Full disclosure: I started writing this halfway through the second half. I generally wait until the game is over to write these as I want to give the game my full attention; but honestly, I probably should’ve started writing it at halftime because the writing was on the wall. This game felt a lot like one of those mid-2000s Tulsa/Oklahoma football games where Tulsa would score early on the Sooners and be driving for a second score only for Oklahoma to force a turnover, remember they’re Oklahoma and they’re playing Tulsa, and wreck the Golden Hurricanes from there. In Baylor’s case, they dealt with Texas forcing the issue for the first 15 minutes of the game. Shaka had a solid game plan, with the guards setting up the bigs in the low block over and over against Baylor’s 1-3-1 zone. It worked; the guards had arguably their best game in terms of post entry passes, allowing Shaquille Cleare and Jarrett Allen to feast on the close shots. The irony of the situation is that Scott Drew had to abandon his much-beloved zone in favor of a man defense, which pretty effectively stymied the Longhorns going forward. Only Scott Drew would reluctantly go to a man defense. Scott Drew is the worst. Anyway, Baylor settled down, let Texas shoot itself out of the game, and put their boot on Texas’ neck for a dozen minutes in the late-first/early-second half to seal the deal.
Despite Cleare fouling out fairly early in the second half — thanks for once again changing the rules at halftime, @Big12Refs — he had arguably his best game of his Texas career. 14 points on 10 shots, another perfect 2-2 from the line; Cleare may be limited in his abilities but the abilities he has are significant. When the guards can reliably get him the ball close to the basket, good things tend to happen. Him also being country strong helped him push the wiry Baylor bigs out of the paint on multiple occasions, forcing tough shots and more misses than they’re used to. Of course, he also two-hand shoved a Baylor big in the chest at one point, so let’s just say some of those five fouls weren’t exactly shocking. Still, we’ll take a 14/6 from Cleare any day of the week.
Man, Jones is something else. There were at least three times tonight when his jaw-dropping athleticism was on full display, and I will now shamelessly quote my own tweets as examples.
This is where Jones started that jump-stop layup. Goodness. pic.twitter.com/2aBvXHzgQG— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ (@Bitterwhiteguy) January 18, 2017
(He made that at the rim, BTW.)
Look, I know RansomStoddard thinks every guard on Texas eats paint for breakfast — which is asinine, but he pays the membership fee so he gets to vomit his lizard brain word salad here just like everybody else; no matter how devoid of critical thinking or multi-syllable words his posts are, no matter if it sounds like he’s counting numbers by slamming his bare foot against a highway underpass as he imagines a world where Kerwin Roach Jr. is unable to play organized basketball but also a world where he’s aware of what organized basketball actually looks like — but that’s a stunning amount of athleticism in a single event. First, he stunts inside enough that the ball-handler gives up the ball, then recovers enough to tip the pass that the ball-handler who he just stunted on throws, then beats a future NBA player down the floor to slam the ball home. That’s not normal in D-I basketball, that’s impressive. Sure, Jones had a couple of not great moments, but any time you get a guard to contribute 15 points, go 6-7 from the line, dish out four assists with zero turnovers, you take it. Unless you’re Ransomstoddard, in which case you smear feces against the wall and tell everyone it’s surrealism art. RS is the Salvador Dali of ill-conceived basketball opinions.
It’s funny how a consistently good post entry pass allows a post player to do good things in the post, huh. In the first half, Jarrett Allen benefited greatly from the guards getting him the ball deep in the post against the zone — side note, it’s amazing how easy those passes looked tonight; it’s almost like the guards are improving over the course of the season — and Allen took full advantage of the quality touches. Allen put up a 17/10 against another NBA draft pick (Motley), showcasing why scouts are attending Texas games even as the team struggles to put up Ws. His level of speed and...hang on, the foster dog just fired off a fart....mother of god, how does a 20 lb dog create a smell that vile. Wooo, OK, shake it off like a Ransomstoddard comment... Allen’s level of speed and touch is a sight to behold when he harnesses it properly, and the fact that he had zero turnovers speaks to his continuing ability to harness more of his ability. I don’t know if Allen comes back next season (probably not) but if he does there’s a good chance he puts up LaMarcus Aldridge numbers, if not better.
