I'm glad I took a night's sleep to mull this thing over, because I was irrationally angry last night. Hell I had to be cyber-restrained by Sailor Ripley and Scipio. Ironically they were watching the MMA Championship thing and they were the voices of reason. Let that sink in. The fact remains, however, that this Texas team still has serious identity issues that showed up in a big way in the first of half of the KSU contest. Twenty two points in one half of basketball? Against KSU? At Home? Seriously? It was so bad that I had to edit out some anger in the following post I made at halftime of the ballgame.
We can’t continue to ball screen for guys that can’t shoot the basketball. It’s just dumb. A waste of energy. All KSU has to do is come under the screen and it’s defended. The cost involved is precious seconds on the shot clock and zero threat on the weakside. It’s galactically stupid.
Our frontcourt continues to play tentative on the glass. Connor is playing like a walk on. This should be Dexter’s game from here on out. Connor shouldn’t see another minute of playing time today.
AJ Abrams has reverted back to channeling his Allen Iverson. Pass the ball and use the attention you draw from defenses to help your teammates. It’s infuriating.
Justin Mason needs to pretend he’s playing against Sig Ep’s at Gregory. His a$$hole is so puckered up that he can’t function. We need him. He can penetrate and finish against the Wildcats. He might be the only one in a Texas uniform that can do that.
It’s time to press. You have a deeper bench and an opponent that has a propensity to turn the ball over. Do it. Put Dexter at the back of your press and if he gets tired, put Hill or Chapman in. We need to do something to create a spark.
Damion James better hope scouts aren’t watching.
So what changed between this post and the second half? Simply put, we masked our offensive identity issues by doing one thing I mentioned above. We pressed. We turned the game into a "who's got next" pickup game at Clark Field courts. We let our athletes be athletes and our ball players relax and play ball and we dropped 52 second half points on a team that had held us to 22 points just twenty short minutes before.
Defensively, we ran into a buzzsaw in the form of Denis Clemente who was perfect from deep going 6-6 and a perfect 12-12 from the foul line. KSU as a team shot a ridiculous 10-15 from beyond the arc, making all of their last 8 attempts from 3. That's stupid. A shooting performance like that and all you can do is tip your cap and try to match them by creating more possessions via turnovers or rebounding. Well, since Texas was being outrebounded at halftime, Barnes' only hope was to speed up the game with pressure and get some turnovers, which worked considering Texas was able to force overtime in a game they had no business being in, much less winning. That's the good news we can build on. This team doesn't quit, and certainly has athletes that can win with fullcourt pressure against solid, guard-centric teams. We're deep, we have athletes, we have suspect guard play. What's not to like about pressure to mask deficiencies? Hell, if Clemson and Mizzou can do it, why can't we? Maybe we're due for a new identity. On to the players...
The memory of three solid shot selection games in a row was definitely washed away by this stinker. Forcing bad shot after bad shot when you have players with mismatches in the frontcourt is selfish inanity. Damion James is going against Dominique Sutton and Gary Johnson is guarded by Darren Kent and AJ's settling for contested catch and shoots. The two forced looks to start overtime without one interior player touching the basketball is effectively telling a guy like Gary Johnson, who happens to be 4-8 from the field with 13 foul shots, to taste your ass. And ultimately these "you can get them anytime in a shot clock" looks dug a hole that Texas couldn't overcome. It would have been nice to at least probe for interior offense against a frontcourt riddled with players in foul trouble in OT. But AJ's got to get his. He's the answer. He's got a sleeve and shit.
Damion's search party once again rescued him from the first half Bermuda Triangle. In the second half James really asserted himself offensively by doing what he does best, attacking the rim. He missed a couple of bunnies and potential "and 1's" that would have made his 6-15 statline look much better. His 10 free throw attempts are very encouraging and indicative of his aggressiveness. DJ also competed aggressively in our press and his quickness and length showed itself harrassing KSU's press offense. Rebounding wise, Texas really can't afford James to disappear for a half. Credit James for turning it up a notch in the second half and being the glasseater he can be.
