The margin for error in the Big 12 is tiny, as Texas learned today in their 69-60 loss to the Art Briles Apologists. The first road loss for the Longhorns is a painful one on a number of levels, not least of which is that this game was winnable for the players in Burnt Orange. Texas fought back from an eight-point deficit to being down 59-57 with 6:34 left and the ball, and from that point they were outscored 10-3 with the only three being an extremely questionable Mohamed Bamba three-pointer. This is how the last 6:34 went for Texas:
Dylan Osetkowski turnover
Missed front end of 1 & 1 free throw
Made Bamba three
Missed Bamba jumper
Missed Jase Febres layup
Missed Osetkowski three
Missed Bamba layup
Missed Osetkowski jumper
Missed Coleman jumper
Missed Osetkowski three
Missed Osetkowski three
Missed Kerwin Roach II three
Finishing a game 1-10 from the field will lose any team a lot of games, especially a team not known for its offensive prowess like Texas. Credit to Baylor for their defense creating a number of those misses, but Texas got a bit too cute at times. As an example, one of those Bamba turnovers should be on Roach for throwing him a low bounce pass in the paint on a PnR. It was a low-percentage pass for Bamba; his arms are long, but they don’t extend halfway down his calves.
Febres is the obvious headline to this game with the ridiculous first half of 18 points on 7-9 shooting (4-5 from three), three rebounds, and a steal as he covered for Andrew Jones who is apparently dealing with a bout of SARS. (We should have told Jones to never visit Arlington, that place is ground zero for every communicable disease discovered in the last 25 years.) Febres showed off the stroke that had the likes of Baylor, TCU, and West Virginia after him; Shaka Smart said on his weekly radio show that people should watch out for Febres this game, and his comments somehow actually undersold what we were in store for today. More over, his shots largely came in the rhythm of the offense. Case in point:
Watch @JaseFebres (#13 bottom left). He waits in the corner, flips to the other corner for spacing, runs a solid PnR with Dylan, kicks to Roach in the corner, fills when Snoop drives, catches the kick out in shot ready position, nails a rhythm three. That's well-executed offense. pic.twitter.com/iHYcmRHkY5— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 1115 (@Bitterwhiteguy) January 6, 2018
Febres showed tantalizing ability in a number of areas (like this block of Jo Lual-Acuil) and provided some hope for fans looking to see someone other than Andrew Jones hit a reliable three. It’s probably not a coincidence that Jacob Young never took off his warmups today. Hats off to the freshman for a good display.
Midway through the second half, Reid Gettys was talking about how Acuil was getting the better of Bamba in their face-off today. In the next ~7 minutes, Acuil scored two points, blocked zero shots, and grabbed zero rebounds while Bamba scored seven points, blocked four shots, and grabbed one rebound. I think maybe that scorecard evened up by the end of the game, Reid. Bamba was held in check for more than half the game and still came out with 15 points, 9 rebounds, five blocks, and two steals. Manu Lecomte shot 1-7 in the second half in no small part because the paint was off limits by order of General Bamba. He’s ridiculous.
Texas doubled up Baylor on the offensive boards, 15-7. More to the point, Texas pulled down an offensive rebound on 32% of their misses while allowing Baylor — a top-50 team in offensive rebounding — to grab only 25% of their misses. (That also means Texas grabbed 75% of the available defensive rebounds, which is nice.) Rebounding seems to be getting better for Texas as the season progresses.
The Mixed Bag
Hey, Texas hit 80% of their free throws!
WTF, Texas only shot five free throws!
And the miss was the front end of a one & one!
Texas now has three starters (Jones, Osetkowski, Coleman) hitting 70% or better from the line, the ostensible sixth man (Davis) at 75%, and a couple more subs (Young, Febres) with high percentages on very small sample sizes. This team isn’t a great free throw shooting team, but in the last five games they’re 51-68 from the line which is 75%. That’s a top-50 free throw shooting percentage if it was held over the course of a season; at least as of late, the free throw shooting has been solid.
Osetkowski shot the ball poorly tonight, going 3-12 from the floor for 8 points and missing the front end of a one & one that could have helped Texas stay in this game late. He still put in quality effort in the paint despite getting repeatedly murdered by Baylor bigs. I’m not sure why the refs were letting so much contact go near the rim, but it clearly affected Osetkowski. You could see his frustration growing as the game went on, including when Terry Maston put an elbow in his chest with no whistle to follow. Hopefully that sort of thing gets called when Baylor comes to Austin.
Davis went 1-8 from the floor, and despite him being the entirety of Texas’ made free throws he was still a negative on the offensive end of the floor. Davis’ defense is not good enough for him to get a lot of minutes when his shot isn’t falling.
Non-Bamba Interior Defense
Jericho Sims will be an above-average defender one day, and Royce Hamm will provide good minutes for somebody down the road. Today, they got worked repeatedly by older, savvier bigs.
Texas likely needs eight conference wins to get into March Madness (and as Jeff Haley of BON likes to say, eight probably means sweating on Selection Sunday). For the sake of argument, let’s put the desired number at nine conference wins. Home wins are more likely than road wins against every team in the Big 12, and every time Texas loses a home game that means they need to pick up a road win to compensate. (Put another way: since Texas lost to Kansas at home and is very likely to lose at Phog, they have to sweep somebody else to catch up.) More than four road wins in this conference seems like wishful thinking to me, and more than six home wins is similarly difficult to envision. The four best chances for road wins entering conference play from most likely to least in your dear blogger’s opinion were Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Baylor. If Texas wants nine (or more) Big 12 wins, they need to snag as many of these contests as possible. These four games are probably the difference between 7-11 and 11-7 if all else holds to form. (Similarly, pulling one or more home wins out of Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Texas Tech are vital if Texas wants to challenge for a top-four finish in the conference. But I digress.) Losing at Baylor hurts the ceiling of this season; it’s not a season-killer as the Team Rankings site didn’t move Texas’ chances to make the NCAA Tourney much after the loss. It’s a missed opportunity though, one that might haunt Texas in March.
Texas gets no respite from the gauntlet, as the resurgent TCU Horned Frogs come to Austin on Wednesday. Tip is at 8 PM CT on ESPNU.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Blackeye & Sicknote.