In a surprising twist from two coaches known for their defensive wizardry, the Texas Longhorns and the Michigan Wolverines battled in an epic shootout that ended in a 78-72 victory for the Wolverines. This was hardly the expected outcome when you picture a Charlie Strong/Jim Harbaugh match up, but that's the way football goes sometimes.
*holds finger to ear*
I'm sorry, I'm being told this was basketball. That makes a lot more sense.
Texas never led in this game; a number of comeback bids all ultimately fell short due to untimely defensive lapses, poor free throw shooting, and a Michigan quartet of guards that hammered NBA Jam mode again and again. Texas threw everything at them; from a 2-3 zone to a diamond press to Jordan Barnett(5 minutes!), Shaka Smart tried just about everything. Some of it worked(the diamond press), some of it didn't(the 2-3 zone). Texas is now 2-3 on the season and they need to take care of business against the next 3 relatively easy opponents because North Carolina looms large on the horizon.
The 2015 Barking Carnival Basketball Mantra
"The gamble with a press(particularly of the trapping variety) is that your team will create more good outcomes than bad and distort the game in your favor, but this means as a Texas fan you're going to need to increase your tolerance for bad outcomes as well."
This is the first time Texas has deployed a press in a high-leverage situation, and it mostly worked. The diamond press is a zone press that looks a bit like a 1-3-1 extended to 3/4 court, and it managed to put the brakes on a red-hot Michigan team long enough to cut a 13-point lead to 1. It's the first time I've seen SHART begin to really bother an opponent, and it portends brighter days ahead if the team can build off this game going forward. I don't know that we'll see much of the man presses this season, but the zone press could be viable with the length & quickness Texas has at its disposal.
We're about 5 games from renaming this section 'Other Guys Playing As Well As Cam'. 5-5 from the floor - which would've been more if Texas fed the big man more effectively - 8 rebounds, and a block is a good night from the big man. At the start of the 2nd half, they fed him the ball two straight possessions. Anyone want to guess how many points Texas got from those possessions? Yea, 4. Maybe do more of that next game. I'm actually hearing some rumbles that his NBA stock is rising to the point he might get a tryout from somebody after he graduates, that's how well he's playing. The one knock is the same as the past few games: his free throws aren't going in to date. If he fixes that, we're cooking with gas.
4-7 from the floor, 2-5 from 3, and only one questionable shot I can recall; also, he had active hands on defense and was scrapping on the floor for loose balls. Javan earned his 26 minutes tonight.
Eric Davis, Jr.
Eric doesn't so much have a green light as Shaka's tossing him the Green Lantern ring. 12 points in 17 minutes on 4-6 shooting, he's one of the reasons Texas was in this game at all at halftime. He didn't play much in the 2nd half when Texas was pressing, I imagine that's a signal that Shaka doesn't think he's quite there on the defensive end. Still, his offense is enough of a net-positive that I'm willing to roll with his defensive lapses while he learns.
The Mixed Bag
7-14 from the floor is good, 8 assists to 1 turnover is excellent. So why is he here? 1-5 from 3 & 3-5 from the line. I know Isaiah needs to shoot some 3s to keep the defense from sagging off him, but he needs to make those 3s for it to matter. He's 2-10 on the season from deep, and that number doesn't surprise me in the slightest. For all the good he does driving the lane - and his desire to play defense is underrated - he hasn't really progressed much from what he was last year.
Free Throw Shooting
8-19 from the line is awful, period. In a game where Texas couldn't quite get over the hump, missed free throws are throwing concrete in the flatbed. This needs to improve as the season goes on or it's going to cost Texas at least a couple of games.
Aside from what I mentioned about the diamond press earlier, Texas was bad on defense. They were biting on shot fakes all over the court, sagging too far off their man on the weak side - credit to Michigan for seeing it and making the passes - and made too many defensive lapses at critical moments. Some of the issues were ones of being overly aggressive, which is inherent in a system where you're gambling, but it still hurts to see the team roll snake eyes that often. Michigan shot 58% from the field for the game, which is a crazy number even if their shooters are feeling it. Shaka was visibly unhappy with the defensive effort in the post-game press conference, it was a point he harped on in nearly every answer.
Texas finishes the tournament in 6th place with a 1-2 record, and for the first time all season they get to spend more than a week in their own beds instead of running around on a NBA travel schedule(thanks, Steve), so hopefully they'll settle into a routine that improves their overall play. Their next game is at home against UT-Arlington, tip is 7p CT on Tuesday on LHN.