AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The schedule suggests Texas faced Appalachian State Tuesday night, but Longhorns coach Shaka Smart said the Longhorns tangled with another opponent.
“Human nature,” Smart said.
Three days after defeating then-No. 3 North Carolina, Texas struggled to beat Appalachian State 67-55.
The game was tied midway through the second half. Then Texas center Cameron Ridley took over, scoring 11 points in row during a span of less than four minutes — including three dunks.
Ridley finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and a set a school record with nine blocks.
Smart understood a letdown was possible against Appalachian State (2-7) after beating North Carolina, but he added, “You have to be better than human nature if you want to be a great team.”
The 6-foot-10 Ridley did his part at both ends. On defense, he helped Texas set a school record with 15 blocks; the Longhorns made 14 twice last season. The Mountaineers shot 30 percent, and 12 of their 18 baskets were 3-pointers.
“They really dictated defensively,” Appalachian State coach Jim Fox said. “Ridley’s ability to blocks shots really bothered our shot selection. We settled for too many jumpers. We didn’t have our attack that we normally do.”
The 285-pound Ridley averaged fewer than three blocks his first three years at Texas. He’s upped that to 3.3 this season.
“I’m in a better place physically,” Ridley said. “I feel bouncier.”
Javan Felix added 14 points for Texas (7-3), winner of five straight games, and Isaiah Taylor added 12 with seven assists.
Frank Eaves led Appalachian State with 20 points, one game after scoring a career-best 38 against Hofstra.
Eaves missed six of seven shots in the first half against Texas. But he hit four 3-pointers during the first 10 minutes of the second half, enabling the Mountaineers to pull even after trailing by 10 earlier in the half.
But Ridley began calling for the ball during the last several minutes of the game. The Longhorns kept going to him.
“Why not?” Smart said. “He’s by far our best option. He’s getting better at demanding it. We had a conversation in front of the team a week or two ago, and we were talking about how we didn’t feel like we were getting the ball inside to him enough. And then we stopped and we said, ‘some of that’s your fault, Cam. You have to demand the ball.'”
Appalachian State: Taking advantage of Texas’ inconsistency at rebounding this season, Appalachian State had more offensive rebounds (5) midway through the first half than then-No. 3 North Carolina grabbed (4) in an entire game against the Longhorns on Saturday.
Texas: Cameron Ridley ranks seventh nationally in field-goal accuracy with 66.7 percent before Tuesday .. Guard Javan Felix was named national player of the week by the United States Basketball Writers Association after scoring 25 points, including the game-winning shot, against then-No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday.
THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN
Texas honored its 1989-90 basketball team that reached the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight and featured Lance Blanks, Travis Mays and Joey Wright, known then as BMW. The team was introduced at halftime Tuesday, including coach Tom Penders, who was forced out in 1998. Shaka Smart, the Longhorns‘ first-year coach, encouraged the reunion and also has reached out to other former Texas players. “Shaka Smart is not only maybe the brightest young coach in America, he has a feel for these kind of things,” Penders said.
Appalachian State hosts Charlotte on Saturday afternoon.
Texas is at Stanford on Saturday.