So for thirty-six minutes the Texas Longhorns gave the Golden Grizzlies a golden shower. The Longhorns contested virtually every shot in a barrage of three point attempts, Tristan Thompson dominated a future NBA center, and Texas turned the table on one of the college game’s best transition teams by nearly running Oakland right out of the gym. But with four minutes to play the Longhorns, inexplicably, stopped playing. Texas went the last four minutes and fifty-two seconds without a field goal and went the last three minutes without a field goal attempt against one of the worst defenses in college hoops. That can't happen.
It’s one thing to go to your "Ice" game to salt away a win, and an entirely different matter to telegraph to your opponent that you’re no longer trying to score while doing so. You have to keep scoring in the shot clock/3 point era, and hopefully the staff and the players will use this game to improve. Pop in a tape of teams like Duke or Kansas as an example of how to close teams out by running your wide and high four minute offense and then attacking the bucket when the defense over-extends. The goal in mind for every one of those wide and high sets should be getting Thompson a dunk, instead of just running clock.
On to the grades…
Jordan Hamilton. B+. I’m going to flip-flop here and comment on Jordan’s defense before his offense. With the exception of losing sight on a back-door cut, he played very well and it was obvious he paid attention to OU’s scouting report. He recognized one of the Grizzlies favorite sets and sprinted to the spot on the floor where the shooter was going to catch, instead of fighting through a double screen. He also tagged his cover beyond the arc and ran his man off of jumpers. Hamilton’s length also created some havoc in the passing lanes with a steal and a couple deflections. On the glass, Hamilton rebounds like a power forward and is the sole reason we can keep the undersized Gary Johnson on the floor without getting obliterated on the glass.
Offensively, it took Hamilton a few possessions to realize the free money was in the paint before he started ignoring the jumper and going to the bucket. When he was driving to the goal the Grizzlies had no answer.
Tristan Thompson. A. He exacted monumental devastation to Keith Benson and did so without the benefit of a single whistle. Evidently I missed the memo that says Benson is to be treated like Dewayne Wade in an NBA Finals game. In classic Thompson style, he didn’t whine nor complain, he just dominated with seven blocks and 10 boards with little to no help in the post. Offensively, it’s hard to describe how much better Thompson would be if you paired him with an elite lead guard, like say a Myck Kabongo. His ability to run the floor is nearly wasted on this club and if he’s playing with any kind of a floor general he’s guaranteed four garbage dunks in the last four minutes of yesterday’s game. He’d also be much more productive on offense if we had more than a couple players that could enter the post. I’m looking at you Gary Johnson.
J’Covan Brown. B+. He actually played really well on both ends and was in control of the game for the most part until the last four minutes. In that situation you have to go get the basketball from Gary Johnson in that situation if it takes running over and slapping him in the head to do it. We don’t win this game without his foul shooting.
Gary Johnson. D. Four of six from the field is nice, but I feel like Bob Uecker when I look at his box score. Two goddamn rebounds? Luckily you can say goddamn on a blog. There were 138 field goal attempts in this game, Gary, and you pulled two boards. Time to pull you head out son and decide how you want fans to remember your career.
Cory Joseph. B. Joseph defended well for the most part and picked his spots for the 3-ball pretty well. In fact, I’d like to see him be more aggressive behind the arc and look to drop off a little more to Tristan and the forwards on the dribble drive because he’s a below average finisher at the rim. A solid game that would have been graded better had he been a little less careless during winning time.
Doge Balbay. A. He was Dogus 2.0 with some slashes through the lane and a little jumper. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and a Doge Balbay mid-range pull-up. Strange days indeed. Defensively, he played about as well as you can on Hamilton which is classic Doge. Will need him to play similarly against Momo Jones tomorrow.
Alexis Wangmene. A. He played productive minutes when he was in there. Consider the fact that he had the same number of rebounds in six minutes as Gary Johnson had in thirty one and at this point I’m all for giving Wangmene half of Gary’s minutes. Tell Alexis to go balls to the wall for 20 and not worry about foul trouble. At the very least you’ll give Tristan some relief inside and get another solid foul shooter on the floor. With a little good fortune, maybe Alexis gets you some blocks and some put-backs. He can’t play any worse than Johnson’s playing.
Jai Lucas. A. He gave Texas a lift off the bench with a pull-up and a 3-ball. Ten minutes is about right for Jai if we need a guy to come in and extend the defense and enter the basketball. Hamilton posed a poor matchup for Jai, but Arizona will have some covers on the floor that are more palatable.
Coaching. B+. I thought coach Barnes had the perfect game plan for the Grizzlies. Run your stuff and simply allow Oakland to not guard you. We executed the game plan for most of the game outside of two or three ill-advised jumpers. I was also pleased to see us not fall in the coaching dogma trap of slowing tempo against an up-tempo team. If you’re the better squad with better athletes you say "bring it" and run when the numbers are there. We did that, and good on Coach Barnes for it.
Obviously closing out the game left a lot to be desired. We continue to have guys shy away from the ball during crunch time and we coach to run clock instead of running clock with the purpose of scoring. It also hurts that we don’t have the kid at the one spot to just isolate and then salt away games with the ball in his hands with 10 seconds on the shot clock. I’ll say it again, but Hamilton should be this guy, but Jordan doesn’t seem to have that type of mentality sadly.
Overall a win is a win, especially in a tournament setting. Survive and advance is cliché for a reason—it’s absolutely true. Matchups are the most important thing, not how you’re playing. As long as you win, it’s all good. On to Arizona.