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Shooting From the Corner: Texas 82, Oklahoma State 79

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Texas finally beat a good team

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

The Texas Longhorns have something to celebrate after taking down the Oklahoma State Cowboys 82-79 in Austin. For more on the atmosphere at The Drum, let’s send it down to our Austin correspondent, Ulysses S. Cocksman. Cock?

Thanks for that, Cocksman. Top work you’re doing down there, keep it up. Really earning those tote bags.

I’m going to pace myself during this recap, because it’s tempting to start being effusive as an over-correction to all of the stilted play and maddening moments of brilliance interrupted by a team hell-bent on punching itself in the testicles as hard as it possibly could over and over again, but there is a certain catharsis in seeing a squad that doesn’t know how to close games put itself in a position where they didn’t have to close the game so much as survive it. To put it another way; imagine you’re a guy who is good at initial impressions and witty repartee, but your transitions into asking women back to your place resembles Mike leaving his number for the hot girl in Swingers.

This is clearly not ideal for Mike. So how does he get around this terrible compulsion to leave twenty messages on a woman’s answering machine? (Millennials, an answering machine is what voice mail was before everyone carried their phones with them. They actually had tapes in them. Tape, like casse-you know what, never mind.) Mike had to sell himself earlier and harder, so that his fumbling delivery of the closing lines weren’t a death sentence for his libido. ENTER, THE SWING DANCING.

For Texas, their defense is their swing dance. (With that last sentence, I realize this whole metaphor was way better in my head. I promise you don’t want to punch me as much as I want to punch myself right now. Oh well, we’ve made it this far.) Texas spent enough time playing solid defense on the two guys who mattered the most (Jawun Evans & Phil Forte) that they were able to build a lead and hang on through some questionable late-game moments to snag a much-needed win. This win was enormous — wait, sorry, not going to over-correct — this win was important for a young team, they needed a tangible sign of progress against a solid opponent. It’s one thing for Shaka to sit in the film room and show them the ways they’re improving while they rack up Ls, it’s another thing entirely to see the scoreboard light up with a W instead. Moreover, they won this game with Jarrett Allen not contributing on the offensive end at the rate he has the last couple of weeks. Oklahoma State is a solid team this year, Brad Underwood is doing well in his first season (not unlike a certain Texas coach last year) and they will be the favorites to beat Texas when the Horns return to Stillwater in February. This win is an oasis in a desert of pain and frustration, and Texas fans should take a moment to savor the water they’re currently ingesting. I know I am.

The Good

Kerwin Roach Jr.

Many people would understandably give Tevin Mack the top billing in this game — and we’ll get to him — but the most impressive performance of the night for me was Kerwin Roach at the point. Consider that Roach turned the ball over 18% of the time in the half-court coming into this game, and he was facing a Cowboy defense that trailed only Press Virginia and a couple other teams in forcing turnovers. Needless to say, this was a considerable area of concern for me coming into tonight. Roach responded to significant on-ball pressure with only two turnovers on the night despite handling the point position more than anybody else. That alone would be worth kudos, but he also took 9 shots and missed one against the same defense. He was 3-3 from the floor and 5-6(!) from the line, scoring 11 points while dishing out six assists and snagging 5 rebounds. If that wasn’t enough, he played great defense on Forte & Evans. He effectively used his length & athleticism to frustrate two of the better shooters in the conference, including a block that should be on every NBA scout’s radar when he goes pro. I mean, look at this fucking thing.

He started from halfway in the paint, jumped from inside the three-point line with two feet, and blocked a guy shooting from 27 feet out. There are ten guards in the NCAA that can do what he just did, maybe less. The more I watch it, the more incredible it gets. People want to know what guys like Tim Preston, Jeff Haley, and I see in these guys, watch that right there.

