The Texas Longhorns started slow, played ~25 minutes of excellent basketball, then hung on for dear life as the Oklahoma State Cowboys mounted a comeback bid. Texas ultimately prevailed 74-69, notching yet another win that brings up questions and answers in equal measure. We know at this point that Texas will live and die by the 3, the question is how good they will be shooting the 3 the rest of the season. Felix is cooling off after his torrid start, Connor Lammert is hovering around 30%, and Eric Davis Jr./Tevin Mack are freshmen prone to erratic outputs in a given game. How well will Texas press the rest of the season is another good question, not to mention how well will they handle being pressed(this will be answered Wednesday when they travel to Morgantown). There are a lot of plates for Shaka Smart to get spinning at the same time.
Ho-hum, just 18 points, 7-8 from the line, and a 4:1 ATO. Oh, and 1 positively Barnesian ass-chewing by Shaka in the second half. Zay was the best guard against the press and shared defensive duties on Juwan Evans(4-13 on the night) with Kerwin. I'm starting to run out of inventive ways to praise Zay.
2-3 from the floor - including a volleyball set that went in off the backboard - 7 rebounds, and active hands on defense. He also did this:
Prince Ibeh will take your lunch and you will thank him for it. #hookem https://t.co/tv2217h8MI— Bitterwhiteguy (@Bitterwhiteguy) January 16, 2016
Fantastic ball movement between @javanfelix3, @klr_doce, & @andtwenty1 #hookem https://t.co/7xDBGUmSiX— Bitterwhiteguy (@Bitterwhiteguy) January 16, 2016
If you can't appreciate the player rotation, passing, and timing of that play, we can't be friends. If you think this sort of play happens easily, we're going to have problems. If you're creeped out that I have an erection right now, I totally understand.
The Mixed Bag
Handling the Press
Depending on which possession you saw, Texas either passed over or was completely discombobulated by OSU's trapping press. Oklahoma State doesn't press all that much, they were deploying it mainly out of desperation and it worked. I should have kept count of the times a Texas guard would receive the inbounds pass, turn around, and stand there staring at the court while I swore into a pillow. A big reason the Cowboys were able to come back from 23 down and make it a game is because their press sped up the Texas guards and caused some turnovers. Speaking of turnovers..
Kerwin was not good at dealing with the press tonight. He was susceptible to the trap nearly every time he touched the ball in the back-court; I'm officially terrified of seeing him play against West Virginia. On the good side, as long as OSU wasn't pressing, Kerwin handled the ball well enough that he was able to give Isaiah Taylor a solid breather in the first half. Kerwin also hit 6-8 free throws, which is a nice bump from his 53% season average.
Handling the Zone
I'm putting this in 'mixed bag' because we don't have a "Well, if they had made some of their 3s" category. (It's probably best we don't have that category because I'd spend most of every recap shoehorning topics into it.) Unlike the color commentator - who talks like a guy that had a Big Country-sized woobie on his college team - I realize that not every missed 3 is "settling" and not every made 3 is a great decision. Texas wasn't awful against the zone, they just weren't hitting their 3s. If their 3s - most of which were defensible decisions - went in, Texas wins this game by 15 and Bryndon Manzer has to sit on his OSU-alum ass and take the beating in relative silence. I don't listen to his work enough to know if this was a one-off thing or if he always talks about basketball strategy from his 1994 Stillwater dorm room, but he seemed unable or unwilling to discern how a 4-out offense works. You know what?
In a way, I blame his parents for naming him like he was destined to be a 4th string Baylor QB.
When Javan is hitting his threes, he's a vital asset to the program. When he's off, he doesn't bring a lot to the game. Today he was off. A lot. Most of his shot selection was solid, it just wasn't going in. He ended up 1-8 from the field and 0-7 from 3, though he did hit some much-needed free throws in the second half.
Texas cannot afford to spend much time reflecting on this win as they descend into the abyss of Big 12 conference play this week. Their next two games are at West Virginia and at Kansas, neither of which is likely to result in a victory unless Texas plays their best game of the season in the next 7 days. Play time is over, now Texas gets to try playing with the big boys. Tip against West Virginia is Wednesday at 6pm CT on ESPNU.
BWG's writing tunes provided by Dionysos (SFW). [Full disclosure: This is my mix for the Dallas Observer, you can read the interview here.]