AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Tyrese Hunter scored 18 points to lead No. 12 Texas to a 72-57 season-opening win over UTEP in the Longhorns’ new arena Monday night.
Hunter could be the biggest impact transfer in the Big 12 after his move from Iowa State. Last season’s conference freshman of the year led the Cyclones to the Sweet 16, and he was the engine behind the Longhorns’ offense as Texas held off a second-half rally that had the Miners within eight points late.
Hunter was 6-of-8 shooting and added five rebounds, one shy of the team high. Ze’Rik Onyema led UTEP with 10 points.
“College basketball is about players. … You have to have a guy who can go get a bucket or create a bucket,” Texas coach Chris Beard said of Hunter. “His speed is elite.”
Texas this season moved to the $375 million Moody Center on the edge of campus, leaving behind the old Frank Erwin Center after 45 years.
The new court was anything but comfortable when the Longhorns committed five quick turnovers, and missed nine of their first 12 shots, including the first five 3-pointers.
But lockdown defense smothered the Miners early until Texas could find its rhythm, and the Longhorns finally got rolling behind consecutive 3-pointers from transfer Sir’Jabari Rice and freshman Arterio Morris. Hunter swished another 3-pointer from the left wing and Texas stretched a 9-8 lead to 33-20 by halftime.
The Miners cut the lead under 10 in the second half when Jamari Sibley made an off-balance 3-pointer to beat the shot clock. UTEP kept it close with a rebounding effort that was keeping the Longhorns off the boards. The Miners outrebounded Texas 32-27.
A driving layup by Hunter followed by a Dylan Disou’s dunk off a feed from Marcus Carr put the Longhorns up by 14 with six minutes to play and ended the threat.
“Just being a point guard and leader of our team,” Hunter said. “Be aggressive, get out on transition. You have to get stops and get out and go score.”
UTEP: The Miners have a bevy of experienced players, just not much court time together. After losing four starters and 12 players total from last season’s 20-win team, the Miners have six Division I transfers and four more from the junior college ranks. The Miners just need some time to grow as a team.
“That game could have gotten embarrassing early. Our guys fought and gave ourselves a chance,” UTEP coach Joe Golding said. “That’s a really good (Texas) team. Their pieces fit. They are soaring and scoring.”
Texas: The Longhorns play a rugged style of defense that can carry them through offensive droughts, and it did Monday night. Texas forced 19 UTEP turnovers, many of them early, and turned them into 21 points. The Miners struggled to beat the shot clock on several possessions in the first half and didn’t make a 3-pointer until the second.
UTEP was twice in the first half whistled for technical fouls under the NCAA’s new “flopping foul.” That’s when an official determines a player fakes being fouled on a shot. The technical awards a free throw to the opponent and Texas made both.
UTEP hosts New Mexico State on Saturday.
Texas hosts Houston Christian on Thursday night.