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Win vs. Rock Chalk...Grades are in

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In front of NFL stars Vince Young and Aaron Ross and one of the most electric crowds Bill Little's protege srr50 has seen at the Erwin Center, the Texas Longhorns strapped it on for 40 minutes against a top 5 Kansas Jayhawk club rock-chalk-full of NBA talent. Surviving an offensive rebounding barrage in the first 20 with sizzling shooting, the Longhorns hung around setting up a 2nd half in which they locked down both the offensive and defensive backboards on a way to a hard fought 3 point win. Doing it largely with their number 1 option DJ Augustin mired in a horrible scoring slump. What a big win for the program. Let's take a look at some of the keys to the game and see how the team did.

Keys to win if you're Texas

Transition defense. It all starts with shot selection. The better the shot, the easier it is to get back in transition. The worst thing that can happen to Texas is for DJ to penetrate and take a wild shot leaving only the smallish Abrams to rotate back quickly. This will lead to run outs and layups all night. Texas needs to take rhythm shots with good court balance within the confines of their offense. I would almost always designate Mason with the responsibility of getting back and stopping the basketball on any misses unless he's shooting. The other guard Abrams or DJ needs to run to protect the basket, and be the first to rotate to a 3 point shooter on the secondary break.

Texas did a good job of shot selection throughout the game and I only remember 1 quick jumper by AJ Abrams leading to an easy runout opportunity for Kansas. Guards and forwards alike rotated back effectively and challenged Kansas players going to the goal in transition. Texas defended the secondary break effectively as well, holding the Jayhawks to zero transition 3's. I'd give the transition defense a solid B+. They don't get the A because they had trouble rebounding in transition, but a lot of that is a function of size and a credit to Kansas' big athletic frontcourt. Mason trying rebound with Rush and Arthur. Yikes. Overall it was a tremendous effort.

Halfcourt defense. In order to facilitate getting back in transition and finding players, I would run alot of zone if I were Texas. It makes it easier for big men and guards alike to get back in good shape defensively if you're running to spots instead of players. The zone will also mitigate Kansas' quickness advantage and size advantage.

We played less zone than I thought and I think part of that was our inability to rebound defensively in the first half. When we did zone, we got a couple of stops which is all you're really asking. Overall, the half court defense was great and I give it A. And this grade coincides with my next key.

Recognize Shooters. Not all shooters are created equally and Kansas is no exception. In zone or man, it's important to know who you need to close out on aggressively and who you are enticing to shoot. Sharon Collins and Russell Robinson want to slash and attack the basket, so when you help and recover to them, you do so respecting a shot fake and go by building in a buffer as you're recovering. If these two hit a couple bombs then, yes, you recover more aggressively. But my scouting report tells me to make them shoot the basketball.

When recovering or closing out to Chalmers or Rush in either man or zone, I'm attacking their shooting hand in an effort to make them put the ball on the floor and get them off the jumper at all costs. It's gravy if I can make them catch and hold, but under no circumstances are they to get an uncontested jumper. If they blow by on a shot fake, I'll take my chances with my help forcing a midrange jumper. Again, this is why I prefer zone because shot fake to penetration is less punitive.

A good effort recognizing shooters. The key to holding a good shooting team like Kansas is knowing how to pick your poison. We kept Chalmers off of his jump shot and ran at him effectively holding him to 1-5 from 3. His one bomb was a contested shot with 30 seconds remaining in the game. Rush went 2-5, but all except 1 of his 3's were contested. Mason went under a screen instead of over and it cost us a wide open look. We made Collins perimeter oriented for the most part, giving him one driving layup where Mason was beaten baseline. He was held to 0-3 from deep. Russell Robinson was held to 1-3 and 1-6 overall. We invited Russell to shoot the entire night and kept him from slashing and creating. Great job by our guys. I give them an A- here.

Transition Offense. Kansas gives up a bunch of easy looks if you can take care of the basketball. Run when you can but don't get caught up in running for the sake of running. If we can get a wide open look in transition, take it, if not, pull it out and run some offense. Again, Kansas won't lock you down in a half court setting, so there is no harm in longer possessions if the transition numbers aren't there. DJ will be key in this aspect of the game. He'll have decide when to run and when to run some offense. If he can do this effectively, Texas can shoot a high percentage in this game.

I think we ran at appropriate times, but recognized numbers and ran offense when the sitiuation was appropriate. I give us an A here.

Turnovers. Value the basketball, even if the game turns into a track meet. Kansas does a great job of getting up and down the floor, yet only averages 13 turnovers a game. The teams that have played Kansas close G. Tech, Missouri, and USC, were even or won the turover battle. In their only loss, Kansas turned the ball over 3 more times than KSU. If Texas can play the Jayhawks even in this category, they have an excellent chance to win.

We had 8 turnovers to Kansas 9. Terrific, terrific job of valuing the basketball. Augustin and Abrams had 1 TO a piece. Mason had zero turnovers. As active, quick, and athletic as Kansas' guards are, this stat is amazing. A+ for that effort.

