In my Iowa preview I posted that one of the keys to the game for the Horns, or at least something I'd like to see in a ballgame that was ostensibly going to be a blowout, was patience. Patience in running offense, patience against the zone, patience on defense in not gambling, and patience in general as a counteraction to the slower tempo the Hawks favored.
As a fan, if you had the patience to wait around for a half, you, well saw the benefits of patience. We gambled too much on defense in the first half which allowed Iowa to find open shooters. Offensively, we lacked patience and it showed in our inability to get anything going other than offense that came off of offensive rebounding or indivual play.
In the second half, Texas played solid, help and recover man to man defense which enabled our athletic ability to simply take over because we were always in position to contest jumpshooters and Iowa's shooting percentage went down accordingly. It ain't complicated folks. On offense, the Horns played patiently by establishing the paint and running offense off of interior dominance. As Iowa fell further behind and became desperate, the feeding frenzy ensued. But it all started inside.
On to the player grades. I've italicized individual player keys pulled from the preview and used this as a context for their evaluations.
Damion James. Keep doing what you’re doing. Rebound, dunk, and hit spot up 3’s. This’ll be an easy game for Damion. He’ll be the biggest, most athletic player on the floor at all times. Don’t complicate things and fall down rabbit holes like leading the break and shooting midrange jumpers.
Ho hum double double for the senior, but these are the kind of games we need out of James in terms of efficiency. As the third or fourth option on the floor, Damion doesn't need more than 10 shots a game unless they're dunks or layups. His 4-8 is exactly what we need. Three of the four misses were spot up 3's so Damion was 3-4 inside the arc. This is Damion's wheelhouse. Perfect game for him.
Dexter Pittman. I expect continued domination whether it’s zone or man. The next step is passing out of double teams and dropping interior dimes to cutting players. That’s Big Man Zen.
We didn't see any double team dimes from Pitt, but who cares sense Iowa didn't have an answer defensively. A 7-9 performance, which should have been 8-9 had he made his dunk, is above reproach. Dex's dominance kickstarted our second half run.
J’Covan Brown. Continue trending up as a lead guard. Which means knowing when to shelve the dribble and get the team into an offense and knowing when to create with it. An Iowa zone will be interesting as it relates to Brown’s maturation as a point guard because it really forces the young guard to grasp the nuances of the position. Shot selection, passing, tempo, decision making are all heightened against the zone. Other than that, the magic word for J’Covan is Poise. Continue to show it, and opponents are less likely to poke the bear.
I love what Barnes is doing with the young man. In one of our summer previews, I posited that Brown might be better served to play alongside Balbay or Lucas so that full blown point guard responsibilities wouldn't be too much too soon. Barnes seems to agree as most of Brown's minutes this game came alongside Balbay. The stat line raises an eyebrow considering J'Covan was 5-5 inside the arc and 0-5 from beyond, but none of his misses were blatant forces. The turnover number should come down as he gets more experience. As a scorer I love what he brings. His ability to create for teammates comes in flashes now, but you can definitely see the lead guard in Brown.
As for poise, the kid gets an A+. He didn't pout or have bad body language coming off the bench and that says a bunch.
Avery Bradley. Take over the game for 3 or 4 possessions. You have built up that credibility. The last thing you have to worry about is being seen as selfish. A deep 3 or two would be a nice arrow to add to your quiver.
Still needs to be more aggressive but he's trending upwards on this front. His two threes looked smooth and it was good to see him fire away. I need at least 10 shots from Bradley, because two of them will be breakaway layups. He's too good a player to shoot it 6 times in 23 minutes especially when he's only getting 2 dimes. He needs to stop deferring. On defense, he's a game changer.
Jordan Hamilton. Let the game come to you. Patience shows maturity and earns you more minutes. Show more energy and effort on defense.
He was much more patient and the results were terrific. When he lets the game come to him, it comes to him in a big way. His stat line is nuts for just 20 minutes. 5-9, for 16 points, and five dimes. He was markedly more energetic on defense and it wouldn't surprise me if he's the kind of cat that needs to see the ball go through the hoop a time or 2 to really be engaged on defense. I'd coach him accordingly. He's certainly a special talent.
Varez Ward. Continue to guard like a beast. Offensively, find that happy medium between good shot selection and staying aggressive. You have skins on the wall.
The junkyard dog didn't shoot it real well, so he adjusted his game and gave the team a lift by drawing contact and getting to the line. Just a real mature performance from Ward not to force the action. When we play our perimeter switching man to man defense, Ward's ability to switch to forwards and guards is a huge bonus. It doesn't matter who he's guarding, he's fearless.
Alexis Wangmene. Butter your bread as a weakside defending fly swatter and glasseater on both ends.
Ten solid and active defensive minutes out of Lexi. We still need more production on the glass out of the big man.
Shawn Williams. Continue to guard, but look to knock down a deep J or two. You can be THE pick and pop frontcourt guy if you can do both.
The deep 3 against the zone was nice to see. You have to tip your hat to the kid, when he plays his four minutes it's balls to the wall on both ends.
Justin Mason. Take care of the basketball and show your worth as a steady ballhandler. On defense, do what you do.
Check and check. Justin's role on this team is starting to emerge as we predicted. A ten minute, defender/energy guy.
The guy is going to be Jordan Hamilton's, and by default, Rick Barnes' best friend since he's coming in to get the shooters involved. It's a symbiotic relationship, because Balbay needs to be surrounded by shooting threats to be at his best. When we play Balbay with Ward or Mason, we're doing the young man and the team a disservice.
On defense there isn't a better on ball defender anywhere in the nation. I've never seen a guard with the elite combo of being able to stay in front of virtually every player and still get to jumpshots and contest as effectively. Power slide, power slide, power slide, stay in front, you pull up, he blocks your shot. I'm not sure folks realize this, but Balbay has the holy grail combo of perimeter defense.
On offense, the release on his lone 3 looked great. He just needs to see the ball go in a couple times to get rolling.
This game was perfect for Gary in that Iowa is tiny and unathletic. Let's see what he does against Pitt tonight.
Coach Barnes. I’d love to see some continuity created with the youngsters by having them out there together for more than a handful of possessions. Brown, Bradley, Hamilton, with James and Pittman is our most talented lineup and we need to build some chemistry with this group. It’s counter productive to have the big 3 looking over their shoulder for a sub at every dead ball. It invites impatience, poor shot selection, and forced play.
A minus here for Barnes. He played Ward with Hamilton, Brown, Pitt, and James, and quite frankly, I don't have the slightes problem with it especially when you're looking for confident offense without compromising defensive ability. Perhaps this is our most talented lineup for the time being.
A good game, but keep a close eye on tonight's Pitt game for validation.
P.S. If I'm Barnes I'm requesting different nets. The slow nets probably cost us 10 points by preventing us from having any kind of transition game after a make.