Despite the return of The Big Cheese and quality contributions from Connor Lammert & Shaquille Cleare, the Texas Longhorns were knocked out of the Big 12 Tournament by a more aggressive team in the Baylor Bears, 75-61. It's a disappointing result because Texas had their chances; their passing was better than the last Baylor matchup, and they found the weak spots in Scott Drew's zone. They just weren't hitting their shots, I don't have a shot chart handy but if I had to guess I'd say Texas ended up approximately 10-89 from inside 10 feet. (Pretty much anybody other than Shaq was missing makeable shots in the paint today.)
I mean, look at that. That's a lot of misses from close range. Convert a handful of those shots and this game gets a lot more interesting, alas...
(h/t @mikefinger) #hookem pic.twitter.com/xQmLQdmkyy— Rocket Balls (@Bitterwhiteguy) March 10, 2016
The Big Cheese checked into the game late in the first half and put in 2 minutes. He contributed a pair of free throws and not much else, but him simply being suited up is enough for right now. It would have been nice for Texas to win today to give Cam another conference game to shake the rust off.
For the better part of the first half, Connor was the only starter to score a point; when Texas was up 8-6 - yes, Texas actually led in this game - Lammert was responsible for 6 of those points. He ended up with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block. There's not a lot else you can ask from Connor unless you want him driving the team to the gym, too.
Shaq used all 7 inches of his vertical leap to pour in 12 points on 6-10 shooting. Shaq has his limitations (slow-ish defense, gravity, cheese fries) but he posted up reliably in the middle of the zone and got his shot today. This is the second time he's shown up to play against Baylor, so I'm not going to think about him playing 28 minutes/game next year right now because I'll have plenty of time for that reality a month from now. Great, now I'm thinking about it. BRB writing a love letter to Jarrett Allen.
Kerwin Roach Jr.
If there was a way for me to combine the defensive prowess of Demarcus Holland and the offensive ascendancy of Snoop, I would have a player that would be less a human and more a velociraptor with range to 24 feet. Maybe a velociraptor with mountain goat legs, because look at this:
He's out-jumping a 6-8 likely NBA player in Taurean Prince right there. I saw another moment where he damn near beat Prince Ibeh for a ball at its highest point. When you have a 6-4 guard that's capable of pulling down 5+ rebounds a game, you have something special. If you want a reason to be excited about next season, look no further than this kid.
The Mixed Bag
Zay was terrible as a scorer today, and I don't think much of it had to do with his foot. Baylor is doing what the rest of the conference has tried to do - keep him out of the paint at all costs - they were simply more successful at it than most of the conference has been. When Zay was able to get into the paint, he couldn't convert. A lot of those circles above are him, he was 1-7 from inside the arc and a number of those shots were ones he normally hits. Despite his poor shooting, he was back to his elite self distributing the ball, accounting for 9 assists to 1 turnover. To put that in perspective, Baylor had 9 assists as a team. Even when Zay is off, he's still a net positive. About the only silver lining to this loss is it gives Taylor a week to rest his foot.
When your team is ice cold from the field - and anyone not named Lammert, Roach, or Cleare was colder than Voldemort's taint - rebounding becomes even more important than normal. Texas grabbed 24% of their offensive rebounds, which is well below their already mediocre average, and roughly half of Baylor's OR% (47%). Being ice cold is difficult, being ice cold and not getting many second chances is a recipe for a loss. Taurean Prince had 6 less defensive rebounds (11) than the entire Texas squad (17). Some of it was hustle, some of it was positioning, but regardless the reason the end result is a team that had zero margin for error.
Free Throw Shooting
The Prince Ibeh dead cat bounce is long enough ago that we can safely say it was an aberration rather than the norm. Given that he's only going to hit somewhere in the 30% range on his free throws, a dragging down of the team average is inevitable. Having said that, everybody other than Connor (I should have made this an acronym months ago, EOTCL) and Prince shot a combined 5-10 from the line. Remember that margin for error comment above? Now they're working from a deficit. You can be bad at shooting OR rebounding OR free throws, but being bad at all three means you're watching the Sweet 16 from Jester Dorm instead of the arena locker room.
The AFH played 23 minutes and his O-rating was 8. EIGHT. Javan is going to miss a lot about his time at Texas, but playing against Baylor probably won't be part of that. If he wants to make more than one more college memory, he needs to pick his game up next week.
This is the first time in a decade Texas hasn't won a game in the Big 12 Tournament, which is sort of an amazing statistic in its own right. As it stands now, Texas is projected as a 6-seed in March Madness; they now get nearly a week to get Ridley ready, get Zay a little healthier, and try to tighten up...well, everything. Their next game is TBD.
BWG's writing tunes provided by Pipa & Sergy Castle.