Boy, that was fun. After Saturday's "Murphy's Law" loss to Kansas State, it was great to see the Texas Longhorns clicking on all cylinders. The Longhorns came out on fire, playing a virtually flawless first five minutes, to say nothing of a 54 point first half. Texas roared out to a 20+ point lead, settling in for a final score of 87-68.
Things started very well. Connor Lammert filled in nicely for Jonathan Holmes, hitting two early 3's. Texas ran multiple defensive assignments in Oklahoma State's opening possessions--was that Demarcus Holland guarding Le'Bryan Nash on possession one?--quickly frustrating Markel Brown and Phil Forte. And the Longhorns managed to draw two quick fouls on one of the Cowboy's key players, as Forte sat for a good portion of the first half.
Javan Felix provided the scoring outburst in the first half, en fuego with his shooting en route to a team leading 27. Gone in 60 seconds, the Longhorns continued to apply the pressure by rotating through guard depth, with Martez Walker contributing some scoring (12 points) and Kendal Yancy and Demarcus Holland giving maximum effort through defense, rebounding, and ball distribution.
There are two things I absolutely love from an individual aspect that were fully on display tonight. The first is Isaiah Taylor's amazing ability to dribble penetrate. He hit a couple midrange "shot put" attempts early, and took control later on through some pretty dribble-drives (including a beautiful transition alley-oop to Walker). I'd let him handle my balls any day. The second is Cameron Ridley's body control in the paint. It's a 180 change from his frustrating freshman year. Ridley now has strong hands, controlled body movement, great timing on his jumps, and a wholly irrational confidence. It's awesome.
Not to be overlooked was Texas' defensive effort. Barnes came in with the idea to take away Forte and Brown, and it largely succeeded. Once Forte went to the bench with two fouls, Texas briefly showed zone before scurrying out to a big lead. The Cowboys were content to take what Texas gave them. Le'Bryan Nash had a nice game, putting in 23 points and 6 rebounds. But I thought it was telling that Brown and Forte combined for just 21 attempts, while Brian Williams and Kamari Murphy had 14. Brown's 18 points were extremely quiet, with most of the contributions coming from the line.
Tangentially, I enjoyed the Kevin Durant flashback to that triple OT Durant-Boggan game in 2007. I know Texas lost, but that was still one of the best college basketball games I've ever seen.
This was arguably Texas' most complete game all year, and serves as a template for how the Longhorns would optimally finish the conference schedule. Texas next faces West Virginia in Austin this Saturday.