I'm starting to think Rick Barnes owns Texas Tech the same way Bob Knight owns Texas A&M, Miles Brand, and Puerto Rican police officers. In the team's most complete win in conference play, the Texas Longhorns simply outdefended, outshot, outrebounded, and outplayed a very solid Texas Tech club. Oh, and dare I say outcoached using an array of set plays designed to take advantage of mismatches in the post, and a very active zone defense that at times confused a good shooting Tech bunch. But more on that later in the coaching section. On to the grades.
As classy as a Gene Keady comb-over.
DJ Augustin. B+. Ho-hum, another all-Big 12 performance going 7-14 with 5 dimes while going 4-4 from the charity stripe. He misses the A for the subpar 1-5 from behind the arc, and failing to enter the ball to the post when his block had great position. As a leader of the ballclub he needs to understand that his young big men need touches especially when the game is out of hand. Aside from picking nits, he's one of the top two or three lead guards in the nation.
Damion James. B+. I thought he rushed a couple of midrange shots that made his stat-line an un Damion like 3-10. He's still a force on the interior and I'd like to see him involved in some more sets allowing Connor to hit him in the low post from the high post. He's a bear to defend on the block when you're putting small forwards on him. Overall a solid game for Damion other than the shooting with 3 offensive boards and 8 overall to boot. His kickouts to perimeter players got him an eye-popping 6 assists but more importantly allowed AJ Abrams to get untracked from deep with some easy catch and shoots. Kudos to Damion for continuing to be a team player and leader even when he's having an off-night shooting the basketball.
Connor Atchley. B. Connor was slowed by the two early personal fouls limiting him to only 23 minutes. When Atchley was in, however, he was very active and efficient finishing with 8 boards on 2-3 shooting. I'll say it time and again, though, in order for this to be a dynamic team, Connor needs 10 looks a game and atleast 4 from downtown. He's far too big a threat from the perimeter to let opposing teams' big men off the hook by failing to give him his share of looks. Who else is dying to see CA play in the high post with his shooting and passing ability?
AJ Abrams. B. The best thing to happen to AJ was getting into early foul trouble and being able to sit and watch from the bench. It settled him down individually, and allowed Texas to develop some continuity on offense by getting its big men involved with touches inside. For the first time in a good while, you had post men feeding guards with easy kick-out 3's, and the main beneficiary was Abrams in the second half. I'm skeptical that that could have happened with AJ playing his 35 minutes and taking his normal 18 shots in Texas' typical offensive style. It's funny but unselfishness can be just as contagious as its counterpart and we saw that in the second half of Saturday's ballgame. Individually, it was a nice breakout 6-12 shooting game for AJ. Zero assists from any guard hurts their grade, though.
Justin Mason. B+. Justin continued to do the little things playing suffocating defense against Tech's number 1 scoring option Martin Zeno holding the southpaw to 3-12 shooting and only a couple easy looks. Mason has taken to the role of team stopper, but with the foul trouble limiting Atchley and Abrams early on, Justin looked more comfortable looking for his shot on offense going 3-8. He still needs to start hitting looks from 3-land, but this is by the far the most confident he's looked shooting the basketball in months. If he can get a couple of deep looks to go down, his rehabilitation will be complete. Overall he's playing an invaluable role for this basketball team. Here's hoping he continues to improve offensively.
Gary Johnson. B. It was great seeing an active Gary Johnson Saturday and a much more relaxed player at that. Gary seemed comfortable coming off the bench and relieved of the pressure of being a starting cog, he netted 7 boards and 2-4 shooting in just 19 minutes. He also played a very important part in Texas' zone, aggressively challenging and bothering wing shooters. Gary continues to improve and it was nice seeing him get some touches on the block.
Wangmene. C. Alex still seems a little stiff on the offensive end, but there is no denying his potential evidenced by his 3 boards (2 offensive) in just 6 minutes of action. He'll be a good player, he just needs a bit more polish offensively.
Clint Chapman. C. I'll say it right now, and you can call me crazy, but Clint Chapman will be an all-Big 12 performer at some point in his career. He oozes offensive post talent and when his strength and physicality catches up with his talent, watch out. He had a tough 1-4 shooting night, but when the opportunity presents itself in terms of minutes and offensive looks, Chapman will produce. Good young player.
Mooney. Incomplete. 1 minute of play.
Pittman. A. After a 1 game hiatus, punishment, tough love message, call it what you will, Big Dex had his best game of the season. The matchup was certainly a favorable one for all of the Longhorn bigs, but Dexter took the most advantage getting 7 points in just 10 minutes of play including 5-5 from the free throw line with an "and 1" rim rocking facial. He also added 5 boards, and if you're counting at home, that's basically a board every other possession. Good for him. I would love to see him continue to get 10-15 minutes a game, as long as we can defend out of our zone to hide him.
Coaching. A. The coaching staff deserves a ton of credit for this win. Coming off a couple of conference grinders, and sandwiched between a huge road test this Wednesday against TAMU, the kids could have overlooked Texas Tech. Well, they didn't and in fact came out and overwhelmed a good Texas Tech club even after two of its top 4 offensive threats were benched for early foul trouble.
I love how Barnes switched gears going to some post oriented sets after Abrams and Atchley went down, even calling a couple of high post plays to take advantage of Damion James' skills. Defensively, it was a game that from a preparation standpoint, was a hallmark of Barnes' Clemson teams and his best defensive teams here at Texas. The kids were coached to get out on Voskuil's wing, forcing him to put the ball on the floor at all costs which bothered him into going just 1-6 from the field. As mentioned before, Mason's scouting report on Zeno helped the defensive specialist hold Tech's number 1 option to just 3-12 from the field. Justin tried to limit catch and shoots by denying Zeno, but when Zeno did catch the ball, Mason would immediately give ground respecting Martin's slashing ability. The plan was executed to perfection as Zeno never really looked comfortable or in rhythm.
In any event it was a good win all the way around for the Horns. Which leads us to the matchup Wednesday night in College Station. It's a matchup that is as diametrically opposed to Tech from a personnel standpoint as you can get, and it'll be interesting to see how Barnes will approach the game. Will Texas try to impose its will and play 3-guard? Or will Barnes be motivated by the play of his young post men and try to matchup with the Aggies, electing to hide guys like Chapman and Pittman in a zone for a portion of the game? Look for a TAMU preview tomorrow to discuss these topics.