I'm not going to do a traditional write up on this game. It wouldn't be appropriate. It'll be more fitting if I scattershoot a bunch of random thoughts and musings about the game itself. No coordination or flow, no complimentary segues. If my writing style was a metaphor for the way Texas basketball has played the last month or so this piece would have a hundred different predicates and 1 subject, dangling participles hanging out on the bench, coached by a blue streak of expletives that would make Bobby Knight blush. But then you couldn't read it and Scipio would chide me for cussing. So I offer you humbly, my random thoughts on the game.
We talked about the team's lack of identity ad naseum on this board so I'm not going to get into it in too much detail. We have one real shooter who can't create his own shot or just refuses to, I can't tell which at this point. Our most talented basketball player disappears at times and makes huge mental mistakes at others. The best thing I can say about Damion is that he's really, really good when he's not thinking. We have a coach that is in virtually every player's kitchen at this point. Too much so if you ask me. Our toughest player is an undersized power forward and our point guard is at best an off the ball occasional ballhandler and at worst a defensive specialist that does the dirty work while the stars shine. Someone else said it best, this team is less than the sum of its parts.
Getting back to last night's game, I figured Dex could do damage against the Tiger's smallish frontcourt. We just needed to hide him defensively. But we don't zone enough and Mizzou made us pay by finding assignment busts all over the place. So we had to go man, and Dex couldn't handle Lyons away from the bucket. I'm still scratching my head as to where our helpside was when Lyons put it on the deck 18 feet from the basket. Add it to the list of head scratchers I suppose.
I thought Ward and Pittman were the only players that played with any cajones. Ward makes mistakes, but he's not afraid. He was looking to punish pressure while the rest of the perimeter players seemed to be worried about turning the ball over. Pittman is the one reason we didn't get run out of the gym.
Other than foul shooting, AJ Abrams really didn't have that bad a game. He let the game come to him for the most part. He missed some open looks and he can't do that if the team is going to win.
I think Connor Atchley needs to stop stealing minutes from Doge Balbay and Clint Chapman. If he's hurt he needs to heal. If he's not, he owes his team an apology.
Speaking of Doge, it would have been nice to see him on Tiller. Tiller's penetration before Lyons took over was the one thing keeping Mizzou in the game. For whatever reason, Mason struggles staying in front of quick guards. I've always thought the lead guard position was killing him everywhere else, and I think Barnes even admitted this a week or so ago. What did Balbay do to warrant only 2 minutes of floor time?
Damion James had ten rebounds some of which were unbelievably athletic. He took as many foul shots in the game as HenryJames. That's crazy. When DJ just plays on instinct he's a world beater. When he's thinking about where to cut, where to pass, or where to screen, he's a shell of the offensive player he could be. This conference is full of jagbag forwards with more consistent point production than Damion and that's a shame.
I thought our pressure really paid dividends last night. I wish we'd see more of it.
I thought Mizzou's zone paid dividends for them and Texas will see much more zone from here on out regardless of the personnel we roll out. Bank on it.
I posited in the preview that Texas needs to get Pittman involved and a good way to do that would be to surround him with 4 ballhandlers who can control tempo on both ends of the floor to keep the big man involved. And it worked. We saw a lineup of Abrams, Ward, Mason, and James in addition to Pittman.
We also saw something on offense that bodes well for next year's club. Texas played Pittman on the weakside block while they ran an iso ball screen game on the strongside. If the ballscreen drew any help from the weakside, the ball was immediately reversed for any easy entry pass to Pittman. We got 3 dunks off this look and forced Mizzou into a zone. In my opinion, you'll see Pittman operate almost exclusively from the weakside block next year in an effort to keep the lane open for all of the playmakers coming to campus. It's a staple of the Dribble Drive Motion offense and its off-shoots. It's an offense that Hamilton, Bradley, and Lucas will excel in. Pittman will own the weakside glass in this look.
Pittman needs to stop making two silly fouls a game. You want him to be aggressive, but he needs to play smart.
Overall, I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach. Hopefully we can regroup and get a decent seed in the tourney. But I'm not going to lie, I've got one eye looking to next year. A year that should be special.