For 37 minutes Texas played some of the best team basketball it's played all year. The Horns were unselfish on the offensive end, moving the ball in and out for easy looks, finding easy shots against a Baylor team looking to end a 22 game losing streak against Texas. The Horns took advantage of their size and athleticism inside with 30+ front court points in the first half, and managed to get everyone involved with 17 assists in what amounted to the best team basketball these eyes have seen all season. They also took care of the basketball with just 6 turnovers in the first 37 minutes of action. On defense, Texas challenged jump shooters and held Baylor to 1-17 from 3 in the first half and 25% for the entire game. Sure Baylor got more than its share of offensive rebounds, but for 37 plus minutes, the Horns played like a top 5 team. Then it got ugly.
Yes, the Horns almost blew a 12 point lead with 1 minute to go. Yes, they coughed up two front ends of one and ones, and choked on 5 last minute foul shots and almost ruined a terrific performance. But you know what? I'm not going to focus on that. This was a huge win considering this game was sandwiched between the emotional win vs. KU Monday night and a Big Monday revenge game vs. bitter rival TAMU this Monday. Hell, Vegas thought Texas would get beat making the Horns a 2 point dog in Waco. So let's savor the win and only focus on the first 37 minutes, because luckily in this game, that was enough to get the big road W. The grades.
DJ Augustin. B.Keep in mind the theme is we're really not focused on the last couple minutes. Considering such, DJ played his best distribution basketball of the year. Somewhere poster Barton Creek is smiling. He likes his Chris Corchiani more than your Kenny Anderson. And DJ was driving and dishing most of the night. A new wrinkle to aid DJ included an isolation without a ball screen for DJ out top. This look gives Augustin more options when driving and got us a couple easy layups. DJ struggled going 2-12, but he had ten dimes to two turnovers. I'd like to see less high ball screens and more iso's or double ball screens. The single ball screen with a rolling or fading forward has been pretty well scouted and figured out at this point. It only serves to waste precious seconds on the shot clock. I won't mention the 3-6 and missed two front ends. Oh wait, I just did.
Damion James. A. He's back. Another double double with 19 points 10 boards and 4 on the offensive glass. James did it all offensively, showing a nice face up midrange game, a couple on the interior, and 1-2 from 3 land. He played like an all-american and I'd like to see him continue to seek out his offense especially considering DJ's slump.
Connor Atchley. A. Back to back A's for Connor. He was an incredibly efficient 5-7 from the field ending the game with 11 points. He was also the team's best interior defender blocking 3 shots and helping like a champ all game long. I'd like to see him finish with more than 3 boards and seek out his shot a little more, but you take tonight's stat line every night. He's becoming a main cog for this team.
AJ Abrams. A-. Best shot selection game of the year for AJ. He was efficient going 4-7 from the field including 3-5 from 3's in a game with a tempo that entices bad shots and heat checks with virtually every possession. Kudos to AJ for not taking the bait. The kid also defended his heart out against a very good stable of guards. He misses the A with a crucial turnover and missed free throw. But, if we get this kind of disciplined play from AJ every night, this automatically becomes a better offensive basketball team.
Justin Mason. A+.The stat sheet stuffer strikes again. Maybe the best game of the year for JM with a 5-10 offensive outburst. He added 9 boards and 3 assists while guarding the opposing team's best player in Curtis Jerrells. Oh yeah, he played 3 different positions tonight including a bunch of point allowing DJ to play in our double stack look. Good player that's coming around offensively and has been a rock all year defensively. It's cliche but every team needs one or two Justin Masons.
Gary Johnson. A.Folks I hate to jinx him but Gary Johnson has arrived and he's only going to get better. He is giving this team a legitimate interior threat that allows James to seek out his face-up offense. Going 5-11 from the floor might not seem that extraordinary, but he's playing with a mask and he's a couple bounces from putting up that 8-11. Got to kill those bunnies Gary. He also has a knack for getting to the foul line and drawing fouls on bigger players. I love the 4 out 1 in look with GJ and we even saw some high low with Connor to GJ tonight. Good stuff. His two assists show he can find teammates when double teamed. Oh, and by the way, he defended like hell and pulled down 9 boards in 25 minutes. He's a player.
Fear the mask.
Wangmene. Incomplete. One minute and two fouls. Just needs his skills to catch up to his athleticism.
Clint Chapman. B. 1-1 from the floor in limited minutes. Nice catch in traffic giving DJ the assist. Need to see more from him, but this game wasn't his pace.
Pittman.A. A monster stat line for Big Dex considering the limited minutes. I actually think we could have played him more down the stretch because Baylor's bigs were gassed. Just run an over-extended zone and make them beat you with midrange J's and allow Dex to go to work offensively. Anyway, he put up 5 points with two offensive boards in just 5 minutes of play. The kid's a monster and needs more PT.
Coaching. A. A great coaching job getting these kids ready to play after the KU win and just before the grudge match vs. an in-state rival. Again, Vegas made Baylor the favorite simply because this was a horrible spot for the Horns. The silver lining by almost coughing up the lead is that Barnes now can treat this game like a loss and do some legit bitching tomorrow and in the walk-through Monday.
I liked the 4 in 1 out look with GJ and Dex which got us a few easy looks and foul shots. The 3 guard weave up top is a great addition in that it's a catalyst to keep the kids moving and reversing the basketball. We're a woeful ball club when DJ pounds the ball for 20 seconds in a possession before going 1 on 1. The move by Mason to PG and the double stack look of DJ and AJ works well but we need to compliment with some big man/post games to take advantage of overplays that deny the wing. We could do some cross screening of the bigs or some screen the screener action to give a complimentary interior threat. We could also pull the bigs to the high post and back cut with AJ or DJ to keep overplays honest. We just need to mix it up because it could be a staple set for us. It's also heartening that Mason is getting to the paint off this look. We'll need the stack look come conference and national tourney time especially if DJ continues to slump.
All and all a great effort with a 2 minute hiccup. I don't think DJ and AJ's foul shooting is systemic so I don't see a reason to pile-on to the near choke. Hell, weird things happen in Waco all the time. I'm pretty sure Grant Teaff was in the arena somewhere. Luckily Kevin Durant showed up to even things out. Nice win.