I don't really have anything nice to say about the guy. Feeling sorry for him makes as much sense as feeling sorry for Ian Mooney or any player that has been on scholarship at the University of Texas. Not only is he in a horrid shooting slump, but he was outrebounded by Justin Mason, Varez Ward, and AJ Abrams. His inability to pull a crucial rebound on a free throw probably cost Texas the ballgame. Was he fouled? Sure. But that's not an excuse given the way he failed to compete for the ball. Show some emotion or get off the floor.
No one enjoyed the open floor created by the press any more than Justin Mason. You could tell JM wasn't thinking out there and instead just playing basketball. Quietly, Mason had the best game he's had in a good while with 12 points on 5-8 shooting coupled with 9 dimes. The press also showcased the junior's defensive ability and Justin forced several turnovers that led to transition points. More importantly the press was a salve for Mason's mental state. He looked like a player that had been uncuffed.
I absolutely love this guy. I am a Gary Johnson fan. I celebrate his entire catalog. For me, it doesn't get any better than when he sings "When a Man Loves a Woman". It's a crying shame that he only got 8 attempts for the game. Had he been a focal point of the offense in the first half, he would have succeeded in fouling out KSU's entire frontline. With just 8 attempts and some help from Damion, he was able to disqualify Kent, Sutton, and nearly Colon. Oh, and by the way, he's the ideal pressing forward. Just a suggestion.
It was a poor game for Doge but it's not entirely his fault. Texas needs to ditch the high ball screen game with Balbay because it's tantamount to going to center court and banging your head against the Hudspeth County section of the Texas map. It's a waste of shot clock, it's easy to defend, and it hurts my head. KSU simply went under the ball screen, the screener's man whispered rap-metal lyrics into Balbay's ear, and the weakside defenders took the opportunity to get into optimum ball-you-man help position. Balbay needs a floor spread with the minimum of 3 perimeter threats and an active interior that operates from the high post then lifting to the perimeter. Clogging up the middle of the floor with a screener that's in a shooting slump, a guard that can't shoot, and two defenders with nothing better to do than guard dribble penetration is insanity. Defensively, Balbay let Clemente get loose for open looks on two possessions in the first half and that likely landed Doge in Barnes' dog house leading to a dearth of floor time for Balbay. Looking forward, Balbay would be a terrific cog in any pressing defense Barnes wanted to deploy. The open floor would likely be a boon to the young sophomore offensively. Is there a theme warning yet?
If Gary Johnons isn't the toughest SOB on this team then Varez is. The kid is unphased by anything you throw at him. Big foul shots, double digit deficits, or an unfamiliar press, it just doesn't matter to the kid. He just brings it. Varez needs to learn to take care of the basketball, but his ability to create offense, nay willingness to create offense, fills a big void on this team. Defensively, he's a big athlete willing to get after it and get in guys' jocks. He's Henry James' wet dream.
He'd be great at the back of a press. He's smart, he's willing to give up his body, and he brings energy. As soon as Texas fell behind he was a non-factor against KSU, but going forward he can help.
See Matt Hill.
Bide your time, Dex. Help is on the way. I'd love to see you own the weakside block in some form of the DDM. Yesterday, Big Dex battled and gave the Horns all he could give with 8 points 6 boards in just 15 minutes.
We've talked about the identity issues ad nauseam. The first half of the game is forgettable, so let's forget it. Credit coach for making adjustments and going to a full court pressure look. It was the one thing that got Texas back in the ballgame. The unintended consequence was it showed how much better Texas personnel looked when they're allowed to play in the open court. Hopefully Coach makes pressure a big part of the attack going forward. It'll serve to cover a bunch of offensive warts while also playing to the team's strengths of athleticism and depth. We have 10 athletic guys that are willing to get out and compete. Why not press?