Word had long trickled over to Texas on how talented Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins and center Joel Embiid were and how high they'd potentially go in the NBA draft. The Longhorns ingested everything they heard and had finally gotten sick from it. And Saturday, the day when the big-name freshmen were on courts across the nation, Texas stood face-to-face with two of them.
"I think I've always been the type of player that -- I haven't been highly ranked or anything like that -- so I've always had a problem with stars and the way people treat them," said Texas guard Demarcus Holland, who was matched up with Wiggins in Texas' 81-69 win. "So I came into the game knowing that he bleeds like I bleed. He's going to have to make shots over me, and I'm not going to back off of him just because of his name."
Holland, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, typically gets the Longhorns' toughest defensive assignment. He got the 6-foot-8 Wiggins on Saturday.
Holland's pregame study of Wiggins was no longer or more detailed than that of any other opponent. Video clips revealed all the moves and tendencies he needed to know, but what Holland really locked in on was how opponents defended Wiggins.
Too many times, he noticed it was with kid gloves.
"I feel like a lot of people who try to guard him, they're afraid of him because of his name," Holland said.
On this day, there was no fear in Texas.
Not from Holland, and definitely not from Texas center Cameron Ridley, who spent most of his game going head-to-head with Embiid.
Ridley's first three shot attempts over Kansas' 7-foot center showed that he was both aware and bothered by the size disparity. The 6-foot-9 forward altered his shot twice to try to score over Embiid, then watched his third shot get swatted to start a Jayhawks fast break.
When finesse didn't work, Ridley resorted to muscle.
The moment the game changed came when the 285-pound Ridley grabbed a rebound and Embiid's right arm was locked inside of his. As Ridley pivoted, he unintentionally, but very forcefully, slammed Embiid to the court.
The motion was so violent, the thud of Embiid hitting the floor so shocking, the game literally stopped. Guard Isaiah Taylor, who ran to grab the ball from Ridley, stopped and walked. Even an official seemed to blow his whistle inadvertently.
No foul was called.
Embiid was not the same after the play, and neither was Ridley, who offered that the Longhorns respected Wiggins and Embiid but did not fear them.
"Guys like that, they deserve the credit that they have because of how well they were playing up to this point," Ridley said. "But when the ball went up for the game, we weren't going to let them do what they're known for doing on our court. So we just really focused on locking those two guys down and playing our game."
Embiid shot 3-of-9 from the floor and had eight points to go with 10 rebounds and two blocks. Ridley didn't shoot well, either, going 3-of-7 with nine points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
Ridley said he didn't watch any film on Embiid. He didn't have to. The two faced off at adidas Nationals last summer, and Ridley figured he'd use his strength to keep him from getting to the areas he liked.