AUSTIN, Texas - "Keep Austin Weird" is actually a slogan adopted by a local business alliance, but it could realistically apply to the Texas basketball team, which certainly is operating out of the norm these days.
Using a young central cast, Texas has rolled to a 9-2 record, including a convincing, 77-65 win over Temple on Saturday.
"This is not a normal group of freshmen. This is a seasoned group of young guys, and I see nothing but them getting better and better," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy, referring to Texas, which uses six freshmen in a nine-man rotation.
Included in this group is Philadelphia's Jaylen Bond, who ended up with 12 points and eight rebounds for the Longhorns.
Bond, from Plymouth Whitemarsh High, entered the game with 12 minutes, 6 seconds left in the first half and 14 seconds later got a tip-in to cut the Temple lead to 15-10. With 8:24 left in the contest, Bond got another tip-in to give Texas its first double-digit lead at 62-52. With 5:17 remaining, he left the game to a nice ovation from the 11,441 fans, most of whom probably realized the same thing that Dunphy would express in the press room later.
"I know Jaylen Bond very well, and you can just see him and feel him getting to the rim," said the Temple coach. "He's got that knack that isn't just size and strength; it's also a natural knack for rebounding. There's a feel for the game that some kids have."
"Basically, I just try to play my angles for the rebounds, and I think it helps me a lot," said Bond. "It was good to get this win against some friends I knew."
But Bond immediately downplayed being motivated by the fact the game was nationally televised, which meant many other friends back in Philadelphia would be watching.
"As I get more confidence, and get more comfortable with the offense and defense, I'll be able to do help more," Bond said.
"Jaylen, the last two games, has started to do some really great things that we needed from him," said Texas coach Rick Barnes.
Temple, which was led by junior Khalif Wyatt's 24 points, twice pulled out to eight-point leads in the first half. But both times Texas returned fire and trailed the Owls by only 34-31 at halftime. Texas outscored Temple by 46-31 in the second half.
Ramone Moore scored 13 points to make the 1,000-point scoring mark for his career at Temple.
"You rather see that off a win, but we just weren't tough enough and didn't play well enough to get it for him," said Dunphy.