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Shooting From the Corner: Texas 71, Long Beach State 65

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Another Second Half Surge Seals the UT Win

NCAA Basketball: Long Beach State at Texas Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Texas overcame a sluggish first half to beat their opponent. This time it was Long Beach State, but it could’ve just as easily been Alabama or....OK this team doesn’t have that many wins so let’s just stick with Alabama. Texas started 9-31 from the floor, missing shots from all over the court due to bad decision-making on any number of fronts. It was ugly enough I started Googling “‘how to put lipstick on a pig’ + ‘NCAA’ + ‘basketball’ + ‘Texas’”, but all I got were Redtube links which doesn’t help on a professional level and I definitely didn’t bookmark for personal use later either so hey what were we talking about? Right, Texas basketball.

I have no children — pause as the internet exhales in relief — so there are concepts I will never have to rationalize to myself or other people; for example, I will never have an ugly child. I don’t know what it’s like to watch your bundle of joy develop a unibrow before they can walk, or have your own progeny wonder why they have Bob Stoops’ terminal chin situation. I don’t know what it feels like having to find a silver lining when your kids learn their arm hair is prodigious for any mammalian species on planet Earth, but I kinda think it’s a little like talking about Texas’ offense this season. You want to point out that they’re really trying, that they have other areas in which they’re really great and that on the whole they have a lot of potential to develop into an above-average entity, but all you can do at night is stare at the follicle forest spreading across their body. That’s Texas basketball for large stretches of games, the unusually hairy kid in AP Algebra who once in awhile raises their hand and solves Fermat’s Last Theorem out of nowhere.

The Good

Eric Davis Jr.

4-8 from the field including 3-7 from three, 5-6 from the line (almost all of them in a clutch situation), two assists, two rebounds, zero turnovers...I think it’s time for it.

You guys ready for it?

He’s earned it.

ERICDAVISLEBRONSUPERSAIYAN.GIFV ENGAGE

Let’s all take a moment and pray to ourselves that this wasn’t a one-game aberration, because if <Tessitore>ERIC BACK</Tessitore> then the offense gets significantly easier to execute. One thing I noticed — and this adds to my mountain of evidence that Texas needs a PG not named Roach long-term — is that the quality of the passes Eric was getting seemed to improve tonight. Roach is having trouble hitting Eric in the pocket, which means he takes a touch longer to be shot-ready, which means defenses get a touch closer to him, which means he’s in a touch worse situation. Little things make a big difference when you’re trying to get a shooter untracked, and the better the passes get to Eric, the more often he makes shots. Also worth noting, Eric did a good job as a backup PG. He has an underrated feel for the game, and letting him handle the ball for 5-10 minutes/game is a good use of his abilities.

Team Defense on Everyone Not Named Payne

For the most part, Texas played a solid defensive game. The guys not named Payne shot 15-43 from the field and 3-13 from three, which are numbers I’m used to seeing from Texas as I pour tequila in my eyes for the sixth night this season. Aside from the occasional terrible decision to go under a screen when 7-10 from three (and seconds away from being 8-11) Payne has the ball beyond the arc, they largely did enough to put away Long Beach State if their offense cooperated. Even Payne eventually cooled off, as Texas started face-guarding him all over the court leading to more off-balance and contested threes that wouldn’t fall. The 49ers averaged 1.01 points per possession, and it felt like half of that was Payne being unconscious from deep. If there’s one area where Texas fans can start to see signs of hope for this hairy-armed season and beyond, the defense has been pretty solid.

Free Throws

Texas made 11 of their last 13 free throws, and five of seven in the waning moments of the contest. Texas keeps creeping up the free throw rankings, they’re up something like 80 spots in Pomeroy’s rankings since early in the season. Multiple guys are making free throws they missed a few games ago.

As a side note, remember in the Bama recap when I talked about being D-I average at threes (34.4% at the time) and free throws (69.5%) helping this team tremendously? They were 9-25 (36%) from three and 16-22 (72.7%) from the line tonight.

This Play

(Apologies for the Cloverfield camera, I don’t exactly have a tripod laying around. You should see my other homemade vide-you know what let’s move on.)

This play encapsulates a lot of what I’m looking for in a Texas squad; it’s a smaller but more versatile lineup (Allen surrounded by 4 ostensible shooters), there’s good ball movement, and quality decisions by every player on the floor. If you include the entry pass, there are 7 passes in 12 seconds, and those passes not only get the ball to the low block but pass out of a double team and end up with a corner three by the team’s best shooter. I guarantee you Shaka is showing this to the guys in the film room, it’s the kind of play that takes this team from arguably the worst offense in the Big 12 to somewhere in the upper third, which is enough for a lot of upcoming Ls to turn into potential Ws.

Jacob Young

Young was focused (if a bit rough around the edges) on defense, playing his man straight up and making decent decisions on when — and more importantly, when not — to trap during Texas’ press attempts. He went 1-3 on the night, but all three came in the flow of the game. His one incredibly visible mistake was taking a bit too long on a breakaway to shoot, which allowed the 49er defender to make up ground and reject him at the rim. I can guarantee you that will also show up in the game film discussions, as it was a lost chance at two easy points for a team that does not get enough easy points. But overall he played within himself.

The Mixed Bag

Turnovers

Seven in the first half, two in the second half. When this team takes care of the ball, things get easier. Unfortunately, they only seem to be able to do that every other half of basketball this season. I am more than a little terrified of the West Virginia games later this season.

The Bad

Team Defense on The Guy Named Payne

Hey, maybe somebody should get a hand in the face of the guy scoring 40% of Long Beach State’s points. Just a thought.

Rebounding

Texas got beat on both ends of the floor by a 2-9 (now 2-10) team with one guy taller than 6-8”. I don’t know that this area of the team is going to get much better as the season progresses, perhaps Shaka & crew are conceding rebounds in favor of getting back on defense. I’ll have to pay more attention to that as the season goes on. Having said that, it doesn’t really explain Texas getting beat on defensive rebounds. Some guys are getting pushed around, others are in poor position, others still are simply not holding onto the ball as it gets swatted at by opponents. Maybe it’s time to have Coach Roose institute daily farmer’s carries so these dudes get some grip strength.

Texas is back above .500 and have a week to get ready for the basketball team I’ve hated since I was a disaffected, slightly hairier than normal but really good at algebra teenager: the Arkansas Razorbacks. The game is in Houston on December 17th, and it would be nice to see Texas fans represent at the Toyota Center. Send their thousands of fans with their dozens of teeth home with a loss and a “Don’t come back now, y’hear?”, please. Tip is 1:30p Central on ESPNU.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Carl Cox.