Jonathan Holmes' dagger 3 was the difference in a 55-54 Texas Longhorns win over the Connecticut Huskies. Leave it to Holmes to be the guy that breaks the Curse of the Black Uniforms. Actually, it pretty much had to be him because the rest of the team forgot they could score points in the 2nd half. Credit due to UConn for their defensive effort, but a more active Texas team shoots better than 27% from the floor in the final 20 minutes. Anyway, let's get down to it.
Winning in Hostile Territory
This is an intangible aspect of the game, but it's very important for a team that's still in the bottom 1/3rd of D1 in experience. Texas could've packed it in; they gave up an 11-3 run, went down 51-45 to the defending national champs in their house & only had ~6 minutes left to go, but they continued to battle. Texas closed the game out on a 10-3 run(including 4 straight free throws made by Turner & Yancy) and took out a team that's likely to make some noise in March. These are the things that get a team bumped up a seed come tourney selection time.
The national media should be talking about Holland like they did Aaron Craft because he's every bit as good as Craft defensively. While Barnes chose to put Felix on Ryan Boatright for most of the game(more on this in a bit), Holland was assigned a dorm room inside Boatright's jersey and within a matter of seconds Holland had lit some incense & lined the inside of Boatright's #11 with Pink Floyd posters. Boatright will be smelling Holland's breath in his dreams tonight. And can we talk about his drives to the bucket? Holland went 5-6 in the 1st half and his shots averaged 18 inches from the bucket. Holland is nearing elite status in transition; all the runs to the basket that were out of control last year are much more under control this year, and it shows in his stats. Holland has gone from a terror for Texas fans to a terror for opponents and it's hard to overstate how significant a part of the team he's become. If there were a basketball version of the Gaskamp, Holland would be running away with the award right now.
Javan Felix's defense
It raised a lot of eyebrows when Barnes announced Javan would be guarding Boatright today, and with good reason. Felix's defensive weaknesses are exacerbated by speedy guards, and Boatright is about as quick as they come. But it has to be said - and I feel compelled to give him some credit because he's getting mentioned later in a much less positive light - that for the 1st half Felix did a solid job on making Boatright uncomfortable. He went 4-10 in the 1st half, but most of those shots were high difficulty shots. If you can make Boatright's game shooting off-balance 3s, you've done your job. Kevin Ollie made some good halftime adjustments that got Boatright into the paint again, but Felix exceeded my expectations on the defensive end.
Yancy had an uneven game and he had some stupefying mental breakdowns when he drove into the paint, but I want to give him credit for a couple of things. 1) He took the open 3s when they were there. They aren't always going to go down(and they didn't today), but he needs to keep taking those because they'll be there for him on a regular basis in this offense. The more he does that, the sooner they'll start to fall, and the sooner he supplants Javan on the perimeter. 2) He was 4-5 from the line, including 2 huge FTs in Texas' final run. Yancy's game this year reminds me at times of Holland's game last year. If he can follow the same arc, it bodes well for Texas' future.
Oh, that Holmes guy
JOHNNY BASKETBALL!!!— Myles Turner (@Original_Turner) November 30, 2014
I knew it was good @J_Holmes10 lol pic.twitter.com/GkYtaBSmAW— Connor Lammert (@ANDtwenty1) November 30, 2014
He does it again!!! Jonny Basketball hits the game winner. Great team win! #hookem #hesfromsanantoniotoo #roadkill— Connor Lammert (@ANDtwenty1) November 30, 2014
Curses Broken this season: 2
First, Texas wins at their own personal house of horrors(MSG) not once but twice, and now Texas won while wearing black uniforms. If they get an inbounds pass in against Arizona in under 4 seconds, I don't know what I'll do with myself. It's like Rick Barnes is on a personal mission to exorcise all his demons in one year. WATCH YOUR BACK, MCCLELLAN.
The final play
Holmes' part has been well-discussed everywhere (and deservedly so), but I want people to watch another part on the replay. Look under the basket when Holmes shoots; Turner is camped out ALL ALONE waiting for the rebound/put-back. That play had a 90% chance of ending in either a win or OT because the Texas players did their jobs. UConn's defensive lapses were numerous and they had basically given up the win in regulation whether they knew it or not. Good on Texas & good on Barnes, that inbounds play was basically perfect.
Texas let UConn control the tempo
This was a Big 10 football game on the basketball court due in no small part to UConn's blatant attempts to take the air out of the ball. They were perfectly content to let 25 seconds run off the clock every possession and Texas was unable to force a faster pace. Some of this is due to Texas' defensive nature - they don't force a lot of turnovers because they'd rather block your shot into the 4th row or swat it to a teammate - but 8 turnovers by UConn isn't going to give Texas enough opportunities to run. UConn missed a lot of shots, but they also got a fair number of offensive rebounds. Again, not a recipe for running. Texas is a team that's built to run, as Mike Finger pointed out.
People think Texas' size means they want to play slow. Wrong. That depth is so much more effective in an up-tempo game.— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) November 30, 2014
But they didn't run, and it nearly cost them.
Maybe the biggest consequence of losing Zay is that Javan is falling back into his old habits of trying to wear Superman's cape when it's clearly not his size. Every time he tries to break down an opponent on an iso play that only he realizes is going on makes me cringe. Javan, you're not the only guy on this team that can make a shot any more; you went 2-8 from 3 and on the season only Damarcus Croaker & Jordan Barnett are worse from behind the arc. Drive to the bucket & get a foul, a layup, or pass to an open man. You don't have to do it all, and frankly you can't do it all.
Mainly just for having a brother that went HAM for a half against Texas. We still love you, buddy.
Alright, I'm officially concerned. I don't know what's going on with him, he seems like he's regressed considerably on the offensive end. Maybe he's trying to figure out how to fit into things with Turner, Holmes, & crew, maybe he's got some personal shit going on...I'm at a loss. But this isn't the same kid from last year, and I'm worried about how he'll handle the Kentucky bigs. It could be ugly on Friday.
Texas took down the defending national champs on their home court. Their reward is a home game against an overmatched UT satellite school before taking on the team UConn beat for the title & early favorites for this year's crown: Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Savor this win, because we're 5 days away from Texas' biggest test of the year.