Basketball gets a lot more fun when the execution results in a good shot that actually goes through the hoop. Thanks to a Jase Febres 7-9 onslaught from deep, the Texas Longhorns rode a hot second half to beat down a depleted Kansas State Wildcats team by 20. In a conference as difficult as the Big 12, any aspirations towards a top-half conference finish require taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Kansas State being without Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes presented Texas with a chance to pick up an ever-so-coveted road win in a conference where road wins are worth more than bitcoin. Wait, less than bitcoin. No, now they’re worth more again. Holy hell, they’re worth way more now. Sorry, I’ll close that tab. If Texas wants to have a winning record in conference play, a game like tonight is vital to snag. Snag it they did, and with style. (I haven’t heard the Octagon that quiet in awhile.) Texas starts conference play 1-0 and it’s a win that can help flip the Longhorns’ March fortunes in a positive direction. To steal a phrase from Bob Sturm, we do not apologize for wins in the Big 12.
There’s the Matt Coleman I want to see; aggressive, probing the paint, hammering the ball into the floor like it’s sliding into his girlfriend’s DMs. The floater returned, the intelligent drives were there, and guess what...the assists followed. Coleman had seven assists to one turnover and was by far the most confident driver on the team. 3-9 shooting isn’t great, but most of the shots I recall were solid choices. His defense was sound as well, playing aggressive in man and denying passing lanes in the zone. Take a bow, sir.
I guess Shaka recruited a shooter after all.
Febres is about 40% of the way through the regular season and shooting about 40% (28-69, 40.6%) from three. He’s a bit up and down still, but the up can be way, way up. Tonight he killed a Wildcat with a trident. Well, seven tridents. Drayton Whiteside got a minute of time in a conference game and he can dap Febres for that. Moreover, Febres played pretty solid defense; he gets on the floor because of his shooting ability, but he stays on the floor because he’s putting in work on both ends. I wouldn’t suggest singling up Febres on Jarrett Culver any time soon, but he holds his own against other D-I guards/wings.
Ramey hasn’t really had a game I would call a breakout yet; maybe Grand Canyon, but not against the biggest opponents. It’s not for a lack of trying, and I feel like it’s coming sooner than later. He sees the floor on both ends of the court well enough, his assist rate is good for a guard and great for a freshman, his three ball is good enough, and his defense is progressing. He had a quietly good night tonight, and I see his comfort starting to grow. He attempted some passes tonight that were very savvy, from the touch pass to Hayes that ended in a dunk to the wraparound pass under the basket to the open guy in the corner that say to me the game is slowing down for him.
Kerwin Roach II
One one hand, his drives to the basket were quality and his shot selection was very good. On the other hand, he picked up so many dumb fouls of his own creation that he was only on the floor for 21 minutes. He was on the way to a breakaway dunk where he decided to put his forearm into a defender he already beat and got an offensive foul; not long after that he picked up another on defense when he basically ran into the way of an attacking guard. And then there was the end of the first half where he got his pocket picked while standing at the damn half-court line. He’s the only player on either side to foul out tonight, and it was entirely avoidable.
Royce Hamm, Jr
Hayes didn’t play 31 minutes for the hell of it, he played it because Hamm and Jericho Sims weren’t doing well enough for him to sit long. If Hayes had the same kind of foul trouble he did in some other games this season, things could have gone much differently tonight. Hamm and Sims provided little enough that at one point Shaka Smart gave Hayes rest and put DO at the 5 to play small rather than put either of them in. Big 12 play is not the same as beasting against a small UT-Arlington squad, and either Hamm and/or Sims needs to pick it up if Hayes’ minutes are going to stay reasonable.
Free Throw Shooting
7-11 from the line isn’t great, but I’m picking a nit since it didn’t really impact the outcome.
Avoidable Fouls & Turnovers
I covered a lot of this in talking about Roach, but Jaxson Hayes reached over a post player to swat a ball and was called for it. Ramey got caught with his hand in the cookie jar once as well; this team is usually better about not getting the ticky-tack calls against them, but tonight was not their night. The turnovers were less of a problem as the game wore on, but the early part of the game was sloppy as hell. Honestly, it got better when Elijah Mitrou-Long stopped being a primary ballhandler. He’s very loose with his handle and tonight it was too loose. I know he’s only credited with two turnovers but it felt like twice that many were initiated by him.
Texas has a chance to build some real momentum in conference play by taking on another team dealing with injuries in a West Virginia Mountaineers squad who will likely be without Sagaba Konate. Road wins are worth more - wait...yep OK still more than bitcoin, but home wins are the foundation for stringing together any real win streak. The Fightin’ Huggins come to Austin on Saturday, tip time is 8 PM CT on ESPN2. Maybe more than 2,000 people can show up to this one.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Nelver.