I got a chance to see this game in person at TCU's newly renovated basketball stadium, which was a big step-up from the high school gym they were using last season. It's a nice enough facility but I guess $50 million doesn't buy what it used too because it still kind of feels like a rodeo arena with a slap of paint on it. It doesn't even have any luxury boxes - Moody Coliseum it ain't. That said, it's a pleasant enough place to catch some Big 12 basketball if you are in the Metroplex and TCU basketball is't exactly a hot ticket. I'd say the crowd was about 60-40 TCU fans and it was about as welcoming a road environment as Texas is going to see in the Big 12.
This was a big game for both teams because it's not clear how many road games Texas is going to win in conference play if they can't win at TCU and it's not clear how many home games TCU is going to win if they can't protect their home court against Texas. The result was a very competitive game, if not all that well played. We had more than our fair share of chances to win this one and this is a loss that's going to sting for awhile. There's no rest for the weary in the Big 12 - coming up next are home games against Iowa State and Oklahoma State and then road dates at West Virginia and Kansas.
There were two basic problems in this game. The big men got completely outplayed on both sides of the ball and the guards couldn't hit an outside shot to save their life. It's pretty hard to win a game with that combination - Shaka was asked about it afterwards and he kind of sat in silence for a second before letting out a weary sigh and churning out a bunch of cliches.
The fact we had a chance to win in the final 10 seconds just shows that TCU isn't good enough to put away a team that was begging to give this one away. There's a lot that could be said about the execution of the offense and some of the decision-making at the end but these things happen when you are on the road and this game was lost in the first 39 minutes as much as the last one.
Texas got out to a slow start in the first half with the TCU big men seemingly taking turns attacking Connor Lammert on defense and scoring right at the front of the rim. Eventually Shaka went to a zone that stemmed the bleeding and got us within 2 at the half. The tables turned in the 2nd half when Texas realized that TCU's guards weren't very good and could be attacked on both sides of the ball and Trent Johnson was forced to go into a zone to keep Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix out of the lane. From there, Texas bricked up 3 after 3 and the game went down to the final minutes where both teams took turn after turn trying to give this one away. Zay had a chance to win the game in the final possession but he ended up taking an impossible step-back over 2 people, Lammert got an offensive rebound and got his shot pinned against the backboard and that was that.
A few notes about some of the players:
Connor Lammert - The nice thing about Lammert's play is that he didn't let his abysmal outside shooting affect his effort, as he managed to pull down 11 rebounds. It just would have been nice if he had hit one of the many wide-open shots he was getting. He's not playing with any confidence and it was hard to watch at times. He also didn't have any chance of guarding TCU's big men, whether it was Chris Washburn, JD Miller, Devonta Abron or Karviar Shepherd. Combine the Texas guards with the TCU bigs and you would probably have an NCAA Tournament team.
Prince Ibeh - It's kind of amazing how little he has improved in his four seasons in Austin. No one's expecting him to be an offensive dynamo but it would be nice if your 7'0 senior C could come down with more than 2 rebounds and not foul out in 17 minutes. The good news for Prince is that I talked to an NBA scout who said he still thought he had a chance to be drafted despite his miniscule statistics this season. There just aren't many guys with his height and his frame who can play that far above the rim.
One funny bit that always cracks me up is NBA scouts leaving en masse in the final few minutes of an NCAA game, no matter how competitive it is. They've seen all they need to see, they could care less who wins or losses and they just want to beat the traffic. Watch enough bad basketball and sleep in enough Holiday Inns and anyone becomes a cynic.
Isaiah Taylor - It's easy to forget just how freaking fast Isaiah is when you are watching him on TV. He's breathtaking to watch in person and none of the TCU guards had any chance of staying in front of him. He's gotten really good at the off the dribble floater game and if he ever became a consistent outside shooter he would have a long career in the NBA. Given the way this season is going, he seems pretty assured of coming back for his senior season so maybe Chip Engelland (the Spurs shooting guru) could video chat with him or something.
Javan Felix - Felix has progressed nicely over the course of his career in terms of playing within himself and not hoisting terrible shots as soon as he touches the ball. The TCU guards couldn't stay in front of him either although that might say more about the lack of perimeter talent that Trent Johnson has in his program. He might want to start recruiting some guards or this could be a really interesting job for an up-and-coming coach.
Kendal Yancy - Yancy got the start instead of DeMarcus Holland, who missed the game because he was at his grandmother's funeral at Tyler. I'm not sure how big a deal they made about this on the TV broadcast but there was a pretty colossal screw up from the Texas coaching staff, who submitted a line-up card with Holland's name on it and were given a technical before the start of the game that gave TCU a 1-0 lead at tip-off, which is kind of a big deal when you lose by one point.
Tevin Mack - Mack seemed overwhelmed by the moment in this one. He was running around with his head cut off when he got in the game and then he jacked up an awful early 3 that got him a quick pull. It's too bad because Texas desperately needed a guy with his size and athleticism on the floor because we had no one who could handle or even contest the shot of Bradon Parrish (6'6 210) and JD Miller (6'8 235). I'll go ahead and say it - Mack is the X factor for the rest of the season. If Shaka can get good production out of him at the 4, it opens up the floor for everyone else and allows us to play a much faster pace and with the type of personnel that fits his system.
Eric Davis Jr. - The only one of the freshman guards who seemed able to play under control tonight. If only he could have made some of his 3's.
Kerwin Roach - He played like a freshman tonight but I don't mind a young guard whose super aggressive and super fast and makes mistakes of commission and not omission. Roach's athleticism really stands out in person and when the game slows down for him he has a chance to be a really good player.
Shaq Cleare - Oh man. For some reason the game-plan in the first half seemed to be to pound the ball into Shaq, which I'm hoping was just a vestigial structure from when Killa Cam Ridley was out there. He's not all that big for a pure 5, he's not particularly skilled and he can't move at all. I thought he was completely outclassed in this game by the TCU big men and I'm not exactly sure what Rick Barnes saw in him in the first place. My guess is we aren't going to win many games when Ibeh is playing fewer minutes than Shaq.
A question for the crowd - is Jordan Barnett alive? Can he play basketball? Wasn't he a big recruit? This team desperately needs some 6'5+ wing athletes who can give them anything. If he can shoot at all, this might have been a game to roll him out and see if he could provide a spark. Have people around the program just given up on him? I'm not asking because I have any answers. I'm just curious.
We play Iowa State on Tuesday and they are coming off a loss to Baylor in Ames so they will be ready for that one. Isaiah Taylor vs. Monte Morris should be interesting from an NBA draft perspective, if nothing else.