Shot selectionJust to reiterate. Bad shots lead to 4 point swings. I'm talking to you DJ and you AJ Abrams. Good open looks that don't fall are almost like punts. They aren't going to win you ball games but they won't get you beat. A good shot with proper court balance gives you a chance at an offensive rebound but also allows everyone to get back and find their man. Any shot by a post inside the paint is a good shot for these very reasons. We need to make it a priority to get Johnson, Pittman, and James the ball inside when we can, and hope that our perimeter players aren't settling on 30 foot heat checks.

Again, there were only a couple of bad shots out of rhythm and tempo. AJ had one obvious one, and DJ forced some things driving to the basket. Other than that, I thought the team sought out good shots, looking for cutters and post men alike. There was very little settling for perimeter jumpshots that could be had at any point in the shot clock. Probably one of the best 2 or 3 shot selection games we've played all year. Give 'em an A.

Rebounding

This is a key I didn't include because I thought we could rebound with Kansas. In the first half we were atrocious giving up 10 offensive boards, half of which were probably in transition off a secondary break. We locked that down in the second half giving up only 1 offensive board the rest of the way and outrebounded the Jayhawks 34 to 28. Give the team an A for getting that tightened up.

The Players

DJ Augustin. C-.Point blank the kid is struggling finding any rhythm offensively. For the most part I think it's a function of teams inviting him to drive the basketball and helping without the fear of DJ dishing off for easy baskets. This is partly DJ's fault and partly the fault of players not making themselves available by going to the basket. It needs to be addressed because DJ is too good to go 1-13. He had 5 dimes, but it might take a 10 assist night or two to get teams to think twice about helping so aggressively.

Damion James. B+. Dude had a double double in the second half and generally dominated the paint on the defensive end. Offensively, James' is a different player when he's allowed to face up vs. his opponent and either hit a little J or drive to the goal vs. a bigger player. His disappearing act in the first half keeps him from the A.

Connor Atchley. A. Holy shit, kid looked like Christian Laetner minus Brian Davis' lips on his ass. 6-6 from the field and 4 blocked shots is unreal. Get ya some big fella. What a weapon he can be if he continues to seek out his shot like he did last night. Great game Connor.

AJ Abrams. B+. Not a great shooting night but the kid hit some big shots to break Kansas momentum in both halves of the game. He only had one bad shot that led to an easy run-out for the hawks. AJ also took care of the basketball and had only 1 turnover for the game. Great job.

Justin Mason. B+.Play some point, two dimes no turnovers. Lock down an NBA first rounder, sure coach. Rebound like a true forward eventhough I'm Emmanual Lewis compared to most, no problem 8 boards. This kid is our glue and he comes to play every night. He'd be an elite player if he can start shooting the basketball consistently. He gets an A if he knocks down a 3 or shoots better than 3-6 from the line. His put-back was one of the 3-4 plays down the stretch that won the ballgame.

Gary Johnson. B.A good game for Gary, as he guarded and defended to the best of his ability while James got his shit together on the bench. He give us a legit post threat with tremendous quickness and balance from 10 feet in, which is complimented by good touch shooting the basketball. Still, he needs to get those little 4 footers to go down with more success. The 2-5 from the field and 3-6 from the line knock his grade down a bit. But keep in mind the kid's playing with two broken bones in his nose. And Darrell Arthur and Darnel Jackson's elbows are at just the right heighth to keep them broken.

Wangmene. B. Uber athletic blocked shot that made me spill my Carta Blanca all over my z-cavaricci's. He still finds himself out of position on both ends of the floor, but my lord his athleticism is off the charts.

Clint Chapman. B. 1-1 from the floor in limited minutes. He did cost DJ an assist by not cutting to the goal off of penetration.

Pittman. Incomplete. Not his type of game when transition defense is at a premium. If you can't beat Chaka Kaun down the floor you can't play.

Coaching. A. We ran some shit tonight we’ve never run. Double high ball screens with a post diving to the goal. A double scissor screen with a post diving to the block and a potential entry passer to the corner. We’re running some motion and some sets folks and they’re designed to get interior players involved. The UCLA high post back cut to the goal by Mason was a thing of beauty. The set out of the timeout to get Abrams an open 15 footer was nice as well. Great job adjusting to Kansas' aggressive perimeter defense, Coach.

Defensively the scouting report was spot on. As soon as we locked up the backboards Kansas needed to shoot the ball well with contested looks to win the ballgame. No one player was allowed to get into and stay in his offensive comfort zone, and the Jayhawks needed to settle on 18 footers from Darrell Arthur and Darnell Jackson. As far as defenses go, it was the Clemson version of Rick Barnes out there last night. It was also good to see him really getting after the officials the way he used to when he went up against Dean Smith.

All in all, a tremendous signature win for the program that they should be able to build on because of the manner in which they won. Augustin had a horrible game, and he was picked up by 3 or 4 different players each contributing in different facets of the game. We also left some fire power on the bench based on the pace of the game, which bodes well when we play teams that are less athletic than Kansas. This also opens the door for a two seed with a remote chance at a 1 if we can win the conference. Hell, it's just good to beat the Jayhawks.

Thoughts?