The Texas Longhorns end their Portland trip 1-2 after falling to the #17 Gonzaga Bulldogs 76-71 in overtime. Texas did their damnedest to give this game away in the first half, then did their damnedest to win it back in the second half. What you want to take out of this game really depends on where you’d like to focus, because there was a lot of divergent data points to pull from.
- Texas’ offensive movement needs work? Sure
- Texas’ defensive efficiency continues to get better? Yep
- Texas doesn’t have enough shooters? Alright
- Texas has a hell of a point guard? Absolutely
- Mohamed Bamba can get pushed too far from the basket too easily? Uh-huh
We could go on and on, and I’ll delve into more macro thoughts at the end. Suffice it to say there’s a lot to like with some significant questions still looming. Wait, is that enough? Am I done with the recap already? HELL YES, TIME TO GO RAKE SOME MOTHERFUCKING LEAVES.
I’m being told that wasn’t sufficient.
19 points, 3-7 from deep, four assists to one turnover, four steals, and a number of game-changing plays that don’t go in a stat sheet. Coleman managed to get a held ball in transition while behind the ball-handler. That’s a foul nine times out of ten when an average guard tries it. Texas has gone from the bottom third to the top 25 nationally in turnover percentage on offense primarily because Coleman doesn’t cough the ball up. Like, ever. His turnover rate thus far in the season is 6.9, which is nearly half what Isaiah Taylor did in his final season. That’s some Monte Morris-level ball control, and Morris may have been one of the five best point guards I’ve watched at the NCAA level when it came to ATO numbers. He still needs to work on tightening up his cuts when running the PnR, but this is a minor criticism. This doesn’t even really account for what he brings defensively; he’s solid in the half-court, but he shines in the press. He’s in the top 10% nationally in steal rate; he uses his vision & anticipation so well for a freshman...or a junior. Pray to whatever deity you deem relevant that Coleman stays at Texas for 3-4 years.
Texas could have easily packed it in down 48-28 in the second half. (There’s an argument to be made they might have been about to throw in the towel when James Banks and Royce Hamm were on the court together, but I didn’t say that. You heard that somewhere else. I don’t know who is typing right now, I’m outside raking.) We saw this team get down 20 last season multiple times, they never made it all the way back like they did today. This team is mentally tougher than last year’s squad; at some point they’ll get over the hump in one of these games.
Andrew Jones’ Enormous Testicles
The Mixed Bag
The press was bad in the first half; not because of the outcomes, but because of the poor execution that led to those poor outcomes. When a team presses, they’re going to get beat from time to time against an opponent who passes as well as Mark Few teams typically do. You accept a certain amount of gambles are going to end up as losses; the issue here is that Texas wasn’t pressing well in the first half. No backcourt trap should be split as easily as theirs were being split, no trap should be spotted that far ahead of time as theirs were being spotted. Traps work when the ball-handler doesn’t see it coming from 4 strides away. The Texas guards and bigs were telegraphing their moves and Gonzaga was making them pay over and over again. Shaka Smart must have hammered this point home at halftime, because they were much more intelligent in their pressing decisions in the second half. The last ten minutes of the second half were legitimately good, and a great example of what unleashing elite athletes in a system designed to create
HAVOC chaos can do. Kudos to the players and the staff for tightening up the press (and for mixing up the presses, adding another layer of confusion to a Gonzaga team that was completely out of sorts). Here’s hoping they deploy the press a bit more often as the season progresses.
As much as I appreciate the desire to get Bamba rolling to the basket in a PnR as we all have visions of him dunking a lob dancing in our heads, the execution isn’t working for two reasons. First, they’re not quick enough at it; as we wrote about in Smart Texas Basketball 2017, the main point of running PnR is to create space and time for the offensive players. If Bamba saunters up to the defending guard and the ball-handler takes his sweet-ass time diving around Bamba, there’s no time distortion happening to the defense. If you hang a banner at the three-point line announcing your plans, the defense will be ready. No more courtesy taps on the side of the head, Texas, go get yours. Second, Bamba’s lack of perimeter shooting ability means the defending big isn’t in the same conflict he might otherwise be if he had to worry about Bamba pulling up from deep. (As a point of reference, did you notice how far Texas’ bigs had to chase Gonzaga guards out past the arc in the second half?) There are certain combinations that work better right now — especially as Coleman’s three-point make percentage continues to climb — so if we’re going to do the PnR it needs to be more Coleman/Osetkowski and less Roach/Bamba, or at least get Bamba to run his ass up to the screen.
This section should seriously be renamed “Dylan Does Nearly Everything Right Except The Shots Aren’t Falling” Mixed Bag. His shot form looks good (though he could stand to be closer to the three-point line when he lets go), he plays good defense, his passing decisions are solid....but yea, he’s now 2-17 from three this year. Maaaaybe that green light needs to be a smidgen more yellow.
Texas had 20 turnovers today, which means they gave the ball back to Gonzaga roughly one out of every four possessions. It’s not that the number of turnovers was high that’s frustrating (though it also kinda is) but that so many of them were bone-headed turnovers. It’s one thing to have 20 turnovers against Press Virginia, but Texas was dribbling the ball off their own feet, watching the ball slip out of their hands because apparently the air is pretty thick in Portland, and falling out of bounds like they were in a Star Trek ship collision.
Just hang onto the ball, man. Half of y’all can palm a basketball like it’s a grapefruit, this shouldn’t be a huge request.
Eric Davis, Jr
I want Eric Davis to succeed, I really do. He seems like a nice guy who means well and represents the university well. But mother of Cthulhu, that first half was the worst half of basketball I’ve seen from him in a long time. He drives the ball and then his brain freezes at the top of the key, he didn’t make good passing decisions, his defensive rotations were, well, you might have noticed him playing Half-Step Slow Superman as he flies in to contest a three that’s already in the air more than once. He also didn’t take a single three, which means he’s either not getting open or not recognizing when to shoot (or both) and any of those three options means he’s a net-negative on the floor. It’s not a coincidence Jase Febres saw his first PK80 action today. That was rough.
Alright, so what did we learn about this team over the past four days? I think it’s fair to say the floor for this season has been raised, while the ceiling has also been lowered (though not equally). Texas has taken two top-twenty opponents to overtime on a neutral court, and nearly beat the #1 team in the nation. This is a top-40 team who has the capacity to play like a top-10 team in a given night. They solved one of their primary issues from last season with significantly improved point guard play, but one of the other major issues from last year — three-point shooting, you may have heard it mentioned a time or two — is still a problem. They are getting some help in that area from Coleman and there’s reason to think Osetkowski will eventually break out of this funk, and Andrew Jones looks to be an even better shooter than last year. So there’s hope, but it’s still something they have to prove they can do on a reliable basis before it becomes anything other than a theory. The other sobriety check is that being a top-40 team means they’re 5th or 6th in the Big 12. They could be better, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they actually get more votes in the top-25 polls this week despite going 1-2 on the week. We’re starting to narrow in on what Texas might do this season, and how they respond to this week could be the difference between starting conference play 8-4 or 10-2.
The next game is against Florida A&M on Wednesday, tip is at 7 PM CT on LHN.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Sade Rush.