The semi-final round of the Legends Classic was a chance for Texas to prove their 3-0 start wasn’t a fluke, that they’re figuring things out, that they’re a program on the upswing. None of that was proven tonight as an underrated Northwestern squad outplayed Texas in nearly every area that mattered. Chris Collins — he’s Doug Collins’ son, if you didn’t figure that out by the 8 minutes of game time ESPN had a camera trained on Doug as he viscerally experienced every emotion a father experiences watching his son perform in a game in full HD for our enjoyment(?) — has an interesting Northwestern squad on his hands. There’s a solid chance Collins leads the Wildcats to their first-ever March Madness berth this season; he spent 13 years as a Coach K assistant before taking the NU job, and every year they’ve improved under him. It’s a team that’s short on elite athleticism but long on offensive & defensive discipline, which is precisely the kind of team that tends to give a young team fits. Northwestern stymied everything Texas wanted to do, they earned that win fair and square.
I would have put Tevin Mack here as he’s the only reason Texas didn’t lose by 30, but he’s getting downgraded for reasons I’ll explain shortly. Otherwise, I’ve got nothing.
The Mixed Bag
On the bright side, Tevin was 3-5 from 3 and scored 18 points. His long-range ability and 2nd-half drives to the basket were the only things that kept this game as close as it was. Tevin is pretty clearly more comfortable on the court his sophomore season, which will be a bonus as the season progresses. So why is he not in the ‘good’ category? Two reasons:
- He went 5-10 from the free throw line. A guy that can hit from deep on 35%+ of his shots should be hitting at least 75% of his free throws, and Tevin is a cool 50% so far this year.
- The technical foul he got with 3 seconds left in the game was dumb as hell. He and Law spent the final possession of a 19-point loss jawing at each other, and it ended up as a double technical on the duo. I’m all for trash talk on the court, I’m not a Puritan or from the 1950s. Guys talk shit to each other during a game, and Mack seems to be one of the bigger trash talkers on the team; that happens. But you have to have some situational awareness; you just got your ass kicked, and sometimes you just have to swallow a loss while the other team gloats. Take your lumps and move on, man.
The Diamond Press
It worked for awhile, and helped key the Texas comeback in the first half. The guards were active, the madman was a pest, and Texas forced a handful of turnovers. Northwestern wasn’t sure how to adapt...until they did. Collins started sending a 4th man into the middle of the court — which the inbounds passer found with regularity — and forced Texas to retreat lest they get caught with a numbers disadvantage in the half-court. Shaka adjusted and started covering that 4th man...and Collins adjusted again, sending his big to the half-court line towards the sideline as an outlet valve for any of the guards. Action, reaction. We got to watch two good coaches playing interesting chess, but Shaka lost this round.
It should tell you plenty about how the team did that I’m picking a guy who scored 5 points and made a number of bad decisions to be in the ‘mixed bag’ category. In fact, much like many of Kendal’s baseline drives, I’m committed but immediately regretting it. Perhaps we should just move on.
Everybody Driving the Ball
Northwestern wasn’t hiding their defensive strategy. They were packing the paint, collapsing on drives, and willing to live with Texas shooting from 3 if it meant contested shots near the rim. It worked; Texas went 7-20 from three and frustrated guards couldn’t find an open lane to the basket. Even when they did make it to the rim, they were usually shooting over four hands. The Texas guards were playing a lot of iso ball, trying to win a one-on-one matchup against a team that was ready for it.
Everybody Shooting Free Throws*
*Andrew Jones (2-2) not included
Texas went 13-27 from the line, which according to my math
(pulls out slide ruler)
(types on calculator)
Sucks. Jones was the only player in burnt orange to top 50% from the stripe.
Everybody Passing the Ball
Kerwin Roach had three assists to two turnovers — which is bad for somebody angling to be the lead PG, or the backup PG, or touch the ball outside the paint — and he was the highlight of the night. The rest of the team combined for 4 assists; that’s 7 assists (and 14 turnovers) on 19 made shots, which is pretty good if you’re looking to burnish a CBI resume or convince Matt Coleman that he’ll play early & often in 2017. But for winning games, not so much.
So other than shooting or passing the ball, Texas was pretty good tonight. Thankfully, those are only 2 of the 3 most important things you can do with a basketball.
I could go into how Shaquille Cleare looked frustrated (because he was), or how Jarrett Allen looked lost (because he was), or how Jacob Young took two shots that would’ve given Rick Barnes four heart attacks, but at this point it’s just piling on. Young teams have ups and downs, and Texas is younger than most (currently 337th out of 351 teams in team experience per Pomeroy) so sometimes they’re going to lay an egg. This egg happened to be Stegosaurus-sized, but it’s still just one L on the record. Texas has a chance to settle down and figure some things out in the third-place game against the Colorado Buffaloes Tuesday. The tip is at 2:30pm CT on ESPNU.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Lenzman.