For 36 minutes on Easter Sunday, the Texas Longhorns dominated and controlled a good Miami basketball team and looked like a squad that would be an odds on favorite to get to San Antonio. As far as the other 4 minutes, not so much. This particular contest had almost the same look and feel as the Longorns' game vs. Baylor in Waco and I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Damion James' perimeter game makes Texas tough to defend.
On offense, Texas went with what looked like a 5 out offensive attack designed to get the big athletic Miami frontcourt out on the perimeter, forcing them out of their comfort zone making them contest jumpshots or guard dribble penetration. The results were outstanding. The Longhorns were able to create wide open looks off the penetration of 4 different players, Augustin, James, Abrams, and Mason, while the fifth starter Atchley was the beneficiary of late arriving Miami forwards hitting 2-5 mostly uncontested shots from behind the arc.
The first half was a near symphony of offensive basketball that would have caused John Mackovic to take a swig of Boone's Strawberry Hill right out of the bottle. On most possessions multiple Longhorn players would get touches and quick penetration forcing help and recover after help and recover scenarios resulting in wide open jump shots, easy layups, and terrific offensive rebounding position. It's a style of basketball that maximizes players' skills and forces the defense to defend more of the floor for a longer duration. And the statistics in this case didn't lie as most of the Longorns' 17 assists and 15 offensive rebounds came in the first stanza. When the Longhorns weren't executing the halfcourt offense to perfection, they were running a secondary break that would make Roy Williams envious. Even getting a push from Damion James who found Mason for a wide open 3.
The results were great as Texas hovered around 50% from the field for most of the game and finished 50% from 3's knocking down a sizzling 13-26 with all five starters hitting atleast 1 bomb. Be afraid Cardinal, be very afraid.
On defense, the Longhorns did a great job executing the scouting report for most of the game, treating perimeter shooters differently based on that offensive player's skill set. Mason and company did a good job of chasing McClinton off of jumpers and contesting the ones he could get off. With Hurdle, the Horns weren't quite as aggressive in contesting, and instead made it a priority to stay in front of the junior in an effort to keep him from creating for others.
The Longhorn frontcourt enticed the Miami forwards to shoot 15 feet out, and focused on rebounding position and helping on cutting and screening perimeter players.
For most of the contest the Canes were held below 40% and finished at 40% for the game from the field. A late barrage of 3's gave Miami 9-22, but 4 of the 9 makes came with 4 minutes or less to play in the game. Texas really played about as well as you can play defensively until McClinton and Hurdle went off late as Miami scored 22 points in the last 4:02.
Late Game Situations
Again, it was a really strong effort for nearly 36 minutes of the basketball game, but with 4 minutes to go, Texas reverted back to the Waco collapse, failing to do the fundamental things necessary to close out a basketball game. Up 66 to 52 with four to go, the Longhorns failed to effectively ice the game because of the following:
Running their ice offense. Every team in the nation runs a late game offense designed to run possessions deep into the shot clock without turning the ball over. Unless the defense is trapping or pressuring, the ball usually stays in the guards' hands, and for the majority of the Miami game DJ had the ball in this sub-4 minute situation. The key is to get into your set with enough time to allow for an extra pass and not just a forced shot. Too often, Texas would wait until 7-8 seconds on the shot clock to attack, almost always resulting in low percentage looks by the guard. If we go at 12-14 seconds, bringing in all five players as a threat, the defense is forced to defend more of the court. Instead, they had to defend the high screen and roll and one pass off of it. It's 5 on two at that point and the results were zero field goals in the last 4 minutes.
Foul Shooting. This one's obvious, as you've got to knock down your throws. Texas failed to shoot a high percentage, and alot of that had to do with Atchley and James taking 7 free throws in the last minute and 30 seconds of the ball game. Just poor game situation management. Our guards have to become available quickly knowing these two aren't our strongest shooters, and Connor and Damion have to know that winning basketball is getting Abrams and to a lesser degree Augustin at the line instead.
Late game defense. Texas needs to start taking advantage of knowing an opponent has to go quickly. Switching all perimeter screens and forcing dribble penetration by the other team's best shooters is key. You almost want to play a kind of matchup style 3-2 zone that entices midrange jumpers and limits 3's and dribble penetration to the rim. If they hit a contested fade away 3 fine. If a guard drives and dishes for a dunk okay. Winning basketball is forcing multiple passes each possession.
Don't foul. The Horns allowed eight free throws in the last two minutes of the ballgame, and that's inexcusable. It probably saved the Canes nearly 30 seconds of clock and allowed them to set their pressure defense without using a timeout. Just dumb.
The good news, no great news is that Texas is now 1 of 16 teams alive and kicking in late March. Survive and advance is certainly the most important thing at this juncture, and kudos to the kids for never allowing the Little Rock haters to be a factor in either of last weekend's games. Now it's time to take advantage of the friendly confines against some competition that will be a bit stiffer. I'll have a preview of Stanford and a "way to early" preview of Memphis that focuses on how to attack and how to defend these teams with Texas' personnel. Until then, any thoughts are appreciated.
By the way, here's some more tourney talk with a cool One Shining Moment feature that'll take you back a bit.