Free Throw Shooting
The main reason Texas didn’t lose by twenty: they went 18-22 from the free throw line, good for 81.8%. I wish Pomeroy kept a running tally of where teams were ranked in various stats over the season because I’d love to see where Texas was in free throws a dozen games ago; I’m almost positive they were ranked in the 300s somewhere. Right now they’re 219th, which is a bit below the D-I average but light years ahead of where they were. If free throw shooting was a Barking Carnival commenter, Texas went from RansomStoddard in December to an average commenter now. That’s a huge improvement.
Texas had no realistic hopes of winning this game and when Baylor started to pull away in the second half, the team could’ve folded like a RansomStoddard argument under the slightest test of logical consistency. At one point Baylor was up by twenty late in the second half, Cleare and Banks had fouled out, and Allen was one foul away from disqualification himself. What happened? Texas fought back, won the last 8 minutes, and closed the game to a 10-point margin as time expired. They went full-court press, battled to close the gap, and generally fought their asses off despite being out-gunned. A team that has quit on the season doesn’t do that. These guys are still listening to Shaka, they’re still busting their asses, and they’re doing their best to improve both themselves and the collective arc of this program. These kids have every reason to quit, and they haven’t.
The Mixed Bag
On the plus side, Young played 27 minutes without a turnover. There are games this season where it felt like he’d average 27 turnovers a minute, so it’s nice to see him play under more control. He missed all four threes he attempted, but most of them were reasonable attempts. It seems as though Jacob Young may be this season’s freshman Tevin Mack as a guy who can’t quite slow down enough for his shot to reliably fall, but if it means next season Young is a sophomore Mack (without, uhh, you know...the other Mack issues) then these lumps will be taken a bit easier.
Yea, that’s what an athletic freshman big looks like when he’s defending a future NBA pick in Motley. Banks was pressed into more minutes than normal, and the results were not good. He fouled too easily, attempted shots that he really shouldn’t (at least at this point), and is enough of an offensive liability that he allows teams to shade towards the other big on the court. Banks made it easier for Baylor to guard Cleare/Allen, which is unfortunate as most of Texas’ gameplan was centered around getting Cleare/Allen touches. Such are the hard knocks a freshman big goes through in extended duty; the long-term outlook for Banks is still solid.
Johnathan Motley had as many offensive rebounds as Texas. I’m no RansomStoddard, but last I checked you generally want to get more offensive rebounds as a team than an individual opponent does. Motley logged a 30/20 night, only the third in the modern Baylor era. If Texas had gone zone all night, giving up more offensive rebounds than normal would’ve been somewhat expected, but they played man more often than not and just flat got beat on the defensive glass. Texas hasn’t been great on the defensive glass this season, but tonight was especially bad.
As you might have surmised from the title, Texas was under 30% from distance. In fact, they were 2-19 from behind the arc. You’re not going to beat many teams missing that many threes, much less a top-ten opponent at home. Texas hitting just 30% from three would’ve resulted in a net gain of 9-12 points, meaning Texas had a shot to pull this upset if they could hit the threes. Then again, this has been a recurring theme for most of the season, sooo.......
I think I said on one of our Pretend We’re Football podcasts going into this stretch against West Virginia, Baylor, and Kansas that if Texas managed to lose the three games by less than a combined 50 points it would probably count as a moral victory. <Farnsworth>GOOD NEWS, EVERYONE</Farnsworth>, this means Texas only has to lose to Kansas by less than 38 and they’ve attained yet another moral victory! Right now Pomeroy has Texas predicted to lose by 17 to the Jayhawks, but he also predicted Texas to lose to West Virginia by 13 and Baylor by 15, so maybe Texas keeps it to a single-digit loss in The Phog. That’s not the worst thing in the world, since @KUBoobs (NSFW, obviously) tends to post good stuff whenever those corn-humping bandwagoners put another W on the scoreboard. Yes, they’re generally busty women because they spent the fall packing on weight to survive a winter in Sam Brownback’s Hunger Games-inspired educational system, but, you know, any port in a storm. Silver linings are important, people. The game is on CBS on Saturday, tip is 1pm CT. Pray for some Raftery magic, folks.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by DC Breaks.