The win over Oklahoma in front of a sold out Erwin Center crowd happens to be a good news/good news type of win. The first bit of good news is that the Horns defense absolutely suffocated an OU team with a very physical, athletic frontcourt and an above average shooting backcourt holding them to a season low 26.4% from the field and out rebounding them by 6. If that wasn't enough, the Horns seemed to scrap and claw for every loose ball and long rebound and come away with the possession vs. a team that prides themselves in winning these 50/50 battles.
The other bit of good news is that this was one of the more forgettable offensive performances the Horns have showed all year. They couldn't throw it in the ocean from 3 going 2-19. And outside of Atchley, DJ and GJ, Texas was a frigid 11-43 from the field. Why is it good news then, you ask? Well, because Texas bludgeoned a type of team that has been its nemesis throughout the year. A big physical club that won't allow Texas to shoot it out of the gym has been, to date, Texas' bugaboo. Teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State, and the second half version of UCLA. The good news is that Texas won an ugly game on an off-shooting night, and did so convicingly. A style of game that they will undoubtedly have to win if they want to make a deep tourney run. If you're a big Karate Kid fan like, HenryJames, think of it as Daniel Larussa catching a fly with his chopsticks. Another milestone before they must use the crane on Johnny Lawrence. On to the grades.
DJ Augustin. A+.Whatever wall DJ was purported to hit, he has now officially powered through it. Another virtuoso performance for this all-american shoe-in. In an ugly offensive showing from the Horns, DJ was obviously the star going 8-14, and would have had twice as many assists if his cohorts had atleast an average shooting night. Since DJ has started to embrace the midrange game and dishing while going to the rim, teams are playing him a bit differently. Kudos to this young man for making the adjustment.
Damion James. A-. Somewhat of a rough shooting night as James missed a couple of easy looks from point blank range. But he's still a star at this level showing a face up game that very few hybrid forwards possess. Defensively he was an absolute terror, and his performance on the glass is as about as routine and expected as you can get at this stage in the game. I could cut and paste 11 boards and 4 offensive rebounds after each one of these pieces. Only reason he gets docked is for 6-16 and not getting to the line. But a great game nonetheless.
Connor Atchley. A-. Again, this kid's defensive game is nothing short of astonishing if you've watched him the last few years. Connor's ability to move his feet and get into great position defending some of the elite forwards in college basketball has been a beauty to watch. Two games in a row Connor has just stifled high caliber front court players first holding down a tough aggie frontcourt and yesterday smothering the talented Griffin twins. He added a 3-6 day on offense to round out a good performance. I'd still like to see him get a couple more looks a night, but you can't complain about his overall performance.
AJ Abrams. B+. I'm not going to denigrate AJ's performance because he had a bad shooting night. That happens. He went 2-11 from the field, but all seemed to be good looks in rhythm and in the offense or secondary break opportunities. They didn't go down, but big deal. If AJ continues to take good shots they'll fall, and this team will continue to be dangerous. I was really pleased with AJ's perimeter defense and rebounding long OU attempts. That tells me his head is in the game whether or not his shot is falling. I applaud the kid for not pouting and instead grinding it out. It speaks well of the team chemistry as a whole. It was also nice to see a shot fake and get to the rim layup for him. That type of shot is there whenever he wants it. All in all, a good, winning effort from AJ.
Justin Mason. B+.Since Mason spearheads the defensive effort for this team it's tough to give him anything but an A when Texas holds an opponent to 26% shooting. I've got to ding him though for failing to stuff the stat sheet like he usually does. Four points and three turnovers hurt his grade, but the kid's allowed an off-night once in a while.
Gary Johnson. B+.You have to give GJ a ton of credit for getting in the cement mixer of flying elbows from Longar and the Griffin twins with a healthy nose much less a broken one. Gary did a good job of matching the physical play of the OU frontcourt, and showed poise on the offensive end going an efficient 3-5 with an and-1 driving layup, a face up J, and a thunderous dunk on the baseline. Hopefully we can get his beak healed up so he can play more than 15 minutes a game. This team needs his dynamic face up/interior offense, and his fierce play defensively and on the glass for 25 minutes plus.
Nothing like an ugly win Daniel-san.
Wangmene. A. Wangmene continues his steep improvement trend playing a terrific brand of defense while pulling down 7 boards in just 16 minutes of play. Alexis also gave the team some gravy offense on put back opportunities and foul shots against a talented front court. Alexis gives this team five athletic fouls to give come tourney time, for a team that is building depth game in and game out. That's two great games in row for this talented freshman.
Clint Chapman. B. This wasn't Clint's game considering the power of OU's frontcourt. He'll need to get stronger to compete in games like this, but the OU game certainly gives Chapman a benchmark of what he needs to accomplish in the weight room. Still, even in a knock-out drag-out game like yesterday, Clint still contributed.
Pittman.B. Sounds like a broken record, but I still think we can steal some more minutes for Big D if we zoned a bit. Even in limited opportunities, Dex needs to finish the crips and that's on him. Still, one block and 3 boards in six productive minutes leaves me wishing we'd see more of him.
Lewis. DPlayed four minutes and went 0-3. It would be nice if someone in our backcourt would step up and lend depth like our young bigs are doing.
Coaching. A+. However you feel about Rick's X and O capacity on the offensive end, and it's certainly gotten better as the year has gone on, you have admit he's one of the best motivators of kids in college basketball. This team was flat-lining after poor performances in Columbia and College Station. It had star players bickering and pouting with one foot out the door towards the league. Two or three weeks later, and this a team that can legitimately be considered one of the top four of five teams in the nation with a solid chance of beating any team with just an average kind of shooting night. I can't tell you enough how impressed I've been with Rick's ability to motivate and prepare his kids the last month or so. It's been nothing short of amazing.
In this particular game, you can't complain about our offense because we missed some really good looks in the rhythm of our offense. The kids just have to knock them down. Defensively, I haven't seen a Rick Barnes team play this well since they made the final four run. And I'm not just talking about TAMU and OU, I'm talking about a stretch that includes two explosive teams in Kansas and Baylor as well. In the last 4 games against teams that couldn't be anymore different in personnel and offensive styles, Texas has held opponents Kansas, Baylor, TAMU, and OU to 43%, 39%, 30%,and 26% shooting respectively. That is 8%, 7%, 18%, and 20% under their averages! And these are four likely tournament teams. That's getting it done. That also fails to address the kind of pressure Texas applies to opposing offenses to go tit for tat when the Horns shoot the basketball well. When we shoot it well and defend this tenaciously, Texas is nearly impossible to beat. Luckily for OU we just defended well and didn't shoot it atl all, otherwise they would have likely been beat by 30 yesterday. Great, ugly win, for Texas.
Some thoughts on the rest of the year...
After watching Tenny and Memphis go at it last night, I couldn't help but think Texas was just as athletic and just as good offensively and defensively as either of those two clubs. Hell we beat Tennessee earlier. One thing that struck me was how sloppy the teams played and how little they valued the basketball. Ofcourse, Texas leads the nation in turnovers given up and I see that as a huge advantage when they play teams like Memphis and the Vols. Frankly, I wouldn't mind either one of those teams as the 1 seed in Texas' bracket.
Then I considered there is no reason in the world Texas couldn't be a 1 seed themselves especially with Kansas coughing one up in Stillwater. So maybe I need to start thinking about 2 seeds that Texas might likely face. If we beat KSU in Manhattan, that's precisely what I'll do.