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Kent State 63, Texas 58: The Aristocrats!

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You don’t take a team that beat NJIT by 16 lightly

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NCAA Basketball: Kent State at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

I have watched a lot of Texas basketball teams over the years. I have seen teams play at remarkably high levels, and I have seen teams play at maddeningly low levels. Tonight was one of the worst all-around performances I’ve watched in years, and the only analog I can come up with for what I watched is the Chaminade loss in 2013. There are significant differences between the losses — not the least of which: at least Texas scored against Chaminade — but it’s probably a solid starting point because that’s the last time Texas finished the year with a losing record and they’re staring down the barrel at another losing record this year. Forget March Madness, do you see this team winning 9 games in conference play? Forget the NIT, they’d need to win 9 games to have the .500 record necessary to qualify. At this point Texas would have to undergo a sustained turnaround to make the CBI, because the worst record in last year’s tourney was 14-18 and Texas winning 8 conference games seems.....uh, unlikely.

There really is no way to sugar-coat this game, and frankly I’m not interested in trying for a glass half-full interpretation after watching the basketball equivalent of discussing abortion with the in-laws over Thanksgiving dinner. I take it back, that would be a contentious war but at least there’s a chance of a coherent argument from one side; both teams were awful and a winner was chosen as much by random chance and the effects of a butterfly farting in the face of a Mesopotamian deity three millennia ago as by either team’s collective execution. This was more like a pair of blind hobos attempting to solve quantum physics on the underside of an overpass by scrawling equations on the concrete with their bath-salt-laced fecal matter. This recap is going to be an unending series of statements with implied jerk-off motions and eye-rolling, but this is what they don’t pay me for, so here we go.

The (relatively) Good

Jarrett Allen

Allen came to play tonight, and — the usual free throw caveat notwithstanding — was a solid contributor on both ends of the floor. 17 points, 10 rebounds, and only one foul in 31 minutes against a post player in Hall who knows how to draw contact with refs seemingly ready to call everything is pretty impressive. His three-point attempt was a poor choice but a relatively minor one, all things considered. He might be the only Longhorn player who shouldn’t spend the next three weeks being forced to watch this game on a loop, Clockwork Orange-style.

Shaquille Cleare

Cleare gets here by not being a net-negative, which puts him ahead of most of the roster. In a game where most players on both sides seemed determined to get their scholarship revoked, Cleare played within himself and gave good effort. He also made both of his free throws, which is rarer on the 40 Acres than a Greg Abbott 5K PR these days.

The Press

A press doesn’t always look pretty, in fact it generally looks like chaos both when it’s working and when it’s not. Sometimes the difference between the two is the width of a Baylor Title IX report, and tonight was no exception. Shaka ramped up the press by running it on some makes and some misses as well, and it had more good outcomes than bad. (Alas, most of the bad outcomes happened late in the game.) Texas forced a turnover on 28% of Kent State’s possessions, which is well above their season average. Texas had 10 steals on the night, which is their second straight game with double-digit burnt-orange steals. If Texas is going to go down in flames this season — and they spent a large portion of the game lining their shorts with kindling — they’re at least going to try to force an increase in tempo through pressure. It’s been working more often than not the last handful of games, and needs to continue to improve if Texas has any post-season aspirations.

First-Shot Defense

Texas held Kent State to 0.84 PPP and did a good job staying in front of their man in the half-court. From the time the possession started to the time the first shot attempt went up, Texas played good enough defense to win this game. After that shot went up? We get into that in a different section of this recap.

The Mixed Bag

Kerwin Roach Jr.

I’m going to try to be gentle here, as Roach had some good moments during the game. He was active in the passing lanes defensively, he showed an improved body control when slashing to the rim, he hit all 4 free throw attempts, and his 3:1 ATO was better than anyone else on this team of ambidextrous amputees. The problem for me is that Roach appears to be hitting a ceiling as a facilitator; 3 assists to 1 turnover is good, but he seems disinclined to take some of the risks necessary to become a plus offensive creator. I’m not looking for him to try to replicate some of the wild-ass passes Jones goes for on a regular basis — there’s some value in him playing it safe on a team that whipsaws all over the competency map — but there has to be another level of risk Roach is willing to take if he wants to become the point guard of the future. Roach was the only Texas player to foul out — amazingly, the only player on either side to foul out — and a good chunk of his fouls were not the best judgement calls.

