WELCOME TO THE NIT!
...is what I would have typed had Texas not managed to snag a lackluster victory from the jaws of defeat. Stop me if you've heard this before: the Longhorns fell in a hole early, built up a "fool's gold" lead, let their opponent back into the game, and almost found themselves weighed, measured, and found wanting.
Texas' performance against Texas Tech was as much a moral defeat as an actual victory. While the Longhorns absolutely needed the win to stay in consideration for an at-large tournament bid, the methods in which they procured the victory left fans wondering why Texas seemingly hasn't improved since the start of conference play.
Texas Tech is not a good team. The Red Raiders are 8-20, have one conference win, and generally all-around suck at everything except, maybe, limiting their opponents on field goal percentage. For example: Luke Adams, who played 34 minutes against Texas, shot 0-4, and turned the ball over twice, may be the worst player in the Big 12. On the season, he's shooting 30% from the field, and has more combined turnovers and fouls (72) than rebounds, assists, blocks and steals (62).
Frankly, the Longhorns should have led by 20+ after the first half. The Longhorns let Texas Tech's bigs, Jordan Tolbert and Robert Lewandowski, light the scoreboard early, then were fortunate enough to earn two fouls on both before the 10 minute mark. Without Tech's killing giants in the game, Texas players forced a few turnovers, got a few transition buckets, and ended the first half up 11. Like I said, it should have been 20, and Tech went into the locker room feeling pretty decent about how the half played out.
With Tolbert back for the second half, Billy Gillispie went to junk defenses, utilizing box-and-one and triangle-and-two zones that Texas simply had no answer for. Instead of attacking weak spots, the Longhorns seemed content to flail around aimlessly, utilizing little ball movement and not forcing any interior action. On defense, Texas continuously got burned on pick-and-rolls, overcompensating on the perimeter and allowing Tech's ball-handlers to drive by and dish to open scorers. By the way, Tech shot 2-14 from the perimeter. Ooh, that's scary!
If you recall my Oklahoma State (and Baylor!) post-mortems, I said Texas played stupid, irresponsible, and often ugly basketball. At no point was that more evident in the final 90 seconds of regulation. With Texas up 3, 55-52, the Longhorns did the following: had THREE brain-dead loose/dead ball fouls to allow Tech to shoot free throws without taking any time off the clock; missed TWO free throws that could have helped ice the game; gifted Tech an extra posession after inexplicably using their top free throw shooter (J'Covan Brown) to inbound the ball; allowed their third-best ball-handler (Julien Lewis) to drive the ball in an attempt to win the game, only to have him initiate the offense about four seconds too early, then turn the ball over, thereby giving Tech a last-second shot to win the game. Tthankfully, Jaye Crockett missed. Barely. Got all that?
Texas continued its listless ways in overtime, falling behind by 6 before an absolute money trey by Lewis brought Texas to within 1 and gave the Horns the boost they needed to snatch a win. It's fitting that Texas took the lead on a Brown steal and lay-up, because Texas' halfcourt play was abysmally bad all game.
A win is a win, though. Texas needs one more this week against Oklahoma to go into the Big 12 Tournament feeling, well, okay about its NCAA tournament chances. That's where my eyes are focused, but to beat the Sooners, Texas will need to ball a heckuva lot better than they did in Lubbock.