Texas fans were looking for an early season barometer of Rick Barnes' crew against Illinois and we certainly got it. While it wasn't always pretty, it was more pretty than ugly particularly as we come out on top. Going into the game I had to wonder just how our shiny new car would handle city traffic and it passed with flying colors.
Offensively, we showed solid patience and good ball movement most of the game and certainly in the first half when things were really clicking. We took care of the ball. In a matchup where we were expected to struggle with their size it was we who dominated inside the 3-pt arc. We did get out of sorts in the final 10 minutes of regulation but managed just enough offense to hold them off and force overtime.
Individually, I thought Hamilton did another good job of limiting bad shots. We have to accept that not every one he takes is going to be a good one but thus far he really hasn't had me shaking my head. He disappeared for a lot of the second half but he was there when we needed him in OT. Thompson just continues to exceed his scouting report. I knew he could run the floor and could give us some offense down on the block but the turnaround he's showing is something I had never really seen. Dude was just everywhere tonight. And as much as he struggled from the charity stripe, he was clutch from there late. Joseph was a bit too tentative offensively but that bucket late was a veteran shot and he hit his FTs late. Johnson finished with a good stat line but was a bit up and down. His face-up game was rock-solid but he blew some good opportunities from up close. Alexi continues to show he actually can help and not hinder us on the offensive end. he's not going to conjure images of Hakeem, but he's actually doing a lot of positives on that end for us.
Defensively, 84 is a lot of points but Illinois really had to earn them. Balbay and Joseph were hell on their guards for much of the second half. Constantly forcing Illinois to exert a lot energy just to find a guard to set their offense. We held our own on the glass and TT's a bigger defensive force than I expected.
Biggest negative was the FT shooting but I'm still encouraged by the fact that our top four projected FT shooters should be pretty good with Thompson shooting the worst amongst them. Interestingly, we did manage to make more than they did and that was helped by the fact we were getting in the paint and drawing more fouls.
Three games in and this team's got me pretty damn excited. Should be an even tougher matchup tomorrow with a rugged Pitt team but it's a game that will serve us well late in the season.