At halftime, I entertained the idea. With 10 minutes left, I started to consider the possibility. 5 minutes to go, I even mulled over which celebratory GIFs I might use. Alas, none of it matters now, as the Texas Longhorns fell to the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, 63-60 on the late shooting of likely national Player of the Year Buddy Hield. Texas played 37 minutes of solid defense on Buddy, face guarding him wherever he went - there are conflicting reports Javan Felix stood inside the stall Buddy used to take a halftime piss, looking him in the eye and disrupting his Candy Crush session - and essentially telling the rest of OU to pick up the slack. (It's not the worst strategy, though the Sooners have enough other weapons that they should theoretically be able to make you pay for focusing on Buddy too much.) Even the most basic Oklahoma fan can tell you 37 minutes != 40 - though you might not want to ask them which one is the greater number - and the last 3 minutes were yet another example of BuddyBall at its finest. It doesn't matter who you put on Buddy that last possession, he's taking (and making) that shot. Maaaaaybe you play him a little differently, put Yancy over the top of him rather than underneath, but every decision has consequences elsewhere on the court. I'm not one to tout the idea of a moral victory - particularly in a game Texas led for 80% of the contest - but if you had told me 3 weeks ago that Texas would take Oklahoma to the buzzer in Norman, I would have - well, first off, I would ask how you found out where I live, how you can see the future, and why you're not wearing pants - taken that result in a heartbeat. Sure, Texas lost, but they hung with one of the best teams in the country and nearly snatched up a remarkable win in the process.
3-4 from 3, 13 points, 3 steals, and 35 quality minutes from a guy averaging right at 10 mpg on the season is a hell of a breakout for one of the Energy Brothers. While his offense was unexpected and very welcome, I really liked his defense on Hield. (Yes, even the last play.) Buddy won the game for OU, but he spent about 36 minutes getting worked over by Texas' guards. Prior to the last ~3:04, Buddy was 4-14 from the floor, and a lot of that was Yancy's doing.
The AFH didn't make a big impact as a shooter, but he was easily the best ball-handler in burnt orange tonight as he had 5 assists and zero turnovers in 22 minutes. His defense on Buddy was solid as well; between KY & AFH, Kruger had to spend the whole second half running Hield through screen after screen after screen just to shake him a little loose. Hats off to Javan for his work on the defensive end, which is a sentence I never really considered typing prior to this season.
Prince put in a solid effort on the offensive end, snagging a couple of dunks and showcasing his now unassailable free throw form. Really though, he settled into a good spot on the other end as Resident Rebounder and Paint Intimidator. It's no coincidence that the Sooners drives into the paint were largely when Ibeh was on the bench. Moreover, Prince made Khadeem Lattin a non-factor as he was - are you sitting down - the one causing bigs to have to sit down with foul trouble. He's playing the role of 2015 Jameel McKay nicely this year.
The Mixed Bag
I'm not going to go on some sort of epic screed proclaiming Texas got hosed, because that's not reality. (If you don't believe me, rewind & look at the goaltending call Texas benefited from earlier in the contest.) The call against Isaiah Taylor in the last minute was actually a foul; my issue is that it hadn't been called the previous 39 minutes of the game. I don't expect refs to get every call right, especially in the first year of significant changes to how things are being called. What I want is consistency, or at least as much consistency as possible. If the refs are consistent throughout the game, then it's on the players to adapt to how it's being called. If you're going to call that push in the last minute, fine, call it the rest of the game as well.
Zay was bad in a game where he needed to be great. It's hard to pull an upset against a ranked team on the road; you need a number of things to go in your favor, and having your best player play suboptimal basketball at critical junctures negates a lot of the other things Texas had going for it. Yes, Zay had the same 7-18 shooting that Buddy did, but I defy you to tell me their 7-18s were equal in terms of positively impacting the final result. Most of Buddy's shots were reasonable attempts, most of Zay's were wild circus shots. Buddy had a 1:2 ATO as did Zay, but Buddy's not their primary ball-handler and isn't the player responsible for initiating the offense. I don't want to call what Zay did selfish as I'm not in the huddle hearing the calls being made, but it sure felt like he had at least one eye on the 17 NBA scouts in attendance as he launched the most 3s he's attempted since Atlantis. This reminded me of the kind of drives he made back in December when this team wasn't sure what they were, rather than the cohesive unit they've been as of late. As Shaka says, Taylor didn't feel "connected".
1-7 from 3, ouch. Shake it off and get ready for Iowa State, those shots will be available on Saturday.
I think they've all plateaued, because (as freshmen tend to do) they're lagging behind the rest of the team in the stretch run. Shaka isn't putting them on the floor much in crunch time, they're more in the game to give other guys breathers and/or see if they can spark an offensive outburst. As much as we'd like to see Eric Davis Jr. or Tevin Mack go 5-7 from 3 in a big upset, the reality is that it's not uncommon for freshmen to see a reduced role this time of the year, especially on a team filled with upper classmen like this Texas squad.
That Last Play
You have 1.3 seconds, you're throwing it from the baseline, and you throw it to...Prince? No disrespect to Prince and all he's developed this year, but I'd rather see the videotape from The Ring than whatever full-court play revolves around Prince getting the ball 30+ feet from the rim. I'm not even sure why he's on the floor in that situation, much less receiving a pass from 50 feet away.
Tonight was a good litmus test for Texas, and it showed a few things: 1) Texas isn't as good as the conference elite, 2) the gap to the elite isn't as big as you might have thought, & 3) any path to a conference title involves defending your home court. Oklahoma is trying to protect its house, and it did...by the slimmest of margins. Texas can walk out of that arena with its head held high, but it should probably spend the plane ride home digging through Synergy stats as they get ready to face an Iowa State Cyclones squad that's wounded but dangerous. Hilton Magic is real, and the 'Horns better be ready to combat the Prohman Empire if they hold any aspirations of finishing in the top 4 of the Big 12. Tip is Saturday at 7:30p CT on ESPN.
BWG's writing tunes provided by Filipe Barbosa (SFW).