If the first game was sloppy and ragged, this game was the opposite in nearly every way. As Leon Lett once said, Texas had a 360-degree turnaround from game #1; from the defensive effort to the offensive execution, this was the Longhorns squad people wanted to see in 2016. Let’s get to it.
Texas fans better get out to see Allen this season, because barring a Lamarcus Aldridge injury situation, Allen is gone at the end of the year. He’s flat out too good to stick around. That combination of size and speed is rare, and the only reason he’s not getting talked about as a top-5 pick is his lack of outside shooting ability. I realize it’s weird to get this hyped about a guy who only contributed 8 points and 3 rebounds, but there’s so much he’s doing that doesn’t show up in a box score. On one defensive possession, he switched onto at least 4 different players and hung with them all. His footwork was good, he wasn’t reaching for dumb steals, and he towers over guards while set in a defensive stance like Goro waiting to tear off Johnny Cage’s face the first time he whiffs on a roundhouse kick. Speaking of defensive prowess..
I’m already enjoying Banks’ defense. He had 2 blocks, 6 rebounds, and only 2 fouls in 17 minutes. The next time — or if you’re like most Texas fans, the first time in late January as you try to distract yourself from seeing Tom Herman take the Baylor gig — you’re watching a game, watch his feet as he’s dealing with opponents in the paint. Darrin Horn is teaching this kid some sweet footwork for this early in his career, which helps Banks keep his shoulders square to the opponent and puts him in position to contest/block shots he might otherwise have to reach and/or foul. Also, he’s getting pretty good at walling off defenders in the paint so guards have a lane to the rim. There were a couple different times Kerwin Roach got a straight line to the rim because Banks was clearing a path.
Any game Tevin Mack is 4-6 from behind the line, Texas has a good chance to win. Mack still has intermittent issues finishing at the rim, but it’s a small sample size and could have been a little bit of nerves. Tevin definitely settled down as the game progressed, and even the perimeter shots he missed were reasonable attempts. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re about to see a sophomore leap for Mack, but the aforementioned small sample size caveat applies in both directions. At the very least, Mack is providing more lineup flexibility for Shaka and his staff that should only increase when Mareik Isom is healthy.
This was a prime example of the kind of impact Yancy can have; 12 points on 6 shots, 3 rebounds (2 offensive, we’ll get to that later), and a handful of hustle plays capped by a thundering transition dunk in limited minutes. Oh, and he didn’t shoot 7 threes, which is probably for the best. Good bounce-back effort from a less than ideal output against Incarnate Word for the senior.
Texas only turned the ball over five times tonight, which is better than either half against Incarnate Word. The guards had a grand total of one turnover the whole night; Roach, Jones, Davis, and Young made smart decisions with the basketball all game. (My man-crush on Andrew Jones is not declining any time soon. I’m about a month away from Photoshopping him onto Teen People covers.) It’s almost as if having more capable ball-handlers helps keep turnovers down. They still haven’t faced a pressure defense yet so there’s only so much we know about the team’s ability to protect the ball, but they’re trending in the right direction.
The Mixed Bag
There are two forms of Shaquille Cleare, Black Hole and Nexus. Black Hole is who started the game, getting the ball in the post and not so much as pretending to look for open Longhorns as he bullies his way to the rim. This is the guy who turns the ball over because he’s not checking his back side, the guy who gets an offensive foul for lowering the shoulder or a defensive foul for going over the back after a miss. Black Hole is Bad Shaq. Nexus is the guy who played in the second half; getting the ball in the post, using his vision and touch to find open guards, make smart passes, and put himself and the rest of the team in a position to succeed. Nexus is Good Shaq. If Nexus can be the Shaq we see the rest of the season, he’ll be a significant net-positive for offensive efficiency.
Eric Davis Jr.
2-10 shooting (1-6 from beyond the arc) is obviously not great, but Eric’s not being put in the bad category because he was contributing in other ways. Like, say, being the leading rebounder for Texas. The fact that a wing was the leading rebounder for the team is, well...
Offensive rebounding, specifically. Texas was out-rebounded nearly 2:1 by a Sun Belt team that has one dude taller than 6-8”, and the 6-11” guy is a freshman that’s 195 lb soaking wet. He wasn’t even their best rebounder, either; 6-6” wing Munnings had 10 rebounds on the night fighting among the trees. Some of these were lucky bounces, but there were enough rebounds within 6 feet of the basket that Texas simply got beat on that it contributed heavily to this game staying close for the first ~26 minutes despite ULM spending most of the night shooting less than 30% from the floor. There’s not really an excuse for losing the rebounding battle to a team this much smaller than Texas.
Non-Andrew Jones Free Throws
Andrew Jones was 6-8 from the line, the rest of the team was 7-13. Not great, guys.
Overall, this was a glimpse into what this team is capable of when they get the boulder rolling downhill, and it’s legitimately fun to witness. We will get to see if it was an indicator of things to come or a brief mirage when they continue the Legends Classic against Eastern Washington on Thursday at 7pm CT on LHN. If you want to read up on the Legends Classic opponents Texas will face over the next eight days, pick up Smart Texas Basketball on Amazon or iTunes today.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Dom & Roland.