So let me get this straight. We get tremendous point guard play. Connor Atchley plays like he did as a junior. AJ Abrams takes nine really good shots and hits six of them. And we drop 99 on Oklahoma State. Seems logical. Granted, we were playing a team that gives up points in bunches, but the OSU Cowboys are still a pretty solid team. Even more encouraging was Dogus Balbay's break out performance against a guard-centric team. Balbay played well on the defensive end of the floor, keeping Byron Eaton out of the paint until the game was a blowout, but more importantly the sophomore guard took Barnes' starting carrot and ran with it, running the club offensively like the young Turk had been entrenched as the Horn's point guard for months. Balbay in transition is just nasty. And he hit a pull up 15 footer for good measure.
Balbay's performance was the first domino to fall creating a chain reaction that lead to AJ Abrams getting good looks, Damion James playing within himself, and Gary Johnson exceling at his 15 foot in game. More importantly, the affect it had on Justin Mason and Connor Atchley's game was astounding. JM was allowed to play off the ball and do some stat sheet stuffing. At the pseudo 3 he was able to pull 6 rebounds. As a secondary ball handler Mason dropped 6 dimes and got to the foul line by going to the rim which led to a team high 8 foul shots. Connor on the other hand was able to pick his spots on the perimeter and step in confidently to open looks from beyond the arc and metaphorically beyond the grave. It'd be nice if Connor's game had a Lazareth like resurrection.
As for Balbay, I kept looking for DJ Augustin out there but the kid I was looking at was left handed. Shot selection was aided by 19 team assists which is a sign of an unselfish basketball team, which is another by product of having a pass first point guard on the floor. Shit's contagious.
Overall it was a tremendous offensive breakout game that saw Coach push all the right buttons. Barnes shrugged off trying to swim up stream by forcing his big lineup against the Cowboys 5 guard look. Instead, he went small and challenged his kids to beat the Cowboys at their own game. When the Cowboys went to their bench, in came Dexter Pittman to further confound a Cowboys defense that was already on its heels. Dexter helped pound a zone and a box and 1 into submission, owning the glass, and drawing enough help inside to free up open looks for others.
The most important sign for Texas, something Reid Gettys alluded to during the broadcast, was the fact that the Horns seemed loose and carefree going into this game. And their play supported that claim. Guys were taking shots confidently and in rhythm. That's such a huge part of shooting the basketball. I'm guessing Barnes pushed some buttons in this department because he sensed his team was being stifled by coaching constraints. No doubt about it, Texas played much looser than the Cowboys and it showed offensively.
Nice season saving win for the good guys, and certainly something this team can build on. Especially if you think it's found its point guard. Thoughts?