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Clanging From the Corner: Radford 62, Texas 59

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2018 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational - Michigan State v Texas Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

So this is what it would’ve felt like if Tennessee State won last year. Woof.

Radford is probably going to the NCAA Tournament this year, they’re projected to win the Big South. They have a center who played for Kansas State last year and they beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame, so I probably underestimated them at my peril. Still, this is the type of team Texas should beat 8-9 times out of 10, and they didn’t. This may not qualify as a bad loss at the end of the season in the eyes of the selection committee, but it was a bad loss in my eyes. Radford has a guy from Kansas State, not six. They beat Notre Dame, but Notre Dame is not Notre Dame this year. If Texas is on the bubble in March, losses like this can be tiebreakers against other worthy teams. Understand that it’s only one loss, but it’s one of those losses that teams outside the top 10 can’t really afford to have much of when the postseason rolls around.

The Good

Dylan Osetkowski

9 points, 17 rebounds - he accounted for nearly 40% of the team’s boards - and a few nice wrinkles that got him going towards the rim speak to the good. Example:

They need to use that play a couple of times a game to keep defenses honest, and DO is the only big capable of making it work. His 1-7 from three was yet another case of ‘good shot selection, bad results’ that plagues this team. (I’ll get to that shortly.) He also had a good defensive effort against a guard that deserved highlighting:

DO did enough to help the team win overall, he’s one of the few bright spots in this game.

Jericho Sims

At least one of our ultra-athletic bigs used his abilities to dominate the opponent. Sims went 6-9 from the floor, led the team with 16 points, snagged 8 rebounds, and bothered a number of shots on the defensive end of the floor. He’s still thinking too much when the ball gets in his hands in a stationary position, as if he’s playing RDR2 and scrolling through the in-game menu for the proper rifle. Get him on the move, snagging boards and grabbing putbacks and he looks significantly better. If they could shorten that 1.5 seconds he uses to pick the Cattleman Revolver to 0.5 seconds, he could be dominant. Sims is on an upward trajectory from the beginning of the season, perhaps he’s getting his feet under him.

Team Defense

Most nights, when you hold an opponent to less than 1 point per possession you win the game. Texas held Radford to 0.9 PPP, which is an objectively good number. Radford shoots threes really well and made 28% on the night in no small part because Texas was contesting shots and denying their best shooters the ball.

It’s Complicated

Jaxson Hayes

Did you know that Hayes has made exactly one less free throw than Osetkowski this year? DO is 18-26 (69.2%), Hayes is 17-26 (65.4%). Hayes went 2-2 from the line tonight, the rest of the team farted into a wet bag and pretended they caught a butterfly. If they could get Hayes to stop reaching for silly fouls, he’d probably make a better case to be the starting big; still, tonight he went for dumb reach-ins that kept him on the bench longer than normal. Sims earned his 26 minutes, but Hayes made it easier for Sims to earn those minutes with his poor choice of steal attempts. He also - and this is becoming a thing - only grabbed three rebounds in 14 minutes. Sims now has a better defensive rebounding percentage than Hayes, and there’s a good chance that gap widens as conference play begins. Hayes needs to get better at establishing rebounding position because his athleticism advantage will diminish as Big 12 play cranks up.

Three-Point Shooting

Texas went 5-25 from three, which is a terrible make percentage. Jase Febres is the only person tonight who is absolved from this discussion as he went 2-5 and is now shooting nearly 41% from deep on the season. His light is the greenest of green, particularly in the absence of Andrew Jones from the lineup. OTHER THAN FEBRES, here’s how the night went:

Matt Coleman 1-4

Dylan Osetkowski 1-7

Kerwin Roach II 1-7

Elijah Mitrou-Long 0-2

Courtney Ramey 0-2

While a lot of the threes tonight were defensible decisions, there needs to be a discussion about who gets the green light to shoot the threes. Why is this in “It’s Complicated”? Because it’s easy to say in a blog post “Osetkowski should only take 2-3 a game and if it’s not falling then demur”, but in real-time you don’t want a player catching the ball and thinking “Is this the second or fourth three I’ve taken? Have I used my allotment? What are my stats thus far?” because by the time he’s worked through that decision tree the defense is going to contest/block any shot he puts up. I know the coaching staff has a shot contest in the off-season (it’s actually an ongoing thing, but bear with me) where they tell players if they make X number of threes in the space of a certain time frame, they get the green light to shoot threes in the games. This is an example of one kind of test, though I think the one Texas uses is a bit more advanced. If the player passes, they get to shoot when they’re open; lots of teams use this sort of thing so it’s a sound approach. The only feasible way I can think of adjusting this within a game is to have one of the assistants who is tracking shots keep the coaches updated as to who is taking the proper shots and adjust tactics accordingly. I think, as an example, it’s important for Osetkowski to keep shooting 3-4 threes a game because it helps make his shot fake move to the basket effective. But if he’s not hitting the threes, it’s incumbent upon the coaches to nudge him to drive to the basket more. I have growing concerns about the green light Long has, and maybe his light needs to become a yellow.

The Bad

Team Energy

Somebody texted me in the second half and asked if the coaches had run the hell out of the team in the off week, because he felt like the team was gassed. I tend to think the team wasn’t gassed, they weren’t giving the proper amount of energy. After Texas built a 24-12 lead, they seemed to go into cruise control. Texas playing at the energy level they played against North Carolina doesn’t let Radford back into the game, but they just weren’t as active. To that point....

Turnovers

Texas lost the turnover battle tonight, only forcing eight turnovers or 11.6% of Radford’s possessions. Combine that with the 12 turnovers (17.4%) they gave up and that’s a big chunk of the Longhorns’ margin for error that vanished into thin air. Texas is a good team, but one of the reasons they’re a good team is they force turnovers. The press looked like dogshit for large portions of the night; they would get the trap but the interceptors weren’t intercepting. A trap is good, but flawed; a trap with interceptors patrolling the passing lanes is significantly more effective. Radford broke the press regularly because the trap wasn’t being followed up with the necessary actions.

Kerwin Roach II

I don’t know if he spent the week reading his press clippings or playing Red Dead Redemption 2, but he wasn’t himself tonight. He was 2-12 from the floor tonight against a team he should beat off the dribble. His defense was below his normal level, his movement felt a step slow; this was the worst night I’ve seen from him in awhile.

Elijah Mitrou-Long

It was probably a sign of the rough night to come when Long missed all three free throws in one trip to the line. They weren’t close misses, either. Honestly, they were bad enough I wondered if he was injured. He got two steals, but just a bad night overall for the Canadian.

Texas needs to regroup and remember they’re #17 in the nation, or at least savor it because they’re definitely not going to be #17 next week. They get VCU in Austin on Wednesday and unless Shaka Smart wants to lose two in a row to former assistants then the team needs to pick it up a couple notches. Tip is at 7 PM CT on ESPNU.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Nelver.