The Texas Longhorns managed (yet again) to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In a devastating overtime loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers, the Longhorns held a 10 point lead with 3:35 to play, only to need a clutch Jonathan Holmes 3 to send the game into overtime. A complete inability to hit a jump shot or grab a defensive rebound doomed Texas in extra time, and handed the Mountaineers their first ever Big 12 victory.
It's not too early to say the season is lost, but an 0-2 start in Big 12 play does not bode well for Texas' NCAA Tournament chances, let alone being competitive for a top 5 spot in the conference standings. If you haven't done so already, this loss should have you adjusting your calibrations for this Longhorns' season. At this point, I'm not expecting an NCAA Tournament bid, even if Myck Kabongo comes back in February and lights the world on fire.
That said, there are certainly encouraging signs of play from this young Longhorns squad. Rather than focus on the negatives, here are a few aspects of the game that I liked.
First, Javan Felix's early play was very encouraging. Scoring-wise, Felix is at his best when he slashes to the rim and looks for his midrange game. He's too small to finish regularly, and not quick enough to draw contact consistently, but he can certainly waterbug his way into scoring opportunities. The second half was more a mixed bag: too much dribbling, little attacking. I think Felix wears down over the course of a game. Further, Barnes' grind 'em out offensive sets and lack of a secondary ballhandler or ball-on-floor scoring option hurts Felix's cause.
Conversely, Jonathan Holmes started slowly but came on in the second half. The end of regulation 3-pointer was the non-UNC highlight of the season. I'll take his 13 point, 9 rebound effort anytime he wants to contribute it.
Freshmen centers Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh are oft equal parts frustrating, equal parts talented. Ridley unacceptably finished with just 1 point, but stayed active on defense and rebounding. His hands and court awareness are assets: he had a nice bounce pass assist on a basket cut to Sheldon McClellan, and almost had another to Connor Lammert. Ridley could really benefit from more low post entries. Both those aforementioned passes came on an upper block, where Ridley isn't a scoring threat.
I still think Ibeh has little concept of how to keep his man off the block, but when he's free to roam, Ibeh is fun to watch. In 10 less minutes than Ridley, Ibeh racked up 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks--a good day for him. A common theme this season, both Texas' freshmen bigs matched up against upperclassmen in Aaric Murray and Deniz Kilicli. That's generally a recipe for disaster, but I felt both Longhorns held their own.
What's frustrating about this team is that they're actually a lot of fun to watch (shooting woes aside). The players hustle, play outstanding defense, and work their tails off to get better. But it's the second year in a row that they can't close, and the agony of defeat after defeat is taking its toll on the fanbase. I'd like to tell you it's going to get better, but I just don't know.
I'll stop it there. Stay positive, I guess. Texas travels to Iowa St. this Saturday, and the Cyclones just went to Kansas and took the Jayhawks to overtime. Say your hail marys now for a win.