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Shooting From the Corner: Texas Longhorns @ Kansas State Wildcats

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It wasn't pretty, but it was a win

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns picked up an important road win in Manhattan, beating the Kansas State Wildcats 61-57 in a game that will be remembered for years by absolutely nobody. I don't even want to call it a rock fight because that sounds too frenetic, it was more like a couple of frat bros on the tail end of a bender trying to stay awake after snorting chopped up Ambien pills. The atmosphere was so electric that there were literally babies sleeping in the arena.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Sure, bring an infant to the game, why not. <a href="http://t.co/zx09BE6RQm">pic.twitter.com/zx09BE6RQm</a></p>&mdash; El Diablo Blanco (@Bitterwhiteguy) <a href="https://twitter.com/Bitterwhiteguy/status/564171948830117888">February 7, 2015</a></blockquote>
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I'm going to look at this game from the perspective of what Rick Barnes was doing, because his fingerprints on this game seemed more obvious to me than normal.

Positives

  • Coach Barnes was obviously very attentive to the mood of the team and took steps to ensure they didn't go brain-dead as best he could. The evidence of this were the 2 timeouts in the first half he used to try to stop Kansas State runs before they started. It wasn't always effective, but he was definitely more proactive about keeping the team on an even keel.
  • On the same note, I think Barnes was a little more positive towards the players than normal. His discussions on the sideline - at least what I could see from the TV cameras - were a bit more of the firm/conversational tone than barking at the team. (Contrast that with Bruce Weber, who looked like he was about to throw ninja stars at his guys.) I've always felt the narrative that Barnes is too hard on his guys is a bit overblown - there's some merit, I just don't believe it happens as much as some think - but no matter where your belief lies, he was gentler with them than we're used to seeing.
  • Prince Ibeh had one of his best games of the year and Barnes rewarded him with more minutes. This is only the 2nd game of the year Prince had 20+ minutes; it was well-deserved.
  • It was pretty apparent Barnes encouraged Kendal Yancy to be more aggressive, and while Kendal didn't make many of his shots his willingness to drive into the paint opened things up for other guys.
  • Texas did a lot less passing around the arc and a lot more driving to the paint. There was a lot of focus on pick & roll offense, which may be a sign Barnes is slimming down the playbook for the guys so they'll make more decisive moves within the game.
  • Isaiah Taylor came to play today, and he was able to get to the foul line reliably in the second half. Some of his passing decisions were bizarre - I'm amazed not more of them went off somebody's face - but I'm not going to focus on that when he was easily the best offensive weapon on the floor. Kudos to Barnes for running the offense through Zay instead of trying to feed the post to the detriment of the team.
  • When it came to crunch time, Barnes switched from 2-3 to man. It's good to see the switch, and moreover Texas being proficient at it when they needed it.

Negatives

  • Jordan Barnett nearly put up another club trillion in 11 minutes, only registering 1 rebound & 1 turnover on zero shots. I know some are clamoring for more minutes for him, but if he's not shooting the ball then he doesn't need to see the floor, period. He sets up in the wrong spot on the perimeter, he makes poor passing decisions on the move, and he's a half-step slow defensively. In other words, he's a normal freshman. If Texas' season wasn't on life-support I'd understand trying to get him some run for the long-term benefit, but this is a team that needs Ws more than they need to season a freshman who will probably benefit more from practice than game time any way. I like Jordan and think he can be a positive contributor down the road, but right now he needs to sit next to Jai and learn as much as he possibly can.
  • Demarcus Holland needs to shoot more. He logged 2 shots in 35 minutes, missing both 3s he attempted. D, buddy, they're not going to fear you driving to the rim if they know you're always going to pass. You've got the skills to put up 9-12 points/game on 5-6 shots, go for it.

I Don't Know Where To Put This

  • The decision to slow the game to a crawl by Barnes was a curious one. I don't know if they were conceding the transition opportunities because (as our BON brethren noted) KSU was running back before the shot hit the rim, or maybe Barnes was trying to give our guys a little rest because, say, they expect Jonathan Holmes and/or Javan Felix to miss extended time and they're running a shortened bench. It could be a variety of reasons, but it was a very deliberately paced game. I didn't care for it, but I'm of the Ricky Bobby school of thought when it comes to getting your offense going. Maybe he was trying to take the air out of the building; well, mission accomplished.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Kansas State fans. They&#39;re no Baylor fans. <a href="https://t.co/c66bt304kk">https://t.co/c66bt304kk</a></p>&mdash; El Diablo Blanco (@Bitterwhiteguy) <a href="https://twitter.com/Bitterwhiteguy/status/564197311136677888">February 7, 2015</a></blockquote>
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So Texas gets a much-needed win, Barnes gets closer to 600 wins(and 400 as Texas' head coach, he's at 397), and now Texas has a decent shot at getting back to .500 in conference play with home games against TCU & Texas Tech up next. There wasn't anything life-altering - positively or negatively - in the way he coached today, but credit is due for adjusting the gameplan and trying to pull the right levers at the right time. We'll see if this is the start of a comeback or deck chairs on the Titanic, but any win is good at this point. And aren't we all happy to see any Texas team in any sport win a game in Manhattan?

It's sort of amazing that this team still has a shot to finish in the top 3 of the conference(I'm not holding my breath) after the last 2-3 weeks, but it's there. The more realistic scenario to me is them finishing 5th-6th in the conference, avoid the 1st round of the Big 12 tournament(the bottom 4 teams play each other, everyone else gets a bye), and hopefully make enough noise in the conference tournament to work themselves into a 6-7 seed in the NCAAs. They desperately need to avoid the 8/9 seed line - and a potential 2nd round matchup against a 1 seed - if they want any chance at catching lightning in a bottle in the NCAA Tournament. But that's getting way ahead of things, they need to start by taking out the TCU Horned Frogs on Wednesday. Game time is 7pm Central on Longhorn Network.