In our preview we talked about certain keys for victory for the Horns. Two of these keys ended up being a success in one half and a failure in the other. The tale of two halves couldn't have been more definitive for the Horns offensively and defensively and here's how two of our keys played a role. The first key "Play quick but don't hurry" was a huge failure in the first half. You can call this key a variety of things from "patience" to "running offense", but the bottom line is that Texas was woeful in attacking a very poor Baylor defense in the first stanza. Texas and specifically Damion James would settle for early catch and shoots bailing out a Baylor defense that was hurt later in the ball game when it was forced to help and recover and defend against 3 or 4 passes and/or dribble penetration. Luckily for the Horns, they excelled at the second key which was "Transition Defense" stopping the Bears from getting run outs and open 3's in transition. Score at the half 27 - 24 Texas.
In the second half a couple of things happened to the Horns that enhanced their ability to execute the patience on offense key. First and foremost, Texas seemed resolute for the most part in trying to run offense and get to the rim. Second, the emergence of Dogus Balbay as a floor general was a catalyst in ball movement and good shot selection. Balbay ran the show getting the ball to teammates at the correct time and place leading to great looks mostly at the rim. Also Dex coming in was sort of a body blow for Barnes' crew and credit the guys for making several terrific entry passes to take advantage of Pittman's presence. On the flip side, Texas did a poor job of closing out on Carter on some 3 balls, and generally didn't stop the ball going to the basket which allowed for some easy looks by Acy and Rogers. Another factor in Baylor's second half scoring outburst was the Horns struggles closing out possessions by rebounding the basketball. I thought Connor and Johnson were pushed around some by Baylor's interior and that's got to be locked down.
Still, it was a ballsy win for this Texas team. This is the kind of ugly game that tough teams win. Hopefully it will be a stepping stone for guys like Ward and Balbay who played very well. On to the players.
This was one of AJ's better games this year. He was obviously hitting from deep going 3-6, but more impressive was his 4 field goals inside the arc to make it a 7-12 outing. No field goal was bigger than the 15 foot dagger with 50 seconds to play to put the Horns up by 4. AJ also played good defense holding Tweety Carter scoreless from the field in the first half. AJ played patient, winning basketball. That's 3 good shot selection games in a row.
So I guess DJ was feeling his oats evidenced by his 20 attempts including a bad 0-5 from deep. Once DJ realized he had a midget on him he decided to take his game to the paint off the bounce or with his back to the basket. But still, this team can't be successful if he's taking that many bad shots during the course of the ballgame. But Texas was lucky it had Damion on the glass tonight as he was the only real answer the Horns had for the athleticism of Rogers and Acy. Damion's 12 big boards, mostly on the defensive glass saved the frontcourt's bacon.
Connors offensive disappearance is one of the biggest mysteries I've ever witnessed in Longhorn sports. It's borderline Rick Ankiel esque. If Connor reinvents himself as a 7 assist per night lead guard it will be exactly like Ankiel. Atchley did show up defensively doing a decent job containing Rogers, but it sure would be nice to have a couple deep bombs from your 4 man to take pressure off non-shooters like Ward, Balbay, and Mason.
The runner up behind Atchley for biggest mystery is the regression of Justin Mason. Now that he's off the ball there really isn't an excuse for him not doing more. It was good to see him get two offensive boards and go 3-4 from the field, but his defense isn't up to his own standard and he's not being as aggressive as he needs to be seeking his offense. I think Barnes tried to send him a message tonight by playing Ward for 16 minutes, many of which were at Justin's expense.
Adjusting for foul trouble and the tentativeness it breeds, Gary had a pretty decent game. His 4-7 from the floor included some 15 footers and a couple of strong drives to the goal. Defensively and on the glass Gary wasn't himself but that's what two early fouls will do to you.
I think I woud be doing Doge a disservice if I used his statline to describe his game. Sure Balbay had some points and 4 dimes, but there was a marked change in the way the team operated when Dogus was in the game. His ability to defeat pressure with the bounce and flatten out the defense with dribble penetration cannot be measured by individual stats. With Balbay running point in the second half, Texas dropped 51 on the Bears. 'Nuff said. Ball in. If the young Turk could ever consistently knock down a J and force defenders to go over the top of ballscreens instead of underneath, he'd be hell on wheels with the pick and roll or pick and pop game. Defense against Jerrell and company was grade A.
He's not the best shooter on the team. He's not the best defender. Nor the best rebounder. But I'll be damned if there is anyone on the ballclub with more cajones than this dude. The cat is flat out fearless on both ends of the floor. He'll straight up guard your ass, go into the trees to pull a board, and aggressively look to hurt you when he has the ball by getting to the rim. His playing time needs to increase.
The high energy guy had another solid game. He played solid defense and had a couple gravy points when GJ got in foul trouble early on.
I know we've gone to a philosophy of quickness over size, but Dex can serve as a terrific change up when we want to punish teams inside and test their ability to defend the post. Pittman flat out dominated during his 7 minutes getting 6 points and 3 dunks in his brief stint on the floor.
Barnes was terrific tonight playing a game of my better is better than your better. The game started with a micro matchup of Jerrells vs. James and Barnes did a better job of getting his team to buy into getting James the rock while providing enough help on the defensive end to keep Jerrells from going crazy on James. When Baylor decided to go Lomers vs. Pittman, Barnes switched gears offensively and made the Bears pay. Bottom line is that Barnes out foxed Drew with matchups and got his team to match the emotional level of the Bears who were playing their Super Bowl.
Overall, the team takes on the personality of its coach, and the Horns showed a Barnes like toughness in grinding out a tough win that really resembled two different basketball games from half to half. The funny thing is Texas won both games by 3.