Wow. We needed that.
And by we I mean the players, the staff, and all of the fans that started to temper expectations after a horrible start to 2010. The team we saw tonight was but a glimpse of the team we thought we'd have after reading scouting reports and watching open runs in August.
The interesting yet borderline frustrating part about how the game played out is that the outcome turned on two basic things. First, a defensive adjustment that Rick Barnes should be lauded for. The second, was a singular talent taking over a game in spite of his coach.
In the first half James Anderson channeled his inner Kevin Durant and hit all manner of shots to give the Pokes an early double digit lead. Triple threat position 3's, power dribble blow by's and circus style fadeaways netted the talented junior 24 points at the half.
Throw in some Michael Jordan-esque preferential treatment from the zebras and you get the picture.
Kid was going to drop a double nickel on the Horns just as Jordan did to the Knicks, that is, until the Turkish prison reared his baklava-loving head. Credit coach Barnes for putting the only player on Texas' roster that could not only stay in front of the talented wing, but also bother Anderson's jumpshot with great athleticism.
Ironically, Balbay was aided by the same one man zone that some teams love to run against us. By sagging off of OSU's non shooter Fred Gulley on the floor, and Balbay's heroism, the Horns held Anderson to just two points the rest of the way. Texas' one man zoner?
Who happens to be the MVP of the game because he allowed Texas to maintain contact in the first half and overtake the Cowboys in the second half with a ridiculous 11-16, 5-8 from deep, for 27 points in 19 minutes.
Yes, 19 minutes.
If the kid gets whistles and minutes like Anderson, he may have been the one dropping the double nickel. When it looked like the season may continue on a downward spiral, Jordan Hamilton spit in the task master's eye and went off. Kevin Durant style.
On to the players.
This kid is a night in and night out warrior for the Horns, but the cavalry is on the way for this hybrid 4. If Jordan Hamilton grabs the 3 spot by its haunches and humps it into submission, James gets to do his thing against slow footed fours. As it stands, don't discount his efficient 6-10 night. I thought his two foul shots including the front end of a one and one exorcised some demons for this team. That's what leaders do, they exorcise demons, and shit.
I'm not going to pretend that the big fella played well, because he didn't. But I did think, once again, that the officials and the personnel groupings took him out of the game early on. It's sad when Marshall Moses gets more whistles than Dexter Pittman. It's also sad when Pitt has to endure playing with our least effective offensive lineup. Help is on the way big fella, and he wears number 23.
Jordan fucking Hamilton.
Tip your cap, because the kid, despite how poorly he's played all year, never quit, and never got down on himself. He continues to enter games trying to fill a void on this team, which is to come in and get buckets. The stat line is sick but more importantly, rewind the tape and watch how Hamilton's shot selection gets better the longer he's in the game. Watch how much more patient the kid is the more comfortable he gets with his minutes. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy in basketball. The more comfortable you are, the better your patience and shot selection get. You can hurry along this self-fulfilling prophecy artificially with coaching, but nothing does it like ringing the bell. Those were the same shots Jordan has been taking all year, for the most part, but once he saw the ball go through the hoop, it was on. And he's doing it as a legit three which will help us on the glass and against teams that think they want to zone. Huge, perhaps season saving game from Hamilton.
Hamilton is your MVP, but Balbay played a whale of a game. He Bruce Bowened the best offensive player in the Big 12 to two points in the second half and didn't get the benefit of one whistle vs. Anderson. I also like the nuance of taking Balbay off the ball in the halfcourt as a screener on offense which served the purpose of forcing his defender to hedge and show instead of just sagging and helping. But make no mistake, we don't win this game without his effort on defense.
It's a team game and the only reason we were able to move Doge along the baseline on offense was because Brown was effective as a lead guard. I get that he didn't shoot it all that well, but his 4 to 1 assist to turnover game plus his defense holding Muenelo to 6-13 really helped the cause. He's your combo guard alongside Balbay, and when he finds his stroke look out.
Just a warrior on the glass with 10 big boards. I was so hoping he'd dot the steroid crazed Marshall Moses but evidently Gary doesn't drink scotch pregame. Probably a good move. He does give the Horns versatility in our high low sets and by spelling James for stretches. Hamilton's emergence as a 3 will also be a boon to Gary's game as a trash man 4.
He did a solid job on Anderson, forcing the future NBA player into taking tough shot after tough shot. Once Balbay switched, Bradley absolutely locked down Paige and forced some turnovers. The 5-9 in 21 minutes is an indication of an efficient offensive game, but we still need him to be more assertive with the rock. His midrange game is NBA quality.
Mase came in and did his glue thing defensively and on the glass but 18 minutes is too many in light of his inability to hit a simple open 15 footer. He needs to play 10 minutes per and go all out in that time span.
Had a nice dime for an And 1 when it looked like we would get run out of the gym. Problem for Jai is that there are bigger dogs on the block literally and figuratively. Jordan Hamilton can do what he does, and Hamilton is 6-7.
Throw him into the fire and see what happens. He's athletic enough to give you something on defense and as a finisher.
Overall, we not only reversed our trendline tonight, but we jumped the curve. In economic parlance it's tantamount to inventing the cotton gin, the micro chip, or the assembly line. This changes everything. Hell, it was as simple as finding someone that could ring the bell. Getting buckets is glorious isn't it? Part of that triumph is a function of not being afraid to miss. It's time to embrace that mindset.
I'd love to read your thoughts.