In a game that was played in a virtual tomb setting, believe me I was there, Texas controlled a very good if not elite college basketball team for nearly 35 minutes of the basketball game. Hell the venue was the only thing wrong with the evening, other than Memphis' UNLV circa 1991 performance vs. Michigan State. Very worrisome, but that's for another post. Honestly, it would have been nice if the game was played at a bar in Waikiki. I have the feeling it was. But in any event, it was a game that Longhorn basketball fans should be proud of, and know that Stanford, Michigan State, and even Elvis impersonating Memphis fans were very impressed with the performance. If we haven't arrived we're real real close. On to the recap.
Texas didn't shoot the ball overly well from deep hitting just 7-22, but the Horns did manage to knock down nearly 50% from the field overall which is a testament to getting to the rim and efficient midrange shooting. The key to both was taking advantage of the Cardinal's overzealousness closing out on three point perimeter players as well as forcing the Lopez bros away from the cup using high ball screens and the double stack look discussed here with Mason running point. This particular set led to several plays that ended with dunks, lay-ins, and point blank misses leading to easy putbacks. And the reason? The double stack forced the Stanford interior men to guard the entire arc instead of roaming to clean up penetration and cutters. It was high comedy watching Robin hedge a ballscreen and then frantically recover to a cutting Damion James, as Mason or DJ dribble penetrated right behind him like the 'fridge leading Walter Payton to the hole.
It was also striking just how much quicker not only Texas bigs were to their counterparts, but the speed differential between the backcourts was surprising as well. Mitch Johnson looked like a garden variety point guard you'd see at most Texas 5A high schools. Anthony Goods couldn't stay in front of anybody, and Washington the team's best on ball defender was shook repeatedly by Augustin in route to the basket. And make no mistake, Stanford is a very good defensive basketball team.
Going in, we knew Texas would struggle with Stanford's size, and I even lamented to Sailor Ripley that my preview had too much information because I listed everything under the sun defensively that Texas would throw at the Lopi to mitigate their size advantage. Well, Texas indeed tried every defensive angle and finally found something that led to some empty possessions.
To list them, we saw zone, we saw some man doubling with Mason, we saw man doubling with the offside block defender, we saw some 3 quarter court token pressure, and we saw some head-up man with Pittman. And really the only effective defense was Big Dex who seemed to surprise Brook with his size and strength. I don't know if this showed up on TV but Brook spent much of the second half complaining to the officials about Dex either pushing him or hanging out in the lane for longer than 3 seconds offensively. It was the most important, meaningful performance of Dexter's career, and with all the NBA scouts in attendance, the Big man certainly got on their radar and made himself some money down the road.
Keys to the game
Big Dex forcing 4 or 5 empty possessions after Stanford went on their run in the second half.
Clint Chapman's two putbacks in the first ten minutes were gravy.
Mason's play at point that served to rest DJ, and forced Stanford to chase two shooters on the perimeter.
Mason's 8 rebounds while Texas' two bigs were busy guarding the twins.
Texas perimeter defense not allowing Stanford to penentrate and expose the Texas big men to help.
Connor Atchley and Damion James early perimeter jumpers making the Lopi respect their perimeter games.
Rick Barnes defensive gameplan that held Stanford to 18 free throws and 33% from the field.
Certainly one of the biggest wins in the program's history which sets Texas up for what should be an entertaining tilt against a semi-pro team in the Memphis Wildcats. And I mean that as a compliment. I'll have a preview of that game this afternoon. Oh, and here's another great recap from our friends at Longhornroadtrip. I'm off to tee-ball and I'll be sure to give the aggie parents hell. Unless I misremembered Texas was too small and weak to give the Tree a game. Man it's going to be a beautiful Saturday.