This game was over with 13:50 left in the second half, because Texas challenged the basketball gods in the most heinous possible way.
You can’t have the entire team slap the floor on defense and expect to win a game, this is science and it’s Shaka Smart’s basketball heresy that brings this unstoppable force to bear. He’s the one who keeps slapping the floor and encouraging the players to follow suit; one doesn’t mock Basketball Jesus - who has a birthday coming up soon, I’m told - and expect a win. The triple floor slap - the slapurkey - is enough of an affront to our roundball lord and savior on its own, to follow it with the entire team slapping the floor is basically basketball Sodom and Gomorrah. They might as well build a basketball bonfire on the Sabbath. Actually, do that, it would be more productive than using those basketballs to attack a zone.
I thought Texas should be favored to win this game up until 10 minutes to tip when they announced Kerwin Roach II was ‘doubtful’ with a stomach bug. That changed all of the math going into the game and arguably put Texas at a disadvantage even with the Providence Friars missing their stud freshman AJ Reeves. Texas without Roach is a team without reliable shot creators, they have to generate open looks through their offense without a single person who is capable of going iso in late-clock situations. To try to do this against one of the better coaches in the country in Ed Cooley is an even bigger request because his teams are usually defensively sound. It would require another guard or wing to step up and fill Roach’s role, which, uhh, did not happen.
Honestly, it’s more worth your time than watching significant portions of this game were. Take a few minutes and read through how much more sense the movie makes if Kevin McCallister is a ghost haunting the house of a family that wants nothing to do with him.
Hayes’ biggest drawback continues to be his desire to reach for rebounds that aren’t his, which leads to extra fouls. I mention this because it’s frankly holding him back more than any opposing defense has thus far. He was 6-6 from the floor but only 1-3 from the line, though that’s a line Texas will take pretty much any night. If/when he gains some muscle and starts grabbing rebounds that he misses due to strength rather than wingspan, he’s going to be even more impressive. Unfortunately, it seems increasingly likely that will happen at the next level. You’re welcome for that reminder, I didn’t think you were grumpy enough from this game as it was.
Royce Hamm, Jr
You have to give it to Hamm, he got a chance to shine while Sims sat on the bench unfucking his brain and Hamm took it. His 14 minutes weren’t world-beating, but they were a better quality than most teams can find from the 11th guy in the rotation. Hamm’s effort was great though his offensive game was basically non-existent, but if you told me before the game that Hamm would play 14 minutes I would’ve expected Texas to be winning or losing by 30. Also, I might have played Red Dead Redemption 2 instead of watching the game. It’s pretty great.
Long is the answer to the question of “what would happen if you put J’Covan Brown’s enormous balls in an athlete of average shooting ability”. He has questionable shooting in both shot selection and ability to make said shots - being 2-5 from the free throw line for anyone who wants to pretend they’re a three-point threat is abysmal - but he is never, ever afraid to take the shots. He hustles his ass off all over the court, as is evident from his deflections, steals, rebounds, and charges taken. If he was white and playing at Ohio State, Dick Vitale would have to call his doctor over the erection Long would elicit. Sometimes you need a dude who just sees the floor differently to help get a team out of a funk, but sometimes that different perspective can cause as many problems as it solves. I like Long, I really do. I just wish he could turn his Long-ness from Spinal Tap 11 down to 7 because he’s dangerously close to inheriting the WILDCARD nickname.
13-23 from the line, 6-23 from three, what felt like a dozen missed putbacks. We all saw the sheer number of chances Texas had to take the lead in this game and they could never quite string it together. Jase Febres was missing open corner threes, Dylan Osetkowski was missing putbacks, Matt Coleman’s floater wasn’t falling...it’s as if Texas borrowed a bunch of makes from a payday lender to use against Grand Canyon and the balloon payment came due less than a week later.
When Royce Hamm, Jr steals your minutes in a competitive game, somebody is sending you a message. It’s up to Sims to get his head right, because he’s got enough talent to contribute. He’s now been benched for an entire half, so the only reason to start him the next game is to switch out the stick with the carrot and see if he responds. If he puts up another near-bagel effort against UT-Arlington, this could be the Hayes & Hamm show going forward. I don’t like that idea, but I also don’t know what the hell is going on inside Sims’ head right now. He might need the Xmas break more than anyone else on the team.
We’re nearing the end of the non-conference slate with only UT-Arlington and Georgia left to play, and a 9-4 record seems like the most likely outcome. It’s not what I had hoped for and there are definite question marks to be answered (in either the affirmative or negative) with this team. The loss to a likely bubble-bound Providence team is frustrating, but at the same time not really unexpected with Texas’ primary playmaker sidelined. It’s up to Texas to rebound with a win against a UT-Arlington team coached by former Rick Barnes assistant Chris Ogden. The game is on Friday, December 28th, tip time 7 PM CT on LHN.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Ruben De Ronde.