Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Longhorns blow an 8 point lead with 3 to go. Expect the expected.
That was brutal. The tea-and-crumpets crowd at Reliant Stadium, mostly all-clad in Burnt Orange, expected the victory. The Texas Longhorns held an 8 point lead over the UCLA Bruins, with 3 minutes to go. And, predictably, blew the game.
A comedy of errors in both coaching and execution doomed Texas, culminating in forward Jonathan Holmes (who, thanks to head coach Rick Barnes, was playing the 5), dribbling the ball down the court and hoisting a no-chance three in a futile attempt to win the game. Holmes, by the way, has 4 total assists on the season and is shooting 2-14 from 3-point range. So it naturally makes sense to have Holmes lead the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Burnt Orange Nation's Jeff Haley has a fantastic (yet excruciating) breakdown of the Longhorns' failure to execute in the last 3 minutes. Personally, I think the game was lost when Barnes made the mind-boggling decision to remove Cameron Ridley from the game with 2:19 to play. The burgeoning freshman played 32 minutes in the best game of his young career. Ridley scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, posting his first collegiate double-double.
Removing Ridley from the game was a classic case of Barnes overthinking things, preparing for hack-a-Rid instead of considering that little things like defense and rebounding were paramount in a close game. Without Ridley on the court, Texas gave up two offensive rebounds to UCLA, then compounded both issues by fouling a Bruin in process of making a basket.
The late-game offensive sets were equally puzzling. Asking a team full of underclassmen to break a full court press is understandably difficult. But Texas went away from its nominally successful offensive set of pass-pass-pass on the perimeter for top of the key "isolation" sets. Asking your freshman point guard to control a dribble 25 feet from the basket for 15 seconds: now that's foolhardy.
In other thank-you-for-not-coaching news, Rick Barnes pulled Connor Lammert halfway through the second half, despite the fact that Lammert had played most of the first half with Holmes on the bench with foul trouble. And played surprisingly well. Lammert actually understood the value of utilizing the high post when UCLA went with its 2-3 zone, dishing a couple nice assists to Ridley for easy dunks. He also hit the boards hard, grabbing 8 rebounds.
Javan Felix, brutal final minutes aside, also had a nice outing, scoring 13 (albeit on 6-17 shooting) while dishing 4 assists and grabbing 8 rebounds. Overall, the Longhorns did well to protect the ball (just 11 turnovers), yet two came in the critical final few possessions. Shooting, once again, was disappointing: 23-62 (37.1%) overall, 4-20 (20.0%) from distance.
UCLA is not a good team right now, but this is a win that could buoy them to greater heights. It should have been Texas'. Jordan Adams, who scored a team-high 18, was the only Bruin that scared me with the ball. Shabazz Muhammad looks like an average athlete who wants to play isolation basketball all the time. He should've picked Kentucky, frankly. Kyle Anderson looks stuck-in-mud slow on the court but somehow gets things done. Amazingly, with the haircut, Anderson looks taller than Ridley. Oh, and seeing the big Tony Parker next to the equally big Cameron Ridley was amusing.
Final takeaways? Take it away, Jay. And #FreeMyck.
UCLA-Texas game underscores the vast difference between a good game and a close game.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) December 8, 2012