Boy, Myck Kabongo: aren't you a sight for sore eyes? Kabongo's final statline--13 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds--was but a small indicator of the impact he had on the Texas Longhorns. Color guy Reid Gettys noticed it early on: Kabongo can penetrate into the lane at will, leveraging the defense into mismatches and open shooters.
Even if the Longhorns had lost to the Iowa St. Cyclones (and I'm sure glad they didn't), I still might have called it Texas' best game to date, with the UNC win and KU loss close contenders. Certainly it was one of the most enjoyable.
Iowa St. did score 86 points, 71 of which came in regulation play, but it never looked like Texas was playing bad defense. Rather, Iowa St. managed to play effective offense, getting Texas out of rhythm by forcing switches, help defense, and runs towards open shooters. The Cyclones shot just 35% from the field, but 16 offensive boards and just 8 turnovers keep the margin close.
With Kabongo (and a formerly injured Jonathan Holmes) back, Barnes took a chance in experimenting with his lineup. He started with a 3-forward set, keeping centers Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh on the bench. Freshman Connor Lammert drew his first start of the year, as did fellow frosh DeMarcus Holland at the 2. The mixing and matching of personnel likely caused some issues on defense; guys simply weren't accustomed to playing with each other and were slow to rotate or box out properly on all possessions.
However, the offense looked greatly improved, particularly when Barnes pulled out the two ballhandler sets with Kabongo and point guard Javan Felix in the game at the same time. I posited in the preview that Kabongo would make Felix's life much easier. Felix started his night with two catch-and-shoot open 3-pointers which surely buoyed his confidence.
In the frontcourt, both Lammert and Ioannis Papapetrou had a whale of a game, capstoned by Papi's clutch 3 to tie the game in regulation and Lammert's huge block in the 2nd overtime in the waning seconds. The duo combined for 28 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assist and 3 blocks, and played virtually all of the crucial minutes in the second half and overtime.
Meanwhile, clear messages were being sent to backcourt sophomores Julien Lewis and Sheldon McClellan. Lewis sat the entire first half, while McClellan was benched during the 2nd half stretch run. When the game went to overtime, both players responded. Lewis hit two money 3's in the first overtime, and McClellan scored all 10 of Texas' second overtime points. Hopefully, this game will be a turning point in their seasons.
But ultimately, the story of the night is the return of Myck Kabongo. For Texas fans, it's a damn good story. Welcome back, Myck.