AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Andrew Jones didn’t just return to basketball competition Tuesday after a long absence. He took a star turn.
Jones, absent for two years while receiving treatment for leukemia, rejoined the Texas rotation and scored a career-best 20 points in 29 minutes as the Longhorns defeated Northern Colorado 69-45 in the opener for both teams.
Courtney Ramey had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Texas. Sam Masten led Northern Colorado with 11 points. Texas limited Northern Colorado to 27 percent shooting.
Jones, a redshirt sophomore guard, scored his previous career-best 19 in a win at VCU on Dec. 5, 2017, and was leading the team with 15.3 points per game while hitting 43.2 percent on 3-pointers before missing four games with a wrist injury. He was diagnosed with leukemia a month later and missed the rest of the season. Jones was still undergoing treatment last season when he made brief appearances in two games.
This was much different. Jones entered the game at the 13:50 mark of the first half, and he did not appear hesitant. One time he stepped in front of a Northern Colorado player to induce a charging foul, falling to the court in the process. Then Jones drove through traffic in the lane for a basket.
Those moves were only an appetizer. In the second half he converted seven of 10 shots, including four of five 3-pointers.
Texas: The Longhorns have been trying for years to regain the success they maintained under coach Rick Barnes from 2002-08, when they went to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 or beyond five times in seven seasons, including the 2003 Final Four. The Longhorns have missed the NCAA Tournament in two of four seasons since Shaka Smart replaced Barnes in 2015, and they have yet to win a game in the tournament. Texas, picked by Big 12 coaches to finish fourth, played on Tuesday without Gerald Liddell, a possible starter who has been in concussion protocol for eight days.
Northern Colorado: Big Sky conference coaches picked the Bears to finish fifth in the 11-team conference. They finished second last season and return four starters, but they lost Jordan Davis, their leading scorer with 23.5 points per game as a senior. They seemed to miss Davis. The Bears went 8:59 in the first half without a field goal, making only a pair of free throws during that stretch.
Texas is at Purdue on Saturday. Texas defeated Purdue 72-68 last season in Austin, overcoming 40 points by Carsen Edwards, now with the Boston Celtics. Matt Coleman scored 22 for Texas.
Northern Colorado is at home against Incarnate Word on Saturday. Northern Colorado beat Incarnate Word 90-64 last season in San Antonio behind 20 points apiece from Davis and Jonah Radebaugh.