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Shooting From the Corner: Texas 87, Central Michigan 76

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Central Michigan v Texas Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images

The first half made me question my life choices; the second half was a reminder of just how good this offense can be while also still making me question my life choices. The Chippewas were gunning for an upset and Texas spent a half obliging them with sloppy play and poor defense, but the second half Texas turned it up on both ends and scored 1.5x the points of their opponent en route to a (kinda?) comfortable 11-point win. I guess it’s a sign of incremental improvement that Texas has down stretches instead of down games, or maybe I’m trying to make sense of a team helmed by two defensive coaches that is reliant upon its offense to win close games. It doesn’t really feel like Luke Yaklich is as likely to jet off for a head coaching gig after this season as maybe I was guessing when he was hired. Anyway, still a W.

The Good

Jase Febres

Sure, the shooting is the top line stat - and boy did Texas need every one of those threes - but Febres was really active going after 50/50 balls and played pretty good defense. He’s one of the reasons why David Dileo was quiet in the second half. That’s right, Jase Febres is being noted for his defense.

Matt Coleman

Coleman had a relatively quiet 12 points and somehow improved his ridiculous 50% three-point make percentage by going 2-3, but the thing I’m most impressed by is him being the second-leading rebounder for Texas with 7 rebounds. Coleman quietly put up a 12/7/6 stat line; he’s been so good this year that it’s starting to feel routine. This is a wonderful problem to have.

Courtney Ramey

In his last five games, Ramey has hit 9-21 (42.9%) from three. Also of note, in the last three games he’s had 17 assists to four turnovers. It seems pretty safe to say he’s out of his funk and the Texas offense has improved accordingly. Ramey drove the ball with a ton of authority today and maybe just as importantly, he played the entire game without fouling.

Jar Jar Blanks

It was Star Wars day at the game for some reason and LHN called Lance ‘Jar Jar’ Blanks. This is his name forever. Also he emphatically stated Yoda’s phrase was “don’t try just do” so there’s that.

Non-Jericho Sims Free Throws

Texas shot 31 free throws which is one less than they shot in the last four games combined. It’s almost as if driving the lane and generating contact has a proportional effect on how often you get to the line, or something. IDK maybe somebody should look into that. The non-Sims shooters went 17-24 from the line for 70.8% which isn’t great, but better than Central Michigan’s 13-21 from the line so it’s a net-win for the Longhorns in an area they haven’t exploited much this season.

It’s Complicated

Royce Hamm

Jericho Sims getting into foul trouble meant early minutes for Hamm, which he immediately turned into a turnover and a basket interference call. He plays the game as if he’s the character in a Twitch stream being simultaneously controlled by 10,000 people. He has like three offensive moves and all of them are vulnerable to getting the ball stripped in the lane. extreme Stephen A Smith voice HOWEVER, the Texas run to open the second half was keyed in no small part by Hamm’s energy and rebounding. For every 20 minutes he plays, he takes a day off my life but just as I’m about to start screaming he gives back four hours.

The Bad

Turnovers

The first half was maybe the sloppiest basketball I’ve seen from Texas since last year’s Georgia game. Some of it was the refs calling traveling more tightly but a lot of it was self-inflicted. Central Michigan isn’t a good defensive team but one of the things they do well is steal the ball, yet Texas continued to telegraph their passes and/or soft-toss them in a way that made them easy to pick off. Too many of the steals & deflections were entirely preventable. Things cleaned up somewhat in the second half, though there was a 30-second span late in the game where Andrew Jones could’ve burned off 45-55 seconds and instead handed the ball to CMU on consecutive dumb plays. Not a good day from Andrew Jones.

Gerald Liddell

Liddell was so far inside his own head that he was effectively benched for most of the game. He’s thinking way too much and creating unforced errors as a result; I don’t know exactly how the staff is going to un-fuck his brain, but they need to get something going because Kai Jones isn’t quite ready for a 20+ minute/game role on this team. Maybe get him to curl off some screens and heading to the basket with one dribble, something simple so he sees the ball go through the hoop and loosens up.

Texas is now 9-1 on the season which is the best start to any of Shaka Smart’s teams, but we’re still light on results that will showcase what this team is ultimately able to achieve. The next game is Saturday at Providence, a team who looked like contenders for the Big East title going into the season but has struggled to put together a coherent offense. It still has Alpha Diallo who went off against the Longhorns last year, and Texas will be facing the most hostile environment since Purdue. Tip is 1 PM CT on Fox.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Oscar L.