It wasn’t a pretty first half — unless you’re a fan of rebounds and acrobatic misses, which seems like a category that ended up on the cutting room floor for that awful Geico commercial — but the Texas Longhorns overcame a combination of quality defense and plexiglass installed over the rim to beat the Butler Bulldogs 61-48. Texas has now equaled the number of games they won away from the Drum last year, with...one. But hey, gotta start somewhere, right? Texas won a neutral-site game against a decent opponent; if you’re checking the list of signs of improvement from last year, this is another one. Last year’s team probably doesn’t win this game.
Also, Texas avenged the game that ended Rick Barnes’ Texas tenure, so that’s nice. As I mentioned on Pretend We’re Football this week, I’d be more than happy if this is the season of settling old scores. Texas gets the chance to settle another one tomorrow. More on that later.
(BTW Thanks to both Kyle and JC for filling in while I was drunk on a very large boat for a week. Believe it or not, I was having to watch the ESPN crawl for scores as there’s not much demand for Longhorn Network in the Caribbean. I KNOW, RIGHT?! I fed some stingrays, turtles, and the ship casino’s profit margin while ingesting enough Tito’s vodka that I deserve some sort of bulk discount. It was a good trip.)
Coleman tallied nine assists on one turnover, for an ATO of...uhh, counts toes, 10? That’s not right, just a second. counts gray chest hairs NINE TO ONE. 9/1 is pretty great, regardless of circumstances. Would you like to know how many games a Texas guard tallied 9 or more assists last year? Zero. Andrew Jones had eight once (with six turnovers) and Kerwin Roach II has eight once (with two turnovers). There were five games last season where Texas didn’t tally nine assists as a team. This is what having an upper-echelon point guard feels like, everybody. Bask in it. He also had three steals and was close to a couple more, so his defensive presence is improving at a fairly quick rate. Coleman’s three point shots weren’t falling, but most of them were in rhythm so I’m not losing much sleep over it.
A non-Jones Texas player didn’t score until 8:27 left in the first half. If Jones was cold, Texas might not have cracked 17 in the half. His stroke looks good, his shot selection looks improved, and while he didn’t log an assist, I’m not fretting. His role is mostly ‘scorer’, and he played the part while the other team shook off the contact high from meeting Bill Walton.
Free Throw Shooting
Texas was 10-12 from the line. Dylan O was 4-4, Mo Bamba was 2-2, Matt Coleman was 2-2. Any time Texas shoots more than 10 free throws and makes 80%+ of them is a win, especially when the bigs account for a large portion of them.
Eric Davis Jr.
Hey, guess who is shooting their freshman average from deep through four games? Not to be On Pace Guy, but in the first four games of 2016 Davis shot 5-24 from deep. Davis can be a plus offensive player, so long as he doesn’t try to do too much. There should be a limit of two dribbles per ball-handling instance for him. Or, if he’s shooting threes, one less than it takes for a defender to close on him in the corner. (That block was bad, man.)
He played nine solid minutes, hitting a three and spelling some of the other guards for a bit. If he keeps hitting threes at a 40%+ clip and Davis is hitting at a 38%+ clip, Jase Febres is going to find minutes hard to come by this year.
The Mixed Bag
Dylan O was a good case of ‘process versus outcome’ tonight. He didn’t do much in terms of scoring until well into the second half, but he was making good choices with the ball. His post game looked fine, the shots just weren’t falling for the big guy. He still added in seven rebounds and was a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line. Hopefully he has a terrible short-term memory, because he’s going to be vital to any upset chances Texas has tomorrow.
I’m going to take the rare game in which Bamba looked mortal — this is still a game where he blocked four shots and altered about a dozen others, so this is a relative statement — to talk about the things he needs to work on going forward, namely hand strength and quicker decision-making on the offensive end. If the book wasn’t already out on Bamba, it is now: his hands are weak, relatively speaking. (I’m sure he could still wreck me in a handshake line.) His pocket can be picked, even if he’s just holding the ball. He also lacks a bit of spatial awareness, in that good guards can sneak up in his blind spot and pick his pocket. He also needs to take less dribbles in the paint. Your arms are longer than a Quentin Tarantino exposition, you don’t need to dribble the ball if you’re less than eight feet from the rim, man. Receive the pass, pivot, and shoot. Nobody’s blocking you at this level without a ladder or a modded Boston Dynamics robot.
The First Half, Offensively
If I could sum up the first half in one tweet:
The foster dog is riveted. pic.twitter.com/eac64pWb31— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 1461 (@Bitterwhiteguy) November 24, 2017
OK, maybe two tweets:
Texas & Butler from three: 6/15 (40%)— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 1461 (@Bitterwhiteguy) November 24, 2017
Texas & Butler from two: 2/18 (11%)
Alright, I promise this is the last one:
AMAZON: If you liked 2011 UConn/Butler, you may also like 2017 Texas/Butler and German torture films— Ryan Clark (@LonghornRdTrip) November 24, 2017
Some of the offensive woes can be attributed to good defense, but both sides were settling for early and/or contested shots way too often. It was a rough half of basketball to watch, particularly if you had spent any portion of last night watching Golden State/OKC. It takes a special kind of masochist to sit through 20 minutes of that kind of offensive ineptitude.
The Lack of SHART
It’s harder to setup the press when the shots aren’t falling and Texas is playing three games in four days, so I get why there’s not a lot of pressure being applied tonight. Still, I kinda wanted to see how Butler would react to superior athletes up in their grill for 94 feet.
I’m probably going to get hate mail for speaking poorly of everyone’s favorite high-flyer with the mustache of a fourteen-year-old trying to buy beer, but he’s still just so raw. Defensively, he can accomplish a fair amount with strength and raw athleticism — though he still gets beat pretty often by savvy bigs who know when to use a back cut or PnR effectively — but on the offensive end he reminds me of the 18-Wheeler formation the football team used to run with Tyrone Swoopes where there wasn’t really a read on the defense so much as the guy is running a predetermined play and if it doesn’t work he gets stuck. His basketball plays are still mechanical, still him painting by numbers a bit. The one time he drove from the perimeter was an example of him deciding he’s going to the rim regardless of what the defense is doing. None of these are fatal flaws, he’s just still learning the game. I have been and continue to be high on his long-term potential, and his ridiculous athleticism makes it hard to keep him off the court entirely.
Texas won a game they probably should have, and their reward is playing a team who can match them athlete for athlete across the board. The next game is Friday against the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils, tip is 430 PM CT on ESPN. Texas gets to truly see where they stand at this point in the season by taking on one of the favorites to make the Final Four. Roll a TV into your tailgate and watch prior to Texas Tech, this game is a big deal. Seriously, make the effort.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Mullett & Urbandawn.