Tevin Mack

Tevin Mack had a career night in a season where he keeps raising the bar for what constitutes a ‘career night’, scoring 27 points on 10-17 shots (including 4-7 from three) and spurring Texas on an early second-half run that allowed Texas to seize the lead and hold onto it for the rest of the night. Other than a possession with 55 seconds left where he held onto the ball because he clearly wanted to take the free throws, got the foul, then missed both free throws because he is still a 57% shooter from the line, he made smart decisions all night. Playing 39 minutes and only fouling once with a group of referees that were handing out fouls like candy is a good sign of his body control and mental discipline tonight.

Eric Davis Jr.

Wait for it.

Waaaaaaait for it.

ERICDAVISSUPERSAIYANGIFWOOOOO
http://imgur.com/pOHFkGP

Yup. 3-5 from three in the second half, 3-4 from the free throw line in crunch time, and about a ton of bricks off his back for a night. His defense was solid as well. You earned it, Mr. Davis.

Shaquille Cleare

Coming into this game, I expected Cleare to have issues dealing with the guards on PnR situations. Evans is crafty (he reminds me more than a little of Chris Paul in college) and knows how to draw contact on slower defenders, and yet Cleare played disciplined ball even when put into conflict by the Cowboys. He missed a couple of shots he usually makes, but he was perfect from the free-throw line for the...wait, that can’t be right...yep, the fifth game in a row. Cleare has now made 18 free throws in a row with a form that looks like Kevin Durant’s pre-shot shake combined with me at a pop-a-shot after a case of Ruby Redbird. Hey, whatever works, man. Speaking of...

Free Throws

The team hit nearly 76% from the line, including a combined 16-18 from Roach, Cleare, Allen, and Davis. That percentage is good enough to win a lot of games.

The Mixed Bag

Jacob Young

The game is starting to slow down for Young a little; if you had put him on Evans at the beginning of the season, he would have managed to take six threes and foul out in 5 minutes. While Evans still got the better of him more often than not, Young stayed in front of his man fairly regularly, took (mostly) decent shots, and was able to play 14 minutes in a game where Kendal Yancy’s injury necessitated more time for the young guards. Young is still a work in progress, but he’s starting to get it.

Jarrett Allen

I can’t bring myself to put Allen in the ‘bad’ category despite him only going 2-7 from the floor and missing a number of easy shots and a dunk that no 6-11” guy should miss. Even Shawn Bradley winced at that miss. Why can’t I put him in the ‘bad’ category? Because he was only bad by his standards; Allen still put in 8 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks, and played quality defense over nearly every inch of the court. Against most teams, Evans & Forte getting switched onto the opposing big makes them smile; instead, the guards had to stare at this on the perimeter.

NCAA Basketball: Texas-Arlington at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Texas continues to benefit from putting Allen on the perimeter defensively, and if he stays another year — please, dear 8 pounds 6 ounces... newborn infant Jesus, don't even know a word yet, let Allen stick around another year — he will likely anchor one of the better defenses in the country. If he manages to become even passable as a perimeter shooter, good lord. I’m going to go hose myself down now.

The Bad

Brad Underwood’s Dye Job

There’s no way that’s his real hair color; he looks like he let a Drag Rat go to town on him with OSU orange Manic Panic he bought on clearance from an Austin vintage shop. He knows he can afford to get that done somewhere nice now, right?

It’s only one game, and things don’t get any easier for Texas as they travel to Planet Hoth to visit the Iowa State Cyclones on Saturday. The Hilton Coliseum — little-known fact, it’s actually sculpted out of ice from scratch every November as the sun begins its four-month embargo against the state of Iowa for having the audacity to exist — is maybe second only to the Phog in Big 12 home court advantages, and Iowa State nearly beat second-ranked Baylor tonight, so this is going to be a steep hill to climb for the Horns. Tip is at 8:15p CT on ESPN2. As a programming note, I’ll be at the game (wearing ice climbing boots and wrapped in a Tauntaun carcass, probably) so the recap will likely be tardy and/or soaked in alcohol.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Andromedha.