The Texas Longhorns defeated the Samford...uhh, Samford... *loads Google* Samford Bulldogs 59-49 in a game that could be charitably described as methodical. (I'd prefer the term passive, personally, but we'll get into that.) Samford is a team that likes to run for the most part - their tempo is in the top 1/3 of KenPom's stats - but tonight they decided the best bet was to slow the game down, and for the most part Texas obliged. I watched this game for a couple of reasons; partly because I love you all and I'm dedicated to giving you the most amazing insights a glorified blog is able to offer, and partly because
my social life is non-existent I wanted to see if Texas would put away an opponent that is clearly inferior on paper. They...did not. Texas flirted with annihilating Samford here and there, but ultimately let them hang around while Shaka tinkered with lineups. I wouldn't go so far as to call it 'concerning', but it's another in a series of signs that this team and program are still in transition.
Outcomes Don't Mean Everything
This isn't necessarily going to be a regular feature, but I noticed one series that I felt needed to be highlighted.
18:15 left in the 2nd half, Javan Felix fails to intercept a pass. Samford loses control of the ball, Holland picks up the loose ball, and leads a fast break that ends up with the ball in Felix's hand. A defender flies at him, Felix dribbles once to his left to daylight, shoots an errant 3, and Connor Lammert gets the rebound. This possession ends in a shot clock violation, which sucks. But having said that, there are 3 different points in a single ~20 second flow where Texas either makes the right decision or was in the right position to make a positive play. Felix misses the pass - not because he's out of position, but because he's 5'11 instead of 6'3". Felix shoots a good shot on the other end that just happens to miss. Lammert's rebound was a good one, too. There's 3 different moments in one possession that go 'against' Texas but could go for the Longhorns in another situation. These are the little moments that the coaching staff are looking at where they can improve efficiency, or rather moments where they understand a turnover could be a score. You see a shot-clock violation, I see a squad that's thisclose to ending a possession with a score.
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."
Samford threw a fairly basic trapping press at Texas guards, and Kerwin Roach - pushed into essentially starting PG duty thanks to Isaiah Taylor spending the night on the bench like a striking union member from 'The Sopranos" - didn't really know how to respond to what he saw. Here's the thing with a press: for every half-second you spend staring at them, they move in closer. So, short of throwing the ball into the stands and/or literally defecating into your shorts, the best bet when you see a press is to push the ball towards your end of the court. Kerwin Roach didn't get that memo - or if he did, it didn't have the proper TPS cover sheet - so there were multiple situations where Kerwin would receive the inbounds pass and stare at the defense like John Nash before his meds kicked in. I tried to keep informal track of the number of times Texas ran a press and came up with 19(it was probably more). If I can steal an analogy from the football guys, this reminds me of Texas throwing out a defense against Rice you might not see the rest of the year. Shaka Smart is getting in-game reps against an over-matched opponent and gauging results; I still don't expect a ton of SHART during conference season, especially considering the only press we're seeing much is a zone press rather than Shaka's preferred man press. It never hurts to get some reps during a game though.
Demarcus' demise was greatly exaggerated. Well, at least in the 2nd half. We saw Holland playing aggressive defense, hit open shots, and even nail a 3. I don't know if Demarcus' future consists of 10-14 minutes/game - signs point to yes - but he made the most of his minutes. 4 fouls in 10 minutes is positively Ibeh of him, but hopefully was a random outcome rather than the start of a trend.
Cameron Ridley ended the night with a 14/9 despite the team showing no discernable desire to feed the big man the ball. This was a game where I thought Cam might go for a 20/15, but the guards weren't looking for him enough. In many ways, a basketball center is sort of like a football WR; if nobody throws the ball his way, it's hard for him to make an impact. And yet, he still had this:
Another block for Cameron Ridley. https://t.co/kDzXzAp1Wc— THE Bitterwhiteguy (@Bitterwhiteguy) December 5, 2015
I realize this wasn't the highest-caliber opponent, but Cam needs more touches in a game like this. It's on the guards to get him the ball against pretty clearly inferior opposition.
The Mixed Bag
He scored 6 points in 45 seconds & 5 in the next 39:15. That's not really on him though, he's most effective as a catch & shoot perimeter threat and the team wasn't getting him the ball in space. If the Amish Fire Hydrant is hot early, you ride the smurf until Gargamel comes home. Texas needed to get him the ball more, that's the only real reason he's in the 'mixed bag' category. Perhaps it would be more accurate to put him in 'The Good' and the rest of the team's attempts at getting him the ball in 'The Bad' category.
Chalk tonight up to a learning curve. Kerwin was a decent stop-gap option at the point as Isaiah Taylor sat on the bench with foul trouble, but he has significant areas to improve if he's going to take over at the point if/when Zay moves on. The most notable area was mentioned earlier, with him pausing 94 feet from the basket before moving in a north-south direction. This happened enough times that I wondered if he was getting a little mentally swamped; on the spectrum of outcomes, I'd rather see a point guard get called for a charge on an opponent at half-court than being trapped 90+ feet from the basket. If you're going to fail, fail by being too aggressive. The margins in D1 basketball are so slim that hesitation = stagnation; when in doubt, attack. I sincerely doubt Shaka is going to hammer you as hard for being too aggressive as he would for being tentative.
Jordan shows some good moves in one possession, then follows it by being blocked & losing his man in the ensuing defensive possession. He's not ready for prime time, but his effort is there.
6-21 shooting isn't good, but it was worse at one point.
Some nights are good, others are bad. Swing a couple of those as good and this game is a blowout.
It's a win, and it's the first win streak of the Shaka Smart Era. Hopefully Texas manages to build on this with their home game against UT-San Antonion on Tuesday, December 8th. Tip is at 7pm CT on LHN. There may or may not be a recap of that game as I'll be busy with work that night.
Author's Musical Inspiration Provided by Naked Lunch Podcast Sophie Nixdorf (SFW)