NEW YORK CITY (KXAN) — Texas coach Shaka Smart completely understands this isn’t where the Longhorn program wants to be, but there’s a championship up for grabs and his players have pride.
Texas chased away its TCU demons beating the Horned Frogs in the NIT semifinals Tuesday after losing twice in the regular season. Now, the Longhorns are a game away from winning their first NIT title in 41 years.
“I thought our guys played great. When you come up here to New York and get a chance to play at Madison Square Garden it’s a heck of an opportunity. None of our guys had played there, except for one in an all-star game, so there were some nerves early on. I thought our guys played with great energy,” Smart said.
Texas used its defense and its seniors to reach this point, holding TCU below 30% shooting and 44 total points. Kerwin Roach and Dylan Osetkowski made up for 35 of Texas’ 58 points.
Thursday’s final against Lipscomb will be the final game for Osetkowsk and Roach, but for several other Longhorns this game provides invaluable experience.
Players like Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey, Jase Febres are getting more playing time and that’s a positive step toward Texas’ future.
“You want to talk about the motivating factors of what you want to do. Any time you’re in a championship game you have to stay focused on the how,” Smart said. “How are we going to get it done? The motivation is huge, but the details of how to execute and how to be the best team on both ends is what’s going to win it for you.”