This Play

Welcome to the most maddening six seconds of the game, mainly because it’s the entire season summed up in one clip. Andrew Jones gets his pocket picked on garden-variety man defense, yet recovers enough to not only chase down his man in the open court but block his shot attempt from behind. It showcases not just the mental errors of a freshman-dominated team, but the tantalizing athleticism that made them such highly-rated recruits in the first place. I am going to watch this clip approximately a thousand times when writing next season’s preview to keep my predictions in check and/or help push me over the edge to pick Texas to finish both first and last in the Big 12.

(After that clip ends: Jarrett Allen grabs the loose ball, only to bat it to a Kent State player who tosses an alley-oop from the three-point line. Excuse me while I die a little inside all over again.)

The Bad

Eric Davis Jr.

Different game, same problems. Eric is the runaway winner of the 2016 Connor Atchley Regression Award.

Rebounding

Heading into the game, I was willing to give Texas some slack on this topic for two reasons:

  1. Kent State is the best offensive-rebounding team in the nation right now, and Texas is OK but not great at getting missed shots on either end.
  2. Rebounding at the rate Kent State does is as much effort as it is a strategic decision, and Coach Senderoff (insert your inappropriate Baylor joke here) knows that his team doesn’t shoot well so he sends multiple players to the glass on every possession. This decision is not without its drawbacks, as it means they’re likely to be outnumbered on the other end of the floor if they don’t come up with the ball. Most NCAA coaches tend to prefer getting back on defense rather than crashing the glass, but that’s not Kent State’s M.O.

In short, I expected Texas to lose this battle. What I didn’t expect was to see a Texas opponent rebound FOURTY-NINE PERCENT of their misses. That means that half of Kent State’s missed shots resulted in another possession for the Golden Flashes. I’m trying to come up with a way to make plain just how unacceptable this number is, but it seems pretty plain on its own. Kent State got 11 more shot attempts in a game where both teams shot nearly identical percentages and they won by five. You think maybe those extra possessions had something to do with determining the outcome?

Second-Shot Defense

I don’t have a statistical breakdown of how Texas fared against Kent State once they rebounded the ball off their first miss, so I’m going to post a monkey stealing a hubcap and you’ll have to trust me that the defense was awful.

This Monkey is a real go-getter

The Assists, and the Turnovers

Texas had seven assists on 21 made baskets. The .333 assist/FGM rate is their worst since the Colorado game, and yet another shattered plate on the ground that was at least wobbling on a stick in earlier games. The turnovers....OK, to be honest, I’m running out of words to describe the problems uncovered in this game. There was such a volume of errors that the only analogy that seems even vaguely accurate is the South Park episode where the kids get stuck in a mine because of Al Gore’s Manbearpig obsession, Cartman swallows twenty pounds of fake treasure he believes is real, and at the end of the episode when they’re rescued, he unleashes a torrent of fake jewels out of his ass in front of everyone at the rescue site. The Drum is the rescue site, the team is Cartman, and their effort tonight was the culmination of trying to swallow an unholy amount of plastic replica jewels several hours earlier. Because you’ve made it this far, I’ll link to the scene here, but you already saw it earlier tonight in Austin.

Three-Point Shooting

Texas was 2-18 from three, which is about what I’d expect Texas to shoot if they let DJ Mel sub in at halftime and give it a whirl. In fact, we should setup a Kickstarter for this to happen against TCU.

You’ll Never Guess How Free Throw Shooting Went

Roach and Cleare went 6-6 from the line, the rest of the team went 8-18. I don’t have a joke for the seppuku ritual Texas seems to engage in when they get to the line most games, it’s just how it is.

Non-conference play is over, Texas is 6-6, and the games are only going to get harder from here on out. They don’t get any time to lick their wounds either, as Texas travels to Kansas State on Friday (7pm CT on ESPNews) and Manhattan is never an easy place to play even when KSU sucks. The Longhorns need to start figuring things out in a hurry otherwise there’s a non-zero chance they’re staring down the barrel of a 20-loss season, which hasn’t happened to Texas since Weltlich’s first season in Austin. I don’t have much in the way of good news for Horns fans right now, so instead I’ll end this post with a tweet of an inebriated Chris Fowler realizing he just replied to a guy with a dildo in his avatar.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Enrico Sangiuliano, Gemma Furbank, and possibly the sound of one hand clapping.