Wow, that was nice. A crisp, efficient offensive performance on 58% shooting against a state rival that always defends well portends of good things to come for the Longhorns down the road. Sure, the Horns shot the ball really well, but I’m more impressed with what kind of shots we were getting than I was with our field goal percentage—the fool’s gold factor in this ballgame was pretty low with the exception of a couple contested looks from Jordan.
I was especially pleased with our deployment of Hamilton early in the game which helped to untrack our post game. The hallmark of well executed offense is first to know where help is going to be coming from and then attacking accordingly. Then you add counters off of your attack and string together real, honest to goodness offense.
Case in point would be our use of a simple flex cut early in the game to loosen Aggie post defenders and free Tristan Thompson. The flex cut is a simple corner to lane cut where the weakside block is setting the screen.
The weakside block defender has to come off his man and show to the cutter otherwise it’s an easy catch and layup. When the defender shows to the cutter, he has to give up post position which loosens the lowblock post and allows the screener to establish his own post position. A ball reversal, and voila, you have a fantastic post entry angle leading to an easy bucket.
So given this scenario, who would you choose as the flex cutter, and who’s your flex screener? Naturally, Rick used his best offensive player Jordan Hamilton as his cutter to loosen things up for his best post player Tristan Thompson. The results were easy looks and a couple of drawn fouls for TT.
Once the Aggies countered by putting Dash Harris on JH, a smaller defender that requires less cutting help, Hamilton just shot over the top on the way to 10-14 shooting. Throw in some dribble penetration to efficient catch and shoots, as well as some well timed transition, and the Horns were on their way to an explosive offensive performance against a good defensive basketball team. Offensively, the diversity of the Texas attack should have you smiling ear to ear.
On to the players.
Jordan Hamilton. Make no mistake, everyone including Bob Knight loves unselfish basketball, but Jordan Hamilton is special to the point that he needs to be selfish at times to open the floor up for his teammates. Texas lacks true blow-by guards until Kabongo gets to campus, so Hamilton needs to draw defenders out of the paint and 24 feet from the bucket to open driving lanes for Brown and Joseph. The 25 foot heat check has its place for this reason. Sure we can lift Johnson and Thompson out of the lane to create room, but most of our penetration all starts with Hamilton’s shooting credibility.
Hamilton also showed last night that he’s the team’s second best rebounder mainly because night in and night out he’s boarding against an undersized opponent. Defensively, Hamilton got lost a couple of times as he’s prone to do, but you take the bad with the 10-14 every chance you can get.
Tristan Thompson. The kid dominates the painted area like no other player we’ve had in a good while. He’s so athletic and flexible that he’ll dunk on you if you try to contest, and he’ll slide and slither right by you if you try to play positional defense or attempt to draw a charge. If he adds a face up 12 footer he’ll be an all star power forward in the NBA. Kids that size aren’t supposed to move like that. I’m resigned to the fact he’ll be in the League this time next year. Enjoy him while you can.
It sucks too, because I’d love to see TT and Kabongo in transition next season. It’s tantamount to a VY/Adrian Peterson backfield.
Gary Johnson. The third piece to one of the nation’s best frontcourts, settled down and ended up having a terrific shooting night. It’s disheartening for a post defender to be taken out to 15 feet and then have a face up 4 man get in triple threat, rocker-step you off the shot, and then rise up and drain a little jumper. It’s a helpless feeling because there’s nothing opposing 4’s can do about it. Then, when you put a smaller forward on Gary, he pummels you on the boards. GJ’s dynamic skill set is a huge value to a club that lacks elite playmakers at guard because he creates mismatches that teams need to help to.
J’Covan Brown. Wow, really played within himself and directed traffic out there. He showed a little Chris Corchiani, so much so that Bob Knight loved on him like he was Dan Dakich-with a neck tat.
If Brown can continue to run the show while threatening the arc as a jumpshooter, this team can take the next step. Elite lead guard play is the one thing this team lacks. It also helped that Brown had an easy cover with Holmes or Harris on the floor for the Ags. That won’t be the case in Lawrence this weekend.
Cory Joseph. I thought Cory had one of the better floor games he’s had all year. He didn’t take any bad shots, he found teammates, and he defended well against Holmes and Harris. Joseph in the pick and roll can also be a good offensive supplement to all the motion we’re doing in the half court. If we can find him a mismatch the ball screen game pays dividends. See the North Carolina game.
Alexis Wangmene. Lexi gave us big productive minutes from the 5 against an Aggie frontline that likes to play physical. He softened things for Tristan to go to work, and gave the Ags a huge body blow in the form of 6-6 from the line. We’ll need similar production against the Morris twins this Saturday.
Doge Balbay. Not his ballgame because the Ags lacked elite offensive guard play, and Turgeon refused to guard Balbay which mucked up some stuff we were doing in the paint when Doge was in. We’ll need Balbay on Selby, however, so it’s good he was able to rest his legs. It should also help that Self will probably want to run with us, which means Balbay can help us offensively.
Matt Hill. He came in and banged, but more importantly, he played about as well as a big can play when it comes to helpside defense. He probably saved us two or three easy penetration buckets and a handful of fouls in his 17 minutes. Matt made a huge contribution even if it didn’t show up in the boxscore.
Coaching. I’m shocked by how well we’re playing on the offensive end, and how diversified this offense has become without truly elite guard play. Kudos to Rick for making the change. It’s been a pleasure to watch.
On to Kansas. Hook ‘Em.