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Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

Men’s basketball showcases talent, composure, up by seven at halftime in exhibition game against UT

Courtesy of SEU Athletics
Elkinton demonstrates his offensive skills going for the basket against the pressuring defense from Longhorn forward Brock Cunningham.

The St. Edward’s men’s basketball team, alongside Hilltopper fans, went through a change of scenery on Oct. 30. Instead of playing at the well-known Recreation and Athletics Center, the team faced the University of Texas Longhorns in their home court: the Moody Center. The Hilltoppers lost the exhibition game 84-63, but put up a fight in a showcase of talent and composure, surprising the crowd by going into halftime with a seven point lead. 

“Really different; different type of atmosphere,” junior guard Gavino Ramos said. “This experience is definitely one that everybody here is grateful for.”

With a starting five composed of sophomores Conor McManus and Sean Elkinton, juniors Ramos and Blake Nielsen and senior Jeff Gary, the Hilltoppers came into the first half with precise passes and stellar communication. Nielsen opened the scoreboard with a two-pointer, raising the St. Ed’s student section to its feet. McManus started his first game since December and demonstrated his defensive ability with three rebounds and offensive skill, scoring a three-pointer and giving the lead to the Hilltoppers.

Eight minutes into the game, newcomers senior forward Aleu Aleu and junior guard Jayden Johnston subbed in. Both were crucial to a constant change of lead and for a tenacious defense along the Longhorns’ three-point line, causing them to commit multiple shot clock turnovers. Aleu showcased his shooting skills, going 4-4 in field goals and 1-1 in three-pointers. 

Sophomore guard Conor McManus looks for a possible pass with Longhorn forward Ze’rik Onyema pressuring him along the three point line. This was McManus’ first game since December. (Courtesy of SEU Athletics)

The starting five returned for the eight final minutes before halftime, when the Hilltoppers were ahead 20-16. From that moment until the end of the half, the team was able to hold the Longhorns’ offense at bay and maintain the lead. Ramos and Elkinton, last season’s Lone Star Conference freshman of the year, were crucial at the three-point line, coming to a total of nine points. Defensively, Elkinton and McManus combined for seven rebounds, and the Hilltoppers had a 22-16 advantage in total rebounds. Elkinton, Ramos and Aleu were the lead scorers, combining for 29 of the 39 total points. By halftime, the Hilltoppers had a seven point lead, with a 39-32 score.

“Definitely very proud, I think we stayed really composed in that first half,” Nielsen said. 

The Longhorns, however, were not satisfied with their performance and took the 15-minute halftime to evaluate what needed to change.

“We weren’t as crisp as we needed to be,” Longhorn guard Max Abmas said. “We understood going into halftime that we needed to buckle down on the defensive end and let defense create offense for us.”

Back from the locker room after halftime, the Longhorns’ seemed like a completely new team. It took them a little over four minutes to even the score and from then, they kept the lead until the end.

The Longhorns pressured the Hilltoppers in their defensive end, causing 11 turnovers. They had nine total steals in the second half alone, with Dillon Mitchell and Ze’rik Onyema being responsible for six of them. With seven minutes left, the Longhorns had a 9-point run. Despite Hilltopper efforts — coming from players and encouraging fans alike — St. Edward’s was unable to make a comeback from the 20-point lead created by the Longhorns. The game came to an end with a 84-63 score for the Longhorns. 

Nielsen and Elkinton were the lead scorers for the Hilltoppers, with 16 and 13 total individual points respectively. Elkinton led the team in rebounds, accounting for six out of the 28 total rebounds, while Nielsen led the Hilltoppers in assists, with four in total. Overall, the team averaged 41% in field goals and in three-pointers made, and averaged 71% from the free-throw line.  

“I was really proud of them,” Hilltopper head coach Andre Cook said. “I hope they (the crowd at the game) say ‘We’ll go watch them, we’ll go watch those guys play again.’”

The entire community — including Cook, Ramos and Nielsen — were impressed by the performance, especially in the first half. To them, this is more than just an opportunity to face the University of Texas, but also a way to prepare for the upcoming season. 

“If you had told us we were going to be up seven at the half we probably would have been a little shocked as well, but that’s what we’re made for,” Ramos said. “We know that when we play good teams, we know we’re going to handle that well ‘cause we came in here and we handled this well.”

St. Edward’s alumnus and Longhorn head coach Rodney Terry had high praises for the Hilltoppers after the 40-minute exhibition game. 

“A lot of respect for those guys; older team, four starters back and have a chance to be one of the contenders in their league this year,” Longhorn head coach Rodney Terry said.

St. Edward’s men’s basketball team goes onto their regular season, starting with the Canadian Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 3 in Vancouver, Canada.

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About the Contributor
Anna Pratts
Anna Pratts, Sports Editor
Anna Pratts is a sophomore from Brazil and majoring in Writing and Rhetoric with a concentration in journalism and digital media and minoring in Global Studies. This is her second year writing for Hilltop Views and her first semester as Sports Editor. She loves writing about sports, especially soccer and basketball, but she is looking forward to exploring other areas and growing as a writer.

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