“That was a little too close for a majority of the game against a clearly inferior team.” —“Ok. Cool Hook em!”
“If Texas doesn’t play better than that, North Carolina could make Thanksgiving rather unenjoyable.” — “Ok. Cool Hook em!”
I’m here to give you the excuse to channel your inner Tom Herman and just deny any ridiculous allegations that this Texas basketball team is anything other than 3-0 to start the season. There are certainly things to be improved upon, but Texas is doing enough...so far.
KenPom.com predicted a 20-point win for the No. 24 Longhorns over the No. 242-ranked Lousiana-Monroe Warhawks. Against the Sun Belt’s 4th best team and a half of Travis Munnings being the equivalent of RJ Barrett, Zion, and Cam Reddish combined, the Longhorns did not provide the blowout that the experts predicted. Ok. Cool, they still won by double digits.
It was 42 degrees outside and Texas started the game looking even more chilly inside the Drum (1-for-8 with three missed layups before the first timeout), but thankfully a trend repeated from the opener where a big run saw the superior team put the game out of reach. A 16-0 run saw the Horns through, but with a taste in their mouths not quite as sweet as the Thanksgiving feast coming in a few short days. It was either an inspired coaching decision or a regression to the mean, but the Warhawks’ Munnings went from the clear best player on the court in the first half to a scoreless second. Certainly a switch to a zone defense and 8 points off turnovers in the midst of the Big 19-3 run would indicate the former, so that is terrible news for message board commentators who had the Shaka takes queued. (In the second half, Texas also shot almost 55% from the floor and 80% from the free throw line, so maybe it’s the half time orange slices?) Ok. Cool, Hook Em!
Aggressive Dylan O.
Dylan Osetkowski posted his second straight double-double, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He had 2 offensive rebounds, a block, a steal, and 3 pointer in the opening four minutes, but then seemed to lose a bit of his edge. Then, in a 35 second stretch, there was a Jaxson Hayes dunk followed by a D.O. offensive board and layup followed by a Hayes dunk that was the difference in the Horns leading by a single point at the half. Not necessarily sustained in the second half, but turned on when necessary, Osetkowski was able to smother game by cleaning the glass down the game’s final stretch.
Texas had 6 dunks tonight. Four of them came off a dive after a pick and roll. The Pick-and-Pop wasn’t working for Dylan O, so Shaka decided to move script over one letter. It was beautiful, and as someone who had to cover the Spurs when they watched Chris Paul/Tyson Chandler (if not invent, then at least) refine this into an art form.
EML reminded me of Patty Mills a bit in this game and not just because of the cool hair. The spark plug in Texas’ opening game played a similar role tonight, hitting 3 consecutive FGs (7 points) to jump start the offense on it’s way to a 16-0 run that was the difference in the game. He had the 5th highest minutes share, which is probably higher than most predicted, but if he can be the energy, he’ll continue to see a lot of the floor.
Clearly the better of our hyper-athletic big men on the night. Hayes seemed, like the rest of the team, to find his stride after a few minutes of stretching his legs up and down the court. He was reminded to play above the rim when the aforementioned Pick and Oop play was run successfully by Kerwin Roach and Hayes also kept his hands up in transition. He finished with 11 points, five rebounds, and three blocks, and was on the floor nearly double the amount of time as the starter, Sims.
The Mixed Bag
Point Guard play
The fact that Michael Ertel, the smoothest white guy in Louisiana since The Kingfish (complete with white guy in the gym starter kit of two knee braces, a bad haircut, and a 7 inch vertical), was clearly the best PG on the court is not a great look.
Kerwin Roach, Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey had a combined five turnovers at the 6-minute mark. They would finish with seven total. That calming of the game is the reason this is not in the “Bad” section. Snoop Roach continues to be our best ball handler and distributor for the second game running, but this was not the best showing from a position that can certainly be the strength of the team on it’s best day.
I’ll include it in this section, but Matt Coleman hit not one, but TWO field goals tonight (after an on-floor drought of over 40 minutes). That’s improvement.
Not Exploiting your Height Advantage
I wanted to include this in every section, or maybe even every paragraph, but ULM didn’t have a guy over 6’8 on the roster. They routinely played 4 guards, and even at times played with 6’6 Munnings as their “Big.” This should have been a vintage Clippers Lob City affair, or at least a dominant rebounding fiesta. Instead the final tally was a +1 rebounding edge.
There were also at least four fouls on offensive rebounding attempts, which seems silly when you can probably out jump some of their post players flat-footed. The lone saving grace here was the late game block party put on by Hayes, and the Longhorns remembering how to attack the rim.
Sims finally started to get aggressive around the 17 minute mark in the second half. He was able to maintain that for about 90 seconds. In a game that would seem to be a chance for him to feast, he finished with 3 points and 5 rebounds in 18 minutes.
See ‘Exploiting Height Advange, Not’ above.
Texas’ Zone offense for 90% of this game
My worry is that better teams will exploit the fact that Texas can on any given night settle for 25 three pointers and hit 24% of them. The fact that Texas settled into that offense against a clearly less-talented squad who had somewhere in the ball park of 15-20 inch height deficit is frightening. I’d be curious to see what percentage of Texas’ shots from beyond the arc are actually contested, because if they can start hitting their open looks, it solves a lot of these problems. Watch this space.
I know there’s a football game of major importance in Austin this weekend, and maybe kids are really diligent about getting an early jump on studying for finals...but this was just poor. Again, I understand that the team sounds like the “Luis Monroe Warthogs” (at least the way Lance Blanks and Lowell kept saying it), but it clearly was a very light homecourt advantage, if any. There was a much more palpable energy playing in a Army Post gym.
Texas takes on The Citadel Bulldogs, tipping off Friday at 7 pm (on LHN?). I may or may not be able to cover for Mr. WhiteGuy—who will be drunk on a boat—because I will be the land equivalent of boat drunk: in New Orleans after averaging 70-hour work weeks.
Whether either of the BC basketball guys can watch this game, you definitely should.
The Citadel has an incredible logo, beautiful colors, and a gameplan that is something like a Kenyan marathoner: Run. Always. The past 3 seasons, their adjusted tempo has ranked 2, 2, and 1. It could very likely be the most fun game of basketball Texas plays all season. They are also based in South Carolina (the inspiration for fictional The Sentinel, Alma mater of Francis Underwood...so a reason to root against), and their coach has a name so ‘South Carolina’ that it would get rejected from House of Cards for being too outlandish: Duggar Baucom (for what it’s worth, he is also a former North Carolina State Trooper. Reality will always be the most outlandish).
The Citadel’s most famous basketball alum is Pat Conroy, who wrote about it in My Losing Season, and if you’ve never heard of Mr. Conroy, take between now and Friday and start reading The Prince of Tides.