Austin, Texas Jordan Hamilton scored 19 points, and freshman Tristan Thompson had a breakout performance with 17 to lead Texas to an 89-58 victory over Louisiana Tech on Wednesday night in the 2K Sports Classic.
Gary Johnson added 15 points for the Longhorns (2-0), who will play in the semifinals of the tournament benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer in New York on Nov. 18.
Brandon Gibson had 16 points, and Olu Ashaolu added 13 points and 11 rebounds for Louisiana Tech (0-1).
“We play a lot of teams that aren’t as good as Texas,” Louisiana Tech coach Kerry Rupp said. “But you come in here and play a team like Texas, and it’s baptism by fire. They did a great job, and they’re the type of team that we want to be.”
After a sluggish start, Texas pulled away and held a double-digit lead for much of the game. The offense struggled at times, shooting 34-of-74 from the field, including 4-of-16 from three-point range. But it was Texas’ defense that controlled the tempo, forcing 22 turnovers, grabbing 12 steals and getting seven blocks.
The Longhorns didn’t seem concerned about the offensive struggles.
“We’re not worried about our shooters because shooters always go through slumps,” Thompson said. “If you miss shots, you have to keep shooting them because once they fall, you’re going to be in the groove.”
Texas coach Rick Barnes said Thompson was so disappointed about missed free throws in his collegiate debut on Monday that he stayed after the game as late as midnight and returned at 6:30 a.m. the next morning to work on his shooting. The extra practice paid off for Thompson on Wednesday.
“I was having a lot of fun and trying to get the team going,” Thompson said. “Whatever we need during any stretch of the game is what I’m going to do for the team.”
Dogus Balbay provided bursts of momentum for the Longhorns in the second half on several hustle plays in transition. On one fast-break play, Balbay faked two Louisiana Tech defenders for an acrobatic layup and sprinted down the court to block a shot.
“I always try to push the ball hard; it doesn’t matter first half or second half,” said Balbay, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds. “That’s just me. I play hard on both ends.
“We’re trying to get better every day,” Balbay said after Texas’ second-consecutive 31-point margin of victory. “And I think tonight, we definitely improved from our last game.”