Today was a good example of the value of having an athletic director who isn’t moonlighting at fantasy football camp or trying to determine the profit margin of making fans drink beer by cupping their hands together instead of providing cups. Chris Del Conte and his staff had today setup flawlessly from the moment ESPN announced they were bringing College Gameday to town; there were shuttles to the Drum, free parking for the morning show, preference on seating to the women’s game (who beat the pants off TCU, BTW) for people who came to Gameday, and anyone who showed up got the ‘Boom AJ1’ shirt along with as much coffee and donuts as they could handle. Smokey and Bevo showed up, CDC glad-handed the burnt orange faithful, hell they even got some of the baseball alumni to roll through before the Alumni Game later in the day. The result was a packed house with fans as loud as they’ve been for a Texas game in years. It’s early, but CDC is making his mark on this athletic department and it appears to be a positive one.
It’s a little weird to put Coleman in this category if you consider he only had two assists on the night compared to four turnovers, but tonight was less about his distribution and more about his confidence and aggression. Trae Young, for all his well-deserved accolades, is not a good defender. Coleman (and Roach, who we’ll get to) repeatedly made Young pay for his defensive limitations by separating from him through screens and driving on him in isolation situations. Coleman shot the ball with confidence from everywhere on the court, including the free throw line (4-4) which was his undoing late against Texas Tech. He also played very good on-ball defense against Trae Young (we’ll get to this later as well) and was generally good to great in nearly everything he did tonight. I don’t really want Coleman to take this as the blueprint moving forward as his ability to distribute the ball is too important for him to try to be a score-first point guard, rather I would like him to learn how to drive to the rim with this kind of authority while being a good distributor. Still, it is nice to see Coleman have a shooting performance like this as it portends greater things down the road.
Kerwin Roach II
Honestly, it would’ve been enough for Roach to be an effective defender on Young given the gargantuan task that is on a nightly basis. Roach did more than that though, much more; 19 points on 11 shots (including 3-5 from three), four assists, a couple of steals, and quality ball-handling add up to a hell of a night for Snoop. Roach is 15-35 (42.9%) from three in conference play EFF WHY EYE.
In the final 7:30 of the game, Texas went on a 22-8 run against arguably the best offensive team in the Big 12. This included hitting 7 of their last 10 free throws with two of the misses coming after the game was out of reach for Oklahoma. The team made the stops it needed, hit big buckets, and withstood the pressure of the moment.
The Mixed Bag
This time, it’s not because of the hair. (Him shaving the beard was a good choice though, the Amish Farmer look was not great.) Dylan is officially in a slump from three; in the nine games since he went 7-13 against Iowa State, he is shooting 8-37 (21.6%) and two of his last 16 from behind the line. While I think he’s a reasonable threat from three, perhaps he needs to be a bit more selective in when he shoots that shot. Still, he found ways to contribute tonight; his aggressive moves to the rim and willingness to get in the scrum for rebounds led to ten free throw attempts, of which he hit eight.
The Trae Young Defense
It was pretty clear from the jump how Texas was planning on defending Young: pick him up 32+ feet from the basket, never switch on him, and send help defense at him aggressively. It worked....kinda. While it limited Young’s scoring, it opened up major holes in the defense that Young used to rack up assists on easy buckets for his teammates. Young had nine assists in the first half and you could make a case he should have had a dozen if his teammates hit more open looks. Texas was — and this will sound weird — paying too much attention to Young. They were so concerned with where he was on the court that they were losing touch with their own guy, and Young feasted on it. In the second half, Texas adjusted to send less help defense preferring to play Young straight up most of the time. This was the right choice in my view; Young is a lethal shooter but he’s arguably just as lethal a passer. Further, if Young is getting the rest of the team involved then Oklahoma turns into an offensive juggernaut. I would rather see Young land a half-dozen thirty-foot shots over solid defense because his teammates tend to get a bit complacent waiting for Superman to emerge from the phone booth. It’s reminiscent of how Texas was when Kevin Durant was on the team; sometimes teammates expect Superman to win every game and they get just a little less involved in helping. Let Coleman, Roach, and Febres play straight-up man on Young and if he goes off you tip your cap to him. Texas did try to trap Young here and there to mixed effect; sometimes the traps worked, sometimes they didn’t. Texas showed some issues covering behind the trap which need to get tightened up if they want to do it when they go to Oklahoma in two weeks. Overall, it was more good than bad. Young scored less than 20 points for only the third time all year, only hit two out of 14 threes, and he wasn’t able to take over in crunch time.
Bamba was acting oddly in the first half; he was aggressive on offense but seemed oddly passive on the defensive end. Some shots he normally contests he didn’t seem to go for, other times he didn’t get back on defense very well. I’m not sure what was going on, but the coaching staff sorted out whatever it was at halftime because the second half was more like the Bamba we’re used to seeing. He only had one block, which is his lowest total of the year. He hit five of seven free throws (a guy his size should not have a stroke that nice this early in his career) and started grabbing rebounds he missed earlier in the game. Not his best game, but ultimately it didn’t matter.
One of the knock-on effects of everyone being hyper-aware of where Trae Young was is they let some Sooners slip past them in transition. This led to a handful of beautiful/infuriating 50-foot assists in the first half where Young simply passed over the defense for easy layups and dunks. A team like Oklahoma has the 4th-fastest tempo in the country for a reason, and Texas wasn’t doing a good job respecting OU’s ability to beat Texas down the court. It got better in the second half, but Texas has to do a better job of this in two weeks if they want any chance of pulling off a season sweep of the Sooners.
I Didn’t Like This But I Don’t Have A Better Idea
Probably a major component of this was Trae Young and Texas not wanting to kill its fans by watching Jacob Young try to defend Young, but they only went six-deep tonight. Sims had a bad game so he only saw the floor for eight minutes, and Jase Febres only played 13 despite starting the game. The beneficiary of this was Wildcard himself, Eric Davis Jr. He had 32 minutes, only produced six points, and took a year off my life. Just watch this:
Eric Davis has taken a year off my life in a single play. pic.twitter.com/AMIlLm6JFq— (╯°□°）╯︵ ┻━┻ 1096 (@Bitterwhiteguy) February 4, 2018
He almost gets himself trapped against the half-court line, avoids a steal attempt by Young, then just sorta dribbles around while both Osetkowski & Coleman get open, and ends up getting trapped and having to call a timeout.
I don’t think the rotation will be this short often, especially in light of some of the recent appearances by Royce Hamm. Still, it bears watching.
Texas is now tied for fifth place with Kansas State, which is convenient because that’s who Texas hosts on Wednesday. Texas would do well to try to continue their winning streak at home, which is now at five games. Getting above .500 in conference play would be good with Texas still yet to play at Oklahoma, Kansas, and TCU. Tip is at 7 PM CT on Longhorn Network.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Patrick DSP.