We're 2 games into the A.C.E. and the Texas Longhorns are still trying to figure out how to operate without their best player, as Texas lost to the Texas Tech Red Raiders 82-74 in Lubbock. The only offense that seems to work for the Longhorns at this point is "let Isaiah Taylor drive". It isn't the worst idea in the world, but is something defenses in the Big 12 can compensate for well enough to win. Today was a solid example of how one player not named Cameron Ridley is unable to drag Texas to a victory in the toughest conference in America. Isaiah Taylor accounted for 44% of the team's made field goals and Texas lost. We're likely to see a repeat of that stat line somewhere down the road as well, because the A.C.E. Texas squad is lacking a viable alternative to Zay driving the lane.
35 points on 50% shooting, 13-14 from the line, and a 6:1 ATO ratio is an absurd stat line, something I can barely manage on Xbox at rookie difficulty level. Zay realizes he's the best player on the floor who can beat nearly any D1 guard to the basket; the second half was a showcase of his impressive speed and body control near the rim. Tubby Smith made him the focus of a number of double-teams on the perimeter, basically telling Texas that somebody else will have to step up for the 'Horns to win. Nobody else filled that role well enough, which is why the Tech lead never got below 5 in the 2nd half.
13 points on 5-9 shooting, 3-5 from 3; this is basically the role Texas wants Felix to play, though I imagine Shaka would prefer he accomplish it in a few less minutes on the floor. He missed a couple of free throws in the second half that could have helped the team narrow Tech's lead, but otherwise the Amish Fire Hydrant did his part.
The Mixed Bag
Whoever Is Playing Center
I know I'm beating this dead horse like it owes me money, but it's hard to overstate how much Cam is missed on both ends of the court. Without him, the bodies playing the 5 are the Island of Misfit Toys. Shaquille Cleare is a homeless man's Cam, with some semblance of offensive game but less than stellar rebounding range and a tendency not to pass once he's caught the ball; Prince Ibeh has a good ability to block shots as long as the opponent has never learned a shot fake and he can grab some rebounds(10 today), but his offensive ability consists mostly of illicit hand gestures and safe harbor curse words. Connor Lammert is better than either of them, but not big or strong enough to play the 5. No matter who is out there, there's some sort of liability that a smart coach - and the Big 12 has 7-8 of those - can leverage to help his team. Texas' problems from last season are inverted, they're now stronger on the perimeter and weaker on the inside. The only solution to this involves either a time machine to November or spiking Cam's morning shakes with HGH & Leonard Fournette's bone marrow. Maybe Shaka could petition the NCAA to allow a WWE-style tagging in, so if Prince is getting beat in the middle of a play Shaq could come running in to clothesline somebody while Tevin Mack distracts the refs. Worst thing they could do is say no.
The first 6 minutes of the game were abysmal, with Texas getting called for 8 fouls and putting Tech into the bonus with somewhere around 13 minutes left in the first half while Tech only got called for 1 foul. Tech was the more aggressive team early so I can understand them getting a couple more whistles, but the level of contact being allowed on each end of the court was pretty disproportionate. I'll stifle my grumbles if they call a tight game consistently on both ends, but it was far from that. The second half seemed a bit more coherent in what they'd call, though they still got plenty wrong then as well. Just so I'm clear, the refs didn't cost Texas the game. Texas lost that game just fine on their own, the refs' inconsistency simply added a layer of frustration to the situation.
Non-Zay Free Throws
Everybody other than Zay: 2-8
He gets the start and manages approximately 12 seconds of floor time before picking up 2 fouls and heading to the bench for pretty much the rest of the game. Not sure what was going on with him, but he brought a big bag of nothing to Lubbock.
Whichever Ref Did the Opening Tip
They had to setup for the tip 4 times, didn't get a successful tip until the 3rd actual throw, and honestly they probably should have tried it again. Maybe let one of the 750 Texas Tech fans who were there in time for the start of the game give it a shot.
This is a much improved Tech squad that looks to be setting up for a run to get into the NCAA Tournament, so this loss in and of itself isn't a disaster. Unfortunately for Texas, this is a game that would have been nice to steal if the Longhorns have any March Madness aspirations. 9 wins in conference play is going to be difficult enough as it is, not being able to snag a road win against one of the (relatively speaking) lesser Big 12 programs makes things that much harder. Texas has a chance to get their first conference win Tuesday night when they host the Kansas State Wildcats. Tip is 7pm CT on LHN.
(Side note: if you want to see what the class of the conference looks like, Oklahoma & Kansas face off Monday night on ESPN. There's a good chance it will be #1 vs. #2.)
BWG's writing tunes provided by Cari Lekebusch.