Sometimes you just simply know you’re outgunned from the start.
Maybe your main Longhorn basketball writer calls in a sub hours before tip-off, or maybe you must replace your Wooden Award finalist/heart of your defense, and your biggest WILD CARD (while still dealing with thing much bigger than a child’s game from your best pure scorer).
And in those times, the outcome is really not that important. This is grit time. As you read this recap and as you watched the Longhorns Monday night, you’re not looking for technical perfection or “execution” or intangibles. You’re looking for heart. And by God this team had more heart, grit, tenacity, unstoppable motor, coaches-on-the-field, and deceptive speed than a New England Patriot’s slot receiver.
Replacing roughly 38 points; that was the mountain. This team climbed it two nights prior against OSU. But tonight would be less about the points that weren’t there than the points that lit up the wrong side of the scoreboard (and the 60% shooting to get them).
Aside from the Brian’s Song-levels of emotion from that TCU double-overtime win in the immediate aftermath of the Andrew Jones revelation, this is as proud as I’ve felt watching a Texas basketball team in at least 2 years. Heart? They had more of it than Ted Cruz has NRA contributions and never stopped pouring it directly onto the court at Allen Fieldhouse until the final buzzer. Nine steals and twelve offensive rebounds are hustle plays and ultimately kept this one as close as it was.
And speaking of Jones and an unstoppable will and fighting heart—the Longhorn warrior was watching this game with his family and not from the hospital, which was good enough news that I would’ve been happy tonight regardless of the team’s performance.
Good, bad, or “what was he thinking;” the kid is utterly fearless. He had a career-high 14 points when his team really needed it, including 3 Kawhi-Leonard specials (come back, Kawhi) taking the pick-2 to the house at the other end. He had a heart-breaking toilet bowl 3 that rimmed at least 64 times before squirting out—which had it blooped in + still had the ensuing steal would’ve resulted in a 4 point game with a minute-and-a-half to play (then you get into butterfly effect scenarios with the non-called, crystal-clear goaltending on KU...)
Sims can jump out of the building, and he is lighting with his leap to get up for rebounds. He had a solid night filling the unfillable Size 16s of Mohamed Bamba, and though he couldn’t replicate the gamebreaking defensive edge that Bamba provides at his best, he was efficient in finishing and cleaning the glass with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 block. For both Sims and Young, this is consecutive games stepping up and should leave some residual optimism for next season’s team.
The Mixed Bag
It’s hard to put a kid matching his career-high with 8 assists and leading the team with 18 points in this section, but I’m the substitute teacher and I’m new here and I don’t really know what I’m doing. So complain when your teach gets back from his “sick day.”
According to AAS’ Brian Davis, Snoop was puking just before the half. Which may explain why he scored 14 on 6/8 in the first half and 1/7 for 4 points in the second. Though 6 of his assists came in that period, there was a crucial 5-point swing in which Roach couldn’t get the roll on a scoop shot that took a 6 point game to an 11-point game around the 14-minute mark that Texas never recovered from. Snoop, like the rest of the team, never stopped gritting and grinding though. [“Editors”: feel free to bump this up to The Good]
I’m tired of Texas star athletes being deprived of some of their final games due to bum toes. Malik and now Mo Bamba. Can we get a podiatrist on the 40 acres?
Having to play Kansas in the Rolling Phog
Kansas doesn’t lose at home. Kansas doesn’t lose at home under Bill Self (save me your reactions – I’m speaking from the 10,000 foot view not the 3 of his 13 career losses that happened this year). Kansas doesn’t lose on senior night - 39 straight wins. I’m sure Kansas also has some ridiculous streak that include their “seeing blood” red unis as well that I am not going to attempt to find.
State of Texas’ Roster
This looked like Jonestown, the morning after. Coming in with 10 men dressed, Shaka chose to play with about 6 most of the game. This was Dire Straits against a KU team with all of their weapons at the ready and a lot to play for. Dylan Osetkowski fouling out after being matched up against the Shaq/Duncan/Webber/Gasol/Monstars-after-zapping-powers hybrid named Udoka Azubuike only exacerbated the issue. Also, a pair of very cheap, bogus fouls on Matt Coleman in the early stages of the second half put UT’s main ball handler on a pensive note to finish the game.
That said, I’d be remiss to not praise one more time the fight and heart that this team played with. Had they channeled this all season, we would not be watching the final game of the season with such clenched bowels and tournament consternation.
Next game Saturday against West Virginia, tip 11 AM CT on ESPN.
KC’s writing tunes provided by Guy Clark on Spotify.