Despite quality efforts from Kerwin Roach and Jarrett Allen and an effort that didn’t consist of actively stepping on its own testicles, Texas lost to the Colorado Buffaloes 68-54 in the third-place Legends Classic contest. For every bright spot, there was an issue, and some of the issues are the same ones that plagued Texas against Northwestern last night. Let’s get into it.
Roach had a fairly quiet first half, but the second half showed bits of why he’s such a tantalizing prospect as he made a number of impressive drives to the basket in a crowded lane. He ended up with 16 points (on 16 shots, which isn’t exactly the model of efficiency) and provided an offensive spark for a team largely lacking in that department the past 24 hours. When Roach can make one cut and go, he’ll blow the doors off opposing guards. It’s up to Shaka to find ways in which he can do that more often, because it’s not happening enough with the ball in his hands.
15 points, six rebounds, and he made 3 of his 4 free throw attempts. When guards were able to get Allen the ball near the basket, he rewarded the team with good shots. Allen finished near the rim with both hands, showcasing a soft touch that will get the interest of the few NBA scouts who weren’t already watching him. His only real issue during the game was how easily some bigs (and guards, frowny face emoji) were able to move him out of the paint, which will likely continue to be an issue any time he faces older players. Oh and during a timeout, he apparently made sure the cameramen he ran over moments earlier were OK. Everybody going apeshit over Dak Prescott throwing away a paper cup should be swooning right now.
Cleare had a couple of baffling moments defensively, but they were the exception to the rule as he played a solid game against the more traditional Colorado bigs. On multiple occasions, a Buffalo big would get the ball in the paint, dribble a couple of times, throw up a fadeaway jumper, and look around to realize Cleare had moved him 6 feet further from the basket just with proper body positioning. When refs are letting contact go, Shaq probably starts to grin inside. He also had a pretty forceful block on a CU guard that probably regretted shooting the ball before it even left his hand.
Any night you can get 8 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, and a steal from Cleare, that’s a positive for the team.
Hey look, it worked! It wasn’t perfect, but presses never are. The only reason Texas came to life in the second half (other than Roach) was the defensive intensity ratcheting up with the press and the resulting problems it caused for Colorado. I’m still of the opinion it should be used situationally rather than as the default defense, and today was a good showcase of how it can be more effective in spurts as a change of pace.
The Mixed Bag
Tevin had an off night offensively, going 1-6 from three and not really doing anything inside the arc all night. The reason I’m putting him here is his defensive work, which was progress from some other evenings. I noticed multiple times when Mack would end up on the low block and manage to exhibit good body control in defending without fouling. Texas is going to need that from him if they’re going to continue switching on screens the rest of the season.
This is officially a slump, and I’m starting to wonder if we’re seeing a Connor Atchley-ish regression because Eric looks off in nearly every conceivable way. He’s now 6-30 from behind the arc for a cool 20% — which is worse than any of Isaiah Taylor’s seasons — and he seems like he’s unsure of himself more often than not when he has the ball in his hands. I don’t know if he’s taking this “I have to be a team leader” thing too seriously and it’s affecting his play or if it’s something else, but for a guy who makes most of his contributions shooting this is a problem. Maybe he just needs to see the ball go through the hoop a few times one game and everything will snap back into place; hopefully that’s all it will take. Texas needs perimeter shooting in the worst way.
Feeding the Bigs
God almighty, just pass the ball already. How many times can we watch Allen and/or Cleare get post position, see a guard dribble to 5 feet away, fake the pass a couple of times, then throw it back out around the perimeter before I break my remote in half? I swear these guards are afraid to throw the pass into the paint, and seeing as how that’s a staple of the offense Shaka wants to run IT’S KIND OF IMPORTANT THEY THROW THE BALL INTO THE BIG GUYS *&%#^(%
Look, I’m on record as not being a fan of this two-bigs-feeding-the-post offensive system, but it doesn’t even have a fair chance of success if the guards can’t start the action by getting the ball inside regularly. Allen/Banks/Cleare aren’t perfect at getting position inside, but the lion’s share of responsibility for this failing is on the guys who are supposed to get them the ball. If this doesn’t shape up, Shaka needs to try another system.
Texas had three more assists today than you did. If you want to understand the offensive woes, understand what three assists means: the offense wasn’t penetrating the lane well enough for kick-out shots to be open, they weren’t hitting each other on the run, they weren’t getting shooters open in any form. The book is out on Texas right now: close the driving lanes, keep their bigs more than 6 feet from the basket, and live with whatever they do from three. The last two teams won doing exactly that.
When you’re down by 11 and there’s 80 seconds left in the game, you don’t run your normal offense at its normal pace. The clock is your enemy at that point, not the other team. And yet, Texas nearly ran out the shot clock on two possessions in the last ~90 seconds of game time, which either means they’re oblivious to context (plausible) or Shaka had thrown in the towel and wanted them to practice their offense (seems unlikely). It’s like the entire team thought they were at practice, not down double digits late in the game. It’s mind-bottling. You know, like when things are so crazy it gets your thoughts all trapped, like in a bottle?
Texas has a week off to eat some turkey and figure out how to get things rolling offensively, because UT-Arlington is coming to town and they will have no issue taking down their burnt orange brethren. This is the same UT-a squad that took Texas to overtime last season, the same squad that willingly lives in the worst city in the history of time; there’s no telling what those moral reprobates will do given the chance. Tip is 7pm CT 11/29 on LHN.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Nicole Moudaber.