Certain things about this season are becoming predictable. Texas can get a double-digit lead on solid teams. Texas can hand double-digit leads back to solid teams in half the time it takes them to build it up. Being a Texas basketball fan will be considered a pre-existing condition if the ACA is repealed, and SBNation doesn’t cover health insurance. What I guess I’m saying is the GoFundMe page for my cirrhosis treatment could really use some positive word-of-mouth. I’ll stencil the name of the largest donor onto the baboon liver they put in me, so get your bids in now.
Texas is an exercise in frustrating extremes, we’re all pretty well-acquainted with the burnt orange Judge Roy Scream we have agreed to ride each game. What we’re hoping for is that the ride ends on a high rather than a low, and fortunately for Texas it ended with a high and not with us sitting in cars that light themselves on fire while we hurtle off an unfinished section of track. Texas started the second half on a 13-4 run (wheee!) which Tech answered with a 7-0 run (ahhh!), which Texas followed with a 6-0 run (wheee!), which Tech mirrored with their own 7-0 run (f****ck!), which Texa-you know what, you get the point. If Texas could just stop one or two opponent runs per game, they’d probably be 6-3 in conference rather than 3-6. But they can’t, at least not yet, so here we are. This may sound like a rather defeatist recap considering Texas won, but I’m constantly reminded of the little things that keep this team from being 13-9 (or 15-7) instead of 9-13. I’d kill to be on the bubble right now. Any way, let’s get to it.
I understand Shaka is managing minutes and that he’s trying to build for the future with his substitution patterns, so I’m not griping the way I might if Texas were in the hunt for a tourney berth. Having said that, there really is no on-court reason for Kerwin Roach Jr to be the starting PG for Texas. Andrew Jones is playing better at the point than Roach and it’s not particularly close. Yes, Jones still has his freshman moments, like tonight when he drove straight at two defenders who were planted outside the restricted area. Jones also has sublime moments, like his no-look pass to Shaquille Cleare that ended in a two-hand dunk for the big man or the first pass he threw to Cleare which was a fucking ridiculous fastball that only Cleare could get. I wish the game had been on TV at that point so I could post a video of it; Jones fired the ball to Cleare’s left hand with the kind of precision you’ll see from Brady & Ryan on Sunday, it was absurd. (Yes, I’m losing my mind over a post-entry pass; no, I’m not sorry. That thing was unreal.) The point is that Jones is an adept point guard and Roach is having a rough go of things; he could use some responsibilities being taken off his plate. I don’t think Jones should run the point exclusively like Isaiah Taylor or anything, but he needs the ball in his hands more than Roach. I can live with Jones’ mistakes more than Roach’s because his upside is higher and he’s tapping into more of it right now than Roach. To put it in perspective, Jones’ Assist Rate and Turnover Rate numbers right now are similar to Zay’s freshman year. Give him the ball already, free up Roach to do explosive things on the move. Roach is a valuable long-term player for this squad, just not at PG.
Allen went 8-11 from the floor, 3-5 from the line, and nearly had his 9th double/double of the year with 8 rebounds. His only blemish — frankly, the only part of his game that needs significant improvement — was the three turnovers, which will be rectified with equal parts strength work and film study. When Allen isn’t being triple-teamed, he’s pretty great. Also, there was this:
I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up; but man, if he comes back.....I don’t even want to think about it.
Eric Davis Jr
In the last four games, Davis is 12/28 (42.9%) from three, and in conference play he’s 16/43 (37.2%). I’d say the slump is busted. Texas badly needed an outside threat, and there are a couple that have developed during conference play (Jones is hitting nearly 42% from three) to open up the passing lanes to Cleare and Allen a little wider. Davis needs to improve his reliability against full-court pressure, but otherwise he was a pretty clear net-positive for the Longhorns tonight.
Banks isn’t going to show up much in the box score tonight as he didn’t contribute much on the offensive end, but defensively he had some quality half-court possessions that implied he might be starting to turn the corner in terms of understanding context and what the offense is trying to do. He still goes for the block a bit too much for my taste (I would be less concerned if the rest of the team backed him up on the boards more frequently) but I liked his activity in limited minutes. He’s doing a bit less thinking and a bit more playing.
The Mixed Bag
Kerwin Roach Jr
My previous bit on Jones might seem like I’m knocking Roach, which isn’t my intent. I know Roach is busting his ass out there, and he has value to this team. He’s in the middle of a rough patch right now; his free throws aren’t falling, his turnovers are high, and his defense is uneven. I’ve seen Roach do a 360-degree turn on defense twice in the last two games, which seems like an apt summary of how much his head is spinning on the court at times lately. I don’t doubt his ultimate aptitude as a player, when he’s got his head on right he’s a good defender both on and off the ball, and when he’s playing for the shot more than the contact he’s a good finisher at the rim. He just seems to be in a bit of a funk right now.
Pro tip to all the announcers calling Texas games: Texas isn’t in the hunt for a NCAA Tournament berth this year. Even saying this is a possibility tells me that you’re either unaware of Texas’ season or you’re falling back on random talking points, or both. I realize this isn’t a Kansas game, or a Kansas State game, or maybe even a UConn women’s game in terms of fan interest, but at least load up KenPom before opening your oxygen hole to spew silliness. The whole game made it sound like Texas Tech was the underdog battling history, when in reality Texas Tech has been the better team thus far this season. (Also, if you’re surprised that Jarrett Allen is at the head of Texas’ 1-3-1 zone, you haven’t watched much tape.)
Free Throw Shooting
If Texas Tech shot like they normally do (~73%), Texas loses this game due to going 8-17 (47.1%) from the line. Cleare bricked two free throws so badly I wondered if he had found a monkey paw and wished for something that boomeranged back on him terribly. Thankfully, Tech decided to ramp up their level of difficulty by shooting 10-19 (52.6%) themselves. Take the W however you can get it, Horns.
Texas has yet another chance to notch their first road victory of the season against the TCU Horned Frogs on Saturday. I’d really like Texas to win at least one game on the road this year, might as well start now. Tip is at 12pm CT on ESPNews.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Alex Di Stefano.