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Shooting From the Piazza: Texas 70, Purdue 66

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Purdue Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody appreciates anything until it’s gone.

Buon giorno everybody, and welcome to an abbreviated SftC. It’s 11am in Florence and my girlfriend is out shopping so I only have a few minutes to type this before somebody’s credit limit gets bumped into eternity and/or I lose her to some dark-haired gigolo. (It would make the trip to the airport easier, but I kinda like her so I should probably go soon.)

I’ve been a bit coy about how much I like this team because like everybody else on Barking Carnival I’ve been burned more often than a repeat 90 Day Fiancé participant, and I was waiting for this game to see the first sign of what their ceiling might be. This was a good sign, and a positive first step.

(Note: I missed the first 8 minutes of the game due to the Michigan State football game running long.)

This might be the biggest nonconference road victory of Shaka’s tenure; Butler is the closest competitor I can think of and that was years ago. Purdue isn’t as good as they were last year, but I think they’ll get better as the year goes on and this win will only look better as we approach March. They miss Carsten Edwards way more than Texas misses Kerwin Roach, and that’s probably the biggest difference this season. Well, that and Matt Coleman playing one of his best games ever; that was just about the best possible game you can expect from Coleman. He attacked downhill, he made it to the rim, he had some really nice passes, and he hit free throws. It was a wonderful display which covered up for Courtney Ramey being mostly invisible.

Welcome to the Gerald Liddell bandwagon, everybody. It’s filling up fast.

Rebounding is a significant problem, specifically from the bigs. Jericho Sims played 18 minutes and grabbed one rebound; I know Haarms is a uniquely good big and Purdue rebounds better than most, but that’s inexcusable. Sims needs to grab some defensive rebounds. Royce Hamm was a bit better on the boards and a lot worse in nearly everything else; Will Baker needs to ramp up to the D-I level quickly or the 5 spot is going to force Texas to have to shoot really well to beat the best teams. (Side note: I’m surprised Brock Cunningham got zero minutes in a game where rebounding was such an issue. It’s one of his best abilities right now, but Purdue’s size might have kept him from being a viable option.)

Defense was solid for the most part. They forced a number of contested/tough twos - which is the goal of Yaklich’s defense - and if Texas can get the defensive rebounds then they win this game by ten. Matt Painter made some adjustments that picked up the scoring pace early in the second half, but Yaklich/Smart countered well.

This was a game of execution and Texas didn’t have the unforced errors late like Purdue. You want a small sign of team discipline, look back at which team tossed the ball away in high-leverage situations in the final three minutes. (They were the guys in black uniforms.)

This is more the level of production I was expecting from Andrew Jones coming into the season. He hit a big three, grabbed a big boy rebound in the last 20 seconds, and was nails from the free throw line. Found money.

Both Jase Febres and Coleman had gorgeous feeds to Jericho Sims in the second half; go back and watch those if you have a minute, they were wonderful. While you’re rewinding, watch Donovan Williams’ face-down celebration of Febres’ big three, it had me rolling.

I will sell my father’s truck for a teleportation device that sends me fresh tornarelli cacio e pepe From Italy. I’ve eaten it approximately 83 times in the past 12 days, it’s maybe my favorite food here. Also I’ve earned more Untappd badges in the last ~2 weeks than I did in the year before it. I don’t know that I’m proud of that, considering I’m pretty sure one of the badges was “maybe you should take it easy, buddy (level 4)”.

Texas has won big early-season games before and then slipped afterwards, so the next couple games may be nearly as instructive as this one in terms of differences between last season and this one. I’m cautiously optimistic that Texas wins the next 3 games and faces Duke at 5-0 in MSG. That can’t possibly end badly, there’s no precedent I can think of for it ending badly.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by some guy screaming at a honking taxi near the Duomo.