AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — When the Texas Longhorns needed a boost, Kerwin Roach II did what he does best.
Roach attacked the basket, scoring six straight points in a span of 1:20 to help Texas pull away from Texas-Arlington en route to a 76-56 victory Friday night.
Texas (8-4) led by just six early in the second half against a smaller, over-matched opponent. Then Roach, who has been erratic but leads the team in scoring, made three driving shots, giving the Longhorns a 14-point lead.
“That’s who he needs to be,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “He’s worked a lot on his ability to make 3-point shots, but he’s always gonna be a guy who has a special ability to attack the paint.”
Jase Febres scored 12 points, leading five Longhorns in double figures. Roach and Eli Mitrou-Long scored 11 each, while Courtney Ramey and Royce Hamm Jr. had 10 apiece.
“We fought them for a while, but the early part of the second half they stretched on us and beat us to a couple of loose balls, knocked down some shots,” said Chris Ogden, Texas-Arlington’s first-year coach. “They separated and it was hard to get it back.”
Hamm had played in only three games and a total of just 24 minutes before Friday. His 10 points and two blocks, in 13 minutes against Texas-Arlington, were career-bests. His playing time increased the last two games in part because former starter Jericho Sims has struggled all season.
Hamm said he tried to exercise patience during his time on the bench.
“Not listening to outside voices, just your loved ones, friends and family,” Hamm said. “Taking advice from the right people.”
Texas exceled in the second half despite some inefficiency on offense. On one possession early Dylan Osetkowski missed three layups, each time retrieving the rebound. His fourth attempt was blocked by Andres Ibarguen.
Jaxson Hayes, the Longhorns’ 6-foot-11 freshman who is regarded as an NBA prospect, made his first start but spent chunks of the game in foul trouble. He finished with four points, four rebounds and two blocks in 16 minutes. Hayes did hit both of his shots, extending his streak to 18 in a row over the last four games.
Edric Dennis led Texas-Arlington (4-9) with a season-best 23 points and had eight rebounds. Dennis made six 3-point baskets. Brian Warren scored 12.
Texas-Arlington: The Mavericks are missing their top nine scorers from last season and it shows. Ogden, a former Longhorn forward and assistant coach, inherited players who accounted for just 3.2 percent of Texas-Arlington’s points last season, and with those meager resources the Mavs lost to Indiana, Arkansas, Tulsa, Missouri and Gonzaga before facing Texas. The smallest margin of defeat was 14, against Indiana and Tulsa. Texas-Arlington ranks between 327th and 347 th nationally in three major categories: scoring, field goal accuracy and 3-point accuracy. The Mavs fell short of their usual numbers in points and overall shooting accuracy.
Texas: Smart said a critical component to winning was deflections on defense. The Longhorns’ goal each game is 32. Smart said after the game Friday, before watching the tape, that he thought the Longhorns had 33 deflections.
“If we get 30 or more, it’s amazing, we average scoring about 20 more points than in games when we are in the 20s,” Smart said. “You might say, ‘what does that have to do with the ball going in. But it’s about our juice level, our energy level. When we are able to impact the game on the defensive end, it helps us score.”
Texas guard Andrew Jones, diagnosed with leukemia in January, was back on the bench, but not in uniform Friday, after leaving the team more than two weeks ago to undergo scheduled treatments. He is scheduled to rejoin the team in mid-January.
Texas-Arlington faces Georgia State on Thursday in their Sun Belt Conference opener. They split two regular season games last year, each winning at home. Georgia State then beat Texas-Arlington in the championship game of the Sun Belt tournament.
Texas begins Big 12 competition on Wednesday at Kansas State. The Longhorns have lost four straight to the Wildcats, last winning in 2016.