Greetings, night owls, and welcome to Texas After Dark. We appreciate you taking a 15-minute break from your Skinemax marathon to check in on the Texas Longhorns and their why-was-this-even-close 75-73 victory over the Stanford Cardinal. The short answer: Texas should have won this game by 18 points, except they never decided they needed to completely deprive Stanford of oxygen. Alas, this led to Stanford reviving from a comatose state long enough to hit free throw after free throw after free throw which kept them in the game long enough to get their offense (sorta) rolling. There was a point midway through the first half when Stanford had 15 points & 11 of them were from the line; a more focused Texas team is up by 15 at that point, but this team never quite hit that mark. You can blame the free throw disparity if you like, it's an easy scapegoat and not without merit. It's hard to look at a Texas squad dealing with Cameron Ridley, Javan Felix, Eric Davis Jr., and Prince Ibeh all having 2 first-half fouls and not want to blame the refs. But if we're going to see this team attain its final form, it needs to learn how to work through foul trouble better than it did tonight. Yes this was a road game, but given Stanford's lack of crowd participation, no more so than the Bahamas or China. This was a wasted opportunity to really make a statement, instead the same questions about Texas away from Club Erwin remain. I don't want to come across as maudlin in a victory, just that this is one of those games that remind everyone Texas is still a program in transition between coaching styles. A win is a win, and a month from now only I will be grousing about the margin of victory in a game that KenPom ($) rated as a toss-up.
Can we use the Georgetown G5 to shuttle 30 of Zay's friends & family to every home game? If that's what makes him play like this, it's probably worth it. 26 points on 11-17 shooting, 6 assists, and being good enough that in the 2nd half Stanford resorted to trapping him in the half-court every time he got near the 3-point line is only scratching the surface of how he affected this game. Peak Zay was ready to rumble from the opening tip.
Kerwin didn't have any highlight reel dunks tonight, which was actually a good sign in my eyes. He made a number of smart plays with the ball in his hands, and was able to create points without resorting to overwhelming athleticism which is something he can hopefully replicate. With Javan Felix on the bench a lot due to foul trouble, Kerwin helped shoulder the offensive load by going 6-7 from the floor(2-2 from 3), 4 assists and ending up with 14 points on the night. His free throws are still a significant issue(0-3 tonight, 58% on the year...if I round up) but he created positive offensive momentum and played defense generally well enough for a freshman. I'll take that contribution any night of the week.
He had an off night, spent most of the 1st half on the bench with foul trouble...and still ended up with 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 blocks despite playing without a shoe on a possession. For anyone that's concerned the Big Cheese (Lowell Galindo's nickname for him on LHN) might still be considered "lumbering", I invite you to watch this:
That's a play Prince Ibeh makes the last 2-3 years, but not necessarily Cam. Cam is light on his feet and understands his role well enough he can switch onto a guard and play respectable defense. Add onto this his ability to put up multiple tip-ins on a single possession(I saw him jump the same height for putbacks 3 times in 3 seconds late in the game, which none of us can do once 36 minutes into a Gregory shirts v. skins contest) and he's cooking with gas this year. This isn't a fluke, Cam is playing like a 5-star.
Tevin's stat line was decent - 7 points on 3-8 shooting, 3 rebounds - but he looked better than he's looked in awhile. When the main guys are dealing with foul trouble, you need guys to step up and Tevin did. He had valuable minutes in a game where it was desperately needed and I hope he's getting a pat on the back for it.
7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 turnover, and a half-dozen cliche "glue" plays. Texas is going to miss the hell out of him next year, and not just because he looks like the bobbleheads from Fallout 4. I will breakdance fight you to the death over this point.
The Mixed Bag
Stanford ended up shooting 22 free throws to Texas' 10, and it was only that close because Stanford had to start fouling in the last minute. I would understand a foul disparity if Stanford was driving to the rim every possession & Texas was settling for pot shots from deep, but Stanford wasn't driving that much more than Texas. I don't recall many egregious calls - Prince Ibeh getting called for a block at the free throw elbow being a notable exception - it just seemed like the refs couldn't quite decide if they wanted to call contact or not.
Free Throw Shooting
Non-Zay free throw shooting: 1-7
I'm a fan of Demarcus and I want that guy to succeed like few others, but he seems like he's still operating under Barnes Rules in a Shaka World. His on-ball defense is good enough that he'll probably never be sat on the bench permanently, but he's pretty obviously losing minutes to Davis/Mack/Roach/Yancy in some order. At the end of the season, his MPG bar graph will probably look like Hugh Hefner's sex drive after 75. I hope that guy worked on his degree as hard as he worked on his defense, because he's joining the rest of us in the civilian world sooner than he may realize.
Texas has won 6 in a row, which is something worth celebrating with UConn & conference play coming up. There's a good chance this is the last such streak Texas has this year, given how tough the Big 12 looks. The team is off through Christmas; next up is the last non-conference game for a month with the Connecticut Huskies on Tuesday, December 29th. Tip is 8pm CT on ESPN2.
BWG's writing tunes provided by Slam (SFW).