Mack leads Texas past Long Beach 71-65
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — After Eric Davis Jr. finally made some shots and emerged from a season-long slump, teammate Tevin Mack turned to him and said, “Welcome back, E.D.”
Back indeed, at least temporarily. Davis scored 16 points to help Texas erase a 12-point deficit and defeat Long Beach State 71-65 on Saturday.
Mack scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half. Kendal Yancy added 11 points and some critical hustle.
Davis, a sophomore, hit 3 of 7 3-pointers, a marked improvement after a 6-for-41 (14.6 percent) start this season. Last season he converted 38 percent of his 3-pointers.
While he tried to work through his ordeal, Davis’ teammates provided encouragement.
“They said keep shooting the ball,” Davis said. “I stay confident. That’s who I am.”
Coach Shaka Smart is not so sure of that.
“Absolutely not,” Smart said. “You’d have to be a machine to not be affected by having a string of games when things don’t go your way. He’s 19 years. Nobody wants to admit those sorts of things.”
Evan Payne led Long Beach with a season-best 26 points,
Payne, a junior, made a career-best eight 3-point baskets. His 3-pointer early in the second half gave Long Beach (2-10) a 12-point lead.
But Texas chipped away, with Mack and Davis combining to score 12 straight Texas points as the Longhorns overtook Long Beach and created separation.
Davis made consecutive baskets, one a 3-pointer, to give Texas (5-4) a seven-point lead with less than six minutes remaining. Mack’s 3-pointer from the corner put Texas ahead by eight with 4:40 to go.
Long Beach coach Dan Monson said his perimeter players were supposed to help defend inside against Texas’ big men, but not by leaving Mack, the Longhorns’ most reliable shooter this season.
“If you don’t stay with the game plan, they are gonna burn you,” Monson said. “He sure did.”
Payne averaged 12 points a game before Saturday. He scored 17 in the first half against Texas, converting 5 of 6 3-point attempts while helping Long Beach to a 34-28 lead at the break.
But the 49ers could not sustain the effort.
“We let them hang around,” Monson said. “In the second half defensively we got tired and just let them in the paint too much.”
Long Beach: Monson has believed in aggressive scheduling since the late 1990s when he was the head coach at Gonzaga, setting the stage for that school’s elevation to national prominence under Mark Few. This season the 49ers are 0-6 against teams from Power Five conferences by an average of 23 points. The 49ers also lost to non-Power Five Wichita State by 37. Before beating Pepperdine at home on Wednesday, Long Beach went 0-9 on a road trip during which it traveled 15,125 miles.
“We played this schedule to get better,” Monson said. “I think we got better today, but this team needs to reward themselves with some wins.”
Texas: The Longhorns began the game ranked last in the Big 12 with 42.7 percent field-goal-shooting accuracy. They hit 33.3 percent in the first half against Long Beach and broke loose in the second half to hit 53.8 percent and score 43 points.
Before Saturday, Long Beach State ranked 331st in the nation in 3-point field goal defense, allowing opponents 41 percent accuracy. Texas, meanwhile, ranked 337th in 3-point shooting accuracy at 27.5 percent. But the Longhorns hit 9 of 25 against Long Beach, a pretty decent 36-percent mark.
Long Beach faces Oregon State on Friday in Portland, Oregon. This will be the 49ers’ seventh game against teams from Power Five conferences away from home.
Texas faces Arkansas in Houston on Dec. 17 as part of the Lone Star Shootout doubleheader. Texas A&M meets Arizona in the other game.