Well, that was enjoyable. The Texas Longhorns continued their dominance of the North Carolina Tar Heels, winning 92-89 and have now won 8 of their last 9 games against the basketball blue bloods. Texas survived a Coby White onslaught that looked like somebody let Kevin Durant suit up for the bad guys and advances to the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational sponsored by Brawndo with a secondary sponsorship by Redtube against either the Michigan State Spartans or the UCLA Bruins tomorrow. Texas has zero time to marinate on this win; if Michigan State beats the Bruins (which seems like the safer bet, considering they’re up 49-22 as I type this) then Texas has an even tougher task tomorrow than they did today. However, we get to marinate on the win tonight, and marinate we will.
(I can’t help it)
Here’s the thing about Roy Williams and his UNC teams: he tends to think he can stick to what he does well and beat you, which to be fair, history has proven is mostly true. The guy has won nearly 850 games for a reason, he knows what he wants and he recruits to his system. When he can get out in transition and using his team’s superior athleticism he can punish a lot of what people may consider more “well-coached” teams. Defensive-minded coaches like Shaka Smart - and Rick Barnes - can stymie Roy’s teams better than most, especially when the athleticism advantage is nullified by the opposing roster. North Carolina is perennially effective on offense, but it shines in transition. Teams like Texas tend to limit transition buckets, which makes UNC work for their baskets. They’ll still score, but their efficiency is dulled just enough that it allows Texas to capitalize if they can make shots. So this is a long way of saying that as much as this win is great on a number of levels, there’s something to Texas being a uniquely bad matchup for North Carolina and that it doesn’t necessarily mean Texas is a top-ten team. Texas has to beat a more diverse array of high-level teams for me to say that Texas has jumped to the top of the college game.
It’s still a hell of a win, and is one of the best opportunities Texas has in non-conference play to stake their claim to a NCAA Tournament spot. They took advantage of the opportunity, and it paid off. Texas is likely to be ranked next week based upon the win they just achieved.
Kerwin Roach II
Man, what an effort by Snoop. As white-hot as Coby White was for the Tar Heels, Roach matched him shot for shot. I’m trying to think back to a game where Roach was as locked-in as this one and the only thing that comes close was that game in Ames during the 11—win season. Roach drove on UNC guards with impunity, he nailed all three threes he shot, grabbed six rebounds, and dished out seven assists. He put somebody’s family on life support with this dunk:
WHY DOES ANYONE JUMP WHEN HE JUMPS
IT MAKES NO SENSE
SAVE YOUR FAMILY
Roach (and Matt Coleman) did a solid job on Coby White as well, most of his shots were contested. White was just in the zone, nobody was stopping him. Roach had four steals and it was nearly seven. Just all-around excellent work from the senior guard.
I’ve been waiting to see how Hayes would fare against elite competition, and he didn’t disappoint. 15 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and some great work in the open court; Hayes missed one shot - a free throw - all night, which is a testament to both his play and to the guards getting him the ball in the right spots at the right time. I’m hesitant to say he might be about to supplant Jericho Sims in the starting lineup because Sims is still the better half-court defender (and that sort of thing matters a lot to Shaka Smart and staff) but Hayes is basically demanding he be played at least 15 minutes per game if not more. I thought Sims was the most likely to leave early after this season, but we might be looking at a Tristan Thompson situation here. Maybe go watch this guy sooner than later.
You know how I’ve been saying everywhere people would listen that I didn’t think it was a lack of ability to shoot so much as open shots not falling? Well, hello, everybody. The shots fell tonight; Texas went 11-24 (45.8%) from deep, including 3-3 from Roach, 2-3 from Coleman, and 2-4 from Jase Febres. In the wonderful world of small sample sizes, Texas jumped nearly 80 spots in the three-point make percentage ranks thanks to tonight to....uhh, 219th. Hey, that’s better than last year’s 316th! It also pushed Texas into the top 35 nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency. As I discussed in the season preview on shooting, Texas doesn’t need to be elite from three to thrive, they just need to be solid. Getting the team average up to the mid-30s is enough, and they’re starting to show signs they’re on the way there. Still, one game does not a perimeter attack make.
Texas turned the ball over a bit more than their average, but they forced turnovers on 21% of possessions from a North Carolina team who was one of the better teams in the nation at possessing the ball. If you’re looking for one of the reasons Texas came back while Coby White was hitting threes from Reno, them forcing significantly more turnovers than UNC in the first half is a large reason why.
Defense in the Paint
One of the little things I enjoyed about tonight was watching DO and Hayes/Sims actively switching whenever Luke Maye and either Garrison Brooks or Cameron Johnson would try to set screens for each other. Having the size Texas does allows them to do things like this which keep players like Luke Maye from establishing low-post position as easily, and is one of the reasons Luke Maye was largely held in check until the last few minutes of the game. Maye is in some ways a superior version of Osetkowski, but tonight he struggled to get going because of the way Texas defended him.
Side note: Nassir Little did dick-all for most of the game because Texas didn’t make it easy on him. Texas really did a great job on most of North Carolina’s roster; the non-Coby White team shot as follows: 17-34 from two, 4-19 from three, with 10 assists against 15 turnovers. I don’t have the points per possession handy, but it had to be well under 1.00 when you subtract White.
This was an underrated performance by White Thunder. (I’m workshopping nicknames, feel free to leave your own ideas in the comments.) He missed his first four threes, nailed a big one at the half, and hit another in the second half. For a guy who looked like a robot the first couple of games, Osetkowski is starting to come around. I like his desire to drive to the basket; the pump fake is likely to work on fours guarding him, and he has enough handles to get to the paint before pulling up for the shot or passing to the open perimeter player. He’s playing within himself more, and again his defense on Luke Maye was great.
Mini-Good: Jase Febres
Keep hitting those threes, young man. You’re doing the lord’s work.
The Mixed Bag
I don’t like this rating, for the record, but his 50% from the charity stripe landed him here. Watching him repeatedly go 1-2 from the line at the end of the game gave me flashbacks to Travis Mays missing free throws against Arkansas; I know he’s a better free throw shooter than this, but come on, man. Other than this, he was better than any other game this season. He took intelligent threes, he drove the ball with authority, and he even showed some of the sizzle that happens when he decides to assert himself. I want to see more of these efforts from Coleman because we all know he has it in him.
Roy Williams’ Defensive Decisions
You didn’t go zone against Texas for 32 minutes? Seriously? Somebody at North Carolina has to have a Synergy account.
Texas plays Michigan State tomorrow at 5:30 PM CT on Fox. I mean, I guess UCLA could overcome a 24-point halftime deficit against a top-ten team helmed by a Hall of Fame coach, but let’s just roll with it being the Spartans.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Nelver.