November basketball is not supposed to be this stressful.
Texas is the more talented squad, and for most of the first half they showed as much. The Longhorns built up a double-digit lead and beat the Arkansas Razorbacks press so handily that Mike Anderson went to a zone. I don’t know how to impress upon you the level at which another team has to beat the press for Mike Anderson to back out of it, it’s as rare as Tim Beck calling a pass to the TE when Tom Herman isn’t actively showing Beck photos of his mother held hostage. It’s rarer than me mentioning Eric Davis Jr without using the phrase ‘jazz flute’. It’s rarer than Bob Huggins opting for a salad with dressing on the side. It doesn’t happen much is what I’m saying. Still, Texas played quality basketball for the last ~12 minutes of the first half and was doing well enough at halftime that it seemed as if they could impose their will and win the game fairly confidently. That....did not happen. Texas went, really what is a good metaphor here...colder than an Austin hipster barista’s heart when he finds out he’s making a double mocha whip frappuccino for Rick Perry. They went colder than the comments section for Texas basketball articles in June. They went colder than a New England Patriots radio host reading the phrase “Tom Brady ACL”. They went cooooold. However, thanks to some abysmal Arkansas free throw shooting and Kerwin Roach II dragging his big balls down the court to nail a late three, Texas escaped from El Paso with a 73-71 overtime win over an old rival. 2-0 is better than 1-1, especially with the non-conference resume opportunities left on the schedule. This loss wouldn’t have been a major problem come March, but it wouldn’t have helped. Arkansas is decent, but they ain’t Kansas.
They Beat Arkansas
I will never skip a chance to relish a win against my most hated basketball opponent. The only way this would have been better is if Roach had nailed that three right in front of Nolan Richardson’s ever-widening face. I want to spend the rest of this evening watching Todd Day complain on Periscope, to taste Oliver Miller’s tears, and to get my gas pumped by Corliss Williamson. I have a Geocities page devoted to the theory Andrew Jones’ leukemia was actually an outgrowth of Arkansas he picked up by being friendly with someone from Fayetteville. I feel like this theory is pretty ironclad, or at least that no Arkansas fans are sober or wealthy enough to sue me over it. If Arkansas basketball was a city, it would be Arlington. Mother of god do I hate Arkansas basketball.
Kerwin Roach II
The game-tying three gets the attention, but Snoop put up a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. He spent a fair amount of the game taking up slack for Matt Coleman (who I will get to) and ran reasonable offense. (I did say reasonable, not great.) While he played a bit too much hero ball for my liking, with the way Texas was shooting in the second half they didn’t really have much choice. Somebody had to put the ball in the hole.
4-6 from the floor, 2-3 from behind the arc, two assists and zero turnovers for the young man forced into taking up more of the Matt Coleman slack (yep, still going there later) was a solid showing for a guy in his second NCAA basketball game. He has the tendency to get frustration fouls, his competitive streak cuts both ways. He needs to reign it in just a tad or he’ll get more of those flagrant fouls as the season goes on. Having said that, his 16 minutes felt like 25 solid ones. It’s a promising showing early in the season.
No, seriously, I mean it. Stop laughing. Texas shot 32.3% from three, which no seriously stop laughing. GUYS I MEAN IT. THIS ISN’T FU-you know what let’s just go to the next section.
The Mixed Bag
I can’t possibly put Sims in the bad category any night he makes 60% of his free throws, but even without that he was alright. He faced a likely lottery pick and played Daniel Gafford reasonably well; Gafford got the better of Sims more than Sims got the better of Gafford, but Sims played better than last game and showed a bit less hesitation in his play. He still has plenty of room to improve, but he is at least trending up.
Osetkowski is here mainly because he snagged 13 rebounds and that meant he was more positive than negative on the floor. He’s still passing up open looks in favor of running the offense, though he’s far from the only one. I liked most of his shot decisions even if they weren’t landing, but he was open more than he shot.
I waffled on this one a bit because Long did some things well. His free throw shooting was on point, he had zero turnovers, and he can be a steadying influence on the court in the face of the press. That euro-step he pulled off in transition in the second half was nice. On the other hand he made some very poor shot decisions; he’s lucky he didn’t get more balls swatted to Albuquerque because Gafford was looming large nearly every time Long entered the paint. It’s pretty apparent the Texas coaching staff trusts Long because he played big minutes towards the end of regulation.
I’m not going to definitively say this was Coleman’s worst game at Texas, but I’m coming up empty thinking of games he was worse. He lacked energy on both ends of the floor, he made some extremely questionable shooting decisions (though some were fine and simply didn’t connect) and he was 0-fer from the floor on the game. Even battling foul trouble, this effort was inexcusable. It’s like somebody showed Coleman the last hour of ‘Requiem for a Dream’ right before tip-off because Coleman’s brain was somewhere else. I guess it’s a sign of how well Coleman plays that I feel like I’ve watched a snuff film and he still had four assists, zero turnovers, and a steal.
Buddy, you’re going to have to do better than 1-6 from three if you want minutes. His defense is not good enough to offset a subpar shooting night, though, again - and I know this sounds like a broken record - his shot selection was fine. He took most of his threes in rhythm and when they were reasonably open, they just didn’t connect. I don’t really know a good way of explaining why he’s not hitting these shots because the rotation is good, the form looks solid, and he sets his feet well. These shots should be going in more, the foundation is there. Maybe Louisiana-Monroe will be a slump-buster.
After last year, did anyone expect us to be complaining about the offense passing too much? They whip the ball around the perimeter faster than last year, they run more screens and get into them more quickly (when Roach isn’t running the point, which feels like it should be an acronym from here on out: WRIRTP) so this is an improvement! Except that it kinda isn’t! It doesn’t do a ton of good to whip the ball around the court more quickly if you’re not going to take the open shots as they present themselves. It’s like the team is so focused on pushing the ball to the next action they aren’t quite realizing they got their opening to shoot. HOW AM I NOW ASKING FOR MORE SELFISHNESS. I know it’s the first two games of the season, they have to adjust to the new system. They’ve been getting “pace pace pace pace” hammered into their system so much that they’ve managed to make the ball not stick enough in the right hands. Maybe we just make a rule: if you shoot 35%+ from three and you don’t see a different color jersey within three feet of you, shoot the damn ball. You’ve got the greenest of green lights. Even tonight when they shot like shit, it wasn’t from behind the arc. The two-point shooting is what murdered them, going 11-36 from two is what killed their offense. This offense can manage shooting 32% from three; it won’t be great but it’s enough. 30.5% from two is a death sentence in most games. Thankfully, Arkansas sucks more than Rachel Starr in the Spearmint Rhino champagne room.
The game wasn’t pretty, but it’s worth surveying the landscape today to understand Texas is far from the only team who struggled in an early-season contest. Kentucky trailed at home for most of the game before holding off Southern Illinois (CLEARLY THE SECOND-BEST DIRECTIONAL ILLINOIS) 71-59. West Virginia lost to Buffalo in Morgantown, and South Carolina just lost to Stony Brook (?!). An ugly win is still a win, and it’s still better than a loss.
Next up, Texas gets the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks in Austin on Monday. Tip time is 7 PM CT on LHN. A programming note: our resident football Pregamer sage Kyle Carpenter will be on recap duties for this game as I’ll be drunk on a very large boat for the entirety of next week. There may or may not be a recap for The Citadel game on Friday depending on how Kyle’s vacation to Bourbon Street goes. I cannot urge you strongly enough to check into that Citadel game though, there should be tons of transition running for both teams. I’ll watch it when I get back to town, probably drunk. It’s a theme in my life.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Chris Craig.