That’s how many days have passed since I have been able to type the following sentence: the Texas Longhorns have won a road game. In the last 641 days, we have elected a president, watched LeBron James and Kevin Durant win NBA titles, and saw Pokemon Go take over the world and disappear. Russell Wilson lost his virginity, Kaepernick lost his career, and Mother Teresa was canonized. (I’m pretty sure all three events are related somehow.) AND I HAVEN’T EVEN GOTTEN TO 2017. The point is, it has been a long time since Texas won a true road game. Sure, they won two neutral-site games, but going 0-11 on the road last season put a major damper on things. This is yet another in a growing list of signs this team is ready to handle loftier goals than their 2016 counterparts, and that is a positive development.
Jones is up to 43% from three this season thanks to his 4-6 shooting from behind the arc tonight, and as long as his wrist & elbow heal up after tonight he’s going to be raining threes on the Big 12 all season long. VCU is a solid defensive team; they didn’t give Jones a lot of daylight and he still hit his shots. 3-6 from the free throw line isn’t great, but given that two of the free throws came after he landed on his shooting wrist I’m giving him a pass on it. His handle still needs to tighten up if he’s going to be the backup PG though.
Kerwin Roach II
It’s funny how the best guard/wing for every team Texas plays seems to have their worst game of the year when they play Texas. If only there was some sort of common denominator involved, like if one player continually drove them crazy with elite man defense. Oh well, De’Riante Jenkins having a bad shooting night except when Roach was on the bench is a mystery we’ll never quite solve. It’s too bad, I’d love to give whoever was responsible for stymying Jenkins a boatload of credit on the night. In the meantime I’ll just have to talk about Roach being responsible for half (7) of Texas’ assists (14) on the night. Roach’s assist rate (20.2) is within shouting distance of Matt Coleman (21.0), FYI.
Any time you can get 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 3-6 from deep from a guy battling the flu, you take it. Osetkowski still isn’t using his legs enough on his perimeter shots, but tonight it didn’t matter.
Coleman ‘only’ had four assists on the night against one turnover, but there needs to be a stat for ‘turnovers avoided’ because he was responsible for beating VCU’s traps repeatedly either with his legs or with his passes. Texas loses tonight without Coleman at the point, without a doubt. His feel for the position is impressive for a D-I player and preternatural for a freshman. Coleman leads the team in steals as well, his ability to anticipate passes is on full alert on both ends of the court.
It’s a weird title, I know. The point is that Texas had zero shots blocked tonight; there is only one team in the NCAA getting their shots blocked at a lower rate on the offensive end than Texas, the noted powerhouse New Mexico State. (They’re actually 6-1 this year and might be the WAC representative in March, so I should probably cram the sarcasm.) So far this year, Texas is getting its shots blocked less than half as often as last season, which is one small clue that they are getting more open looks at the basket this season.
Eric Davis Jr’s Clutch Free Throws
With Andrew Jones on the bench dealing with his injuries, Texas was in desperate need of somebody to hit a reliable free throw to preserve the win. Davis was up to the challenge, hitting 3-4 from the line in the last 25 seconds of a tight game. If somebody else coughKerwincough was at the line in those situations, Texas might have left Virginia with the L.
That Mo Bamba Dunk
Mohamed Bamba, ladies and gentlemen. pic.twitter.com/1BiCKIQbWC— Deadspin (@Deadspin) December 6, 2017
This is where the highest point of Mo Bamba’s arm was on that dunk where he leapt off of one foot on the break. This seems not possible. pic.twitter.com/eogdE6zx7u— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) December 6, 2017
That’s just...you can’t....people aren’t supposed to....you know what, just watch it again.
The Mixed Bag
There was a stretch halfway through the second half where the refs looked like they were in a contest with each other to see who could blow the most obvious call. There was the phantom Roach foul on the three-point shooter, followed by Bamba getting away with a fairly obvious offensive basket interference, followed by a VCU player getting “fouled” by Eric Davis Jr., which is in addition to an earlier VCU offensive basket interference that wasn’t called. I don’t know if there was a Vegas prop bet on terrible calls that ultimately balanced out, but if there was some degenerate made a ton of cash on this game.
Another Blown Lead
Blowing a big lead to Duke is relatively understandable, Duke is maybe the best team in the country and has made a habit of turning on the jets in the second half this season. Blowing a lead to a VCU squad that is a bit down this year is unfortunate, though there’s the obvious caveat that Texas was able to recover and ultimately win the game. It’s something of a double-edged sword that Texas is good enough to get up big on teams this year but still not good enough to reliably hold these leads. It’s early in the season so this may not become a recurring theme, but it’s something to keep an eye on as the Texas schedule gets harder.
Texas has a week off; their next game is in Austin against the Michigan Wolverines on next Tuesday. Michigan isn’t quite the team they were last season, and Texas getting the Wolverines in Austin a week after the Wolverines lost to their rival Ohio State could be a blessing or a curse. Tip time is 8 PM CT on ESPN2.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Marco Bailey.