the second half, as Baylor came out of the locker room with a combination zone and man defense that caused trouble for the Longhorns.

As the Longhorns adjusted back to the energized play it had in the first half, they were able to hold off the Bears. It wasn’t until Taylor’s layup that Texas took the momentum and the victory.

“There’s going to be a time in every game when you need someone to go get one and someone to go stop one,” Barnes said. “[Taylor] is really good in his floater game and we know that. So sometimes it better to just let him open up and go. He’s going to get it there.”

Felix led his squad with 21 points, including seven 3-pointers. Ridley finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

“I felt really good,” Felix said. “We had a lot of time to get extra reps on our own. It just felt good coming out of my hand today.”

The Longhorns hardly outrebounded their opponent, 41-40, but had the 34-18 advantage in the paint.

Texas has three games left in the regular season, sitting in third place, as it travels to face Oklahoma on Saturday.

“We need to carry this momentum,” Holmes said. “Last week we didn’t execute on the road, but it’s easy to play at home. Taking it on the road is a whole another challenge. We need to play our best game like we played here.”

Sophomore guard Javan Feliz scored 18 points against West Virginia on Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center. Felix's offensive production fueled Texas' 88-71 victory as the No.19 Longhorns move within one game of Kansas for the Big 12 lead. 

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

A two-handed alley-oop slam from sophomore center Cameron Ridley late in the second half capped off Ridley’s total dominance of West Virginia on Saturday night.

Ridley, who finished the game with 17 points, six rebounds and a game-high three blocks, led Texas to an easy 88–71 victory over the Mountaineers at the Frank Erwin Center.

Whether it was blocking a shot into the third row, bounce passing out of a double team to set up an easy layup or the viciously slamming the ball in, Ridley proved once again that he is a much improved player.

“I enjoy blocking shots and dunking on people,” Ridley said. “Whenever I’m able to do those things, it gets the crowd going and gives us an edge because the adrenaline starts pumping.”

With sophomore guard Demarcus Holland guarding the wing, Texas’ point guard combination of freshman Isaiah Taylor and sophomore Javan Felix embraced the challenge of shutting down West Virginia superstar Juwan Staten. Staten, who averages 18.1 points per game, had just 14 points on 6-for-16 shooting from the field in the contest.

After missing points from shots that were way off early in the first half, Staten was greeted with “air ball” chants from the Texas crowd each time he touched the ball for the rest of the game. Staten, a junior guard, appeared to be increasingly frustrated by the taunts as the game wore on, often forcing up uncharacteristic shots in the second half.

“Stopping [Staten] was really a team effort,” Barnes said. “He is just so terrific in the open court that we felt we had to get all five of our guys back in transition. Overall, that might be as well as we played all year defensively.”

Offensively, the Longhorns played effectively as a unit. The team had a season-high 18 assists and each of Texas’ starters had at least 11 points.

“One of the best games we’ve had as far as moving the ball,” Holland said. “They dropped into the 1-3-1 zone and tried to slow us down, but Coach Barnes said the only thing that would slow us down was dribbling, so we just kept passing.”

The Longhorns’ lone blemish on the night was perimeter defense. Texas fouled Mountaineer 3-point shooters four separate times, a rare feat at any level of basketball.

“I’ve never been a part of a team that did that,” Holland said. “Coach Barnes is pretty mad about it, so I don’t really want to talk about that.”

Frehman point guard Isaiah Taylor is averaging 11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game this season, marks that compare well to many former Texas PG greats. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

After nearly three years, the Longhorns men’s basketball team is ranked again. Texas enters a pivotal week ranked No. 25 in the latest AP poll, a number that will improve if they are able to slay Goliath and defeat No. 6 Kansas on Saturday. With this monstrous matchup looming, the two names every Texas fan needs to know are Cameron Ridley and Isaiah Taylor.

The 6-foot-9-inch, 285-pound Ridley is the first to draw attention. The sophomore center leads the team in rebounding and blocks and is quickly emerging as one of the most dominant centers to ever play for Rick Barnes.

Due to his gargantuan proportions, Ridley often draws comparisons with former Longhorn center Dexter Pittman. But, when it comes to games, there’s no comparison. Ridley averages 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while also leading the team with 48 blocks — already surpassing his total from last year, when he led the team with 47 — Pittman never averaged 11 points or six rebounds per game.

Ridley’s numbers are far closer to what Tristan Thompson, the fourth-overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, posted during his freshman year at Texas. Thompson put up 13.1 points, grabbed 7.8 rebounds and rejected 2.4 shots per game. Ridley is averaging 2.4 blocks-per-game this season, which — along with Thompson — is the highest for any Longhorn player in 14 years.

Freshman point guard Taylor has been equally impressive. He has been a revelation, quickly putting himself in the exclusive company of past elite Texas point guards. This list includes T.J. Ford, Daniel Gibson, D.J. Augustin, Avery Bradley and Cory Joseph, all of whom played in the NBA.

Taylor has been an offensive spark plug, averaging 11.7 points and 3.7 assists per game. Last Saturday’s win over Baylor was his best performance of the season, in which he had a career-high 27 points. Although he has attempted only 11 three pointers all year, Taylor has had plenty of success attacking the rim — his 6.15 free-throw attempts per game are more than Ford, Gibson, Augustin, Bradley or Joseph ever averaged.

Taylor is averaging more points than Joseph and Ford did their freshman seasons and Taylor has more assists per game than Joseph and Bradley did. He also has a better assist-turnover ratio than Gibson, Joseph and Bradley.

Before Ridley and Taylor burst onto the scene, Texas basketball was at rock bottom. But, with new life and new leadership, this team looks like the real deal. We’ll know for sure if they are after they take on Kansas this weekend. 

Texas ranked 18th in Baseball America preseason top 25

Although the Longhorns have struggled in the past couple of years, Baseball America doesn’t believe it will remain that way. Baseball ranked the Longhorns at No. 18 in its first preseason poll. Baseball America also tabbed the Longhorns as the No. 2 recruiting class for 2013 in the nation.

Virginia topped the poll, while the SEC led with eight teams in the top 25. Texas sits atop the Big 12, with TCU just behind it at No. 19 and Kansas State at No. 22. 

The Longhorns return their entire weekend rotation from last season’s team that led the Big 12 in ERA.

Men’s basketball makes AP Top 25 debut

Texas men’s basketball is ranked No. 25 in this week’s AP Top 25 poll, which was released Monday afternoon.

The Longhorns, who are ranked for the first time this season, are currently on a five-game win streak, with their last three wins coming against teams ranked in the top 25. This is the first time Texas has been ranked in an AP poll since the final AP poll of the 2010-11 season, in which it was ranked No. 8.

Texas hosts Kansas on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Frank Erwin Center.

Cameron Ridley wins Big 12 player of the week award

Monday afternoon, the Big 12 Conference selected sophomore center Cameron Ridley as the Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference Player of the Week. 

Ridley averaged a double-double in the Longhorns’ two wins against Kansas State and Baylor this past week. He tallied 18 points and six rebounds against the Wildcats before finishing the week with 8 points and a career-high 14 rebounds against the Bears. Ridley is also ranked third in the Big 12 in blocked shots (48). 

Texas schedules the Orange-White game

Charlie Strong now has a set date for when he will make his first appearance as the Longhorns’ head coach. The annual Orange-White game has been scheduled for Saturday, April 19 at 1 p.m. The game will be aired only on the Longhorn Network. 

Strong also announced that spring practice is tentatively set to begin on March 18. 

Additional reporting by Stefan Scrafield