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Shooting From the Corner: Oklahoma 69, Texas 67

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NCAA Basketball: Texas at Oklahoma Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Almost, but not quite. Texas had a terrible first half, found itself down as many as 17 points in the second half before clawing all the way back to within two in the final minute, but couldn’t quite get over the hump in a 69-67 loss in Norman. It’s a frustrating loss on multiple levels, in part because it feels very familiar to be thinking about a team who is never out of a game but you’re never confident they’ll be able to pull out the win. It’s also frustrating because Oklahoma is a beatable team and even without Kerwin Roach, Texas was still in a spot to come away with a road win that would have all but written their NCAA Tournament bid in sharpie. Texas almost got Oklahoma to reenact the arc of their entire season in a single game. Almost: that’s the theme of the game....OK it’s the theme of the season.

The Good

Jaxson Hayes

Texas fans should watch the rest of this season if for no other reason than to watch Hayes in what are likely his last few college games. Hayes put up a Bamba-like 12/6/6 stat line today and it doesn’t even reflect the number of shots he influenced without touching the ball. There was a stretch of the game where Texas was getting Hayes the ball in the post and Oklahoma was sending 2-3 guys at him to no avail. The Texas comeback effort was kickstarted by Hayes more than anyone else. My only gripe with his performance is the number of rebounds he missed because he didn’t grab the ball with both hands. We know his hands are good, but he flat wasn’t gripping the ball.

Free Throws

7-9 from the line or nearly 80%; once again Texas took care of business from the line.

Second Half Offense

Texas put up nearly 40 points by attacking the paint, running the PnR effectively, and kicking out to open perimeter shooters. The lack of turnovers really helped in this area as well.

Royce Hamm Jr’s Love For Balls in the Cylinder

If Hamm is on the floor and there’s a shot that can be interfered with a half-second too late, he’s going to get it. He will be FIBA’s first defensive specialist known only for grabbing shots off the rim.

“How many points did Royce score tonight?”

“Zero, but he erased 14 points off the other team’s ledger. He’s the Zion Williamson of basket interference.”

It’s Complicated

Rotation Decisions

27 games into the season is a hell of a time to have to rework your entire substitution pattern. A combination of Snoop’s suspension - it’s a university suspension, not a team suspension - and the overall poor level of play led to some interesting player groupings. Gerald Liddell got into the game earlier than any other time this year that I can recall, Elijah Mitrou-Long and Royce Hamm Jr played together for a bit, and Jericho Sims played for approximately 38 seconds before being buried somewhere outside the Winstar Casino for the remainder of the game. I understand the coaches trying to press any button available to get the team to snap the fuck out of whatever haze they were in early, but I don’t really get bringing in Liddell. It worked out about as well as you would expect. In the second half the rotations looked a lot more like the previous games; we can probably chicken/egg to death deciding if the team played better because the rotations were more familiar or if the rotations were more familiar because the team played better. I tend to think it’s the latter.

Dylan Osetkowski

Another chapter in the tale of two halves is Osetkowski’s performance. In the first half he was barely more impactful than Andrew Jones, but in the second half they did a much better job getting Osetkowski involved near the basket. He also played better defense on Brady Manek, was more forceful in going after rebounds, and just generally played a better game in the second half.

Turnovers

The first half was almost as many turnovers as made shots, the second half was nearly flawless. I feel like Shaka’s halftime speech wasn’t a speech so much as duct-taping a ball in each guard’s hands for fifteen minutes to get the point across.

The Bad

First Half Defense

There was sloppiness all over the place in the first half. Whether it was getting burned on backdoor cuts, getting burned on flex actions, not closing out on shooters quickly enough, getting beat on the baseline when you’re in a zone which is the defensive equivalent of intentionally placing a toaster oven in the shower and wondering why you keep getting shocked, Texas was out of sorts on defense in the first half and Oklahoma took advantage. Transition defense was poor, halfcourt defense was poor because guys were helping too far off their own player, just all around it was rough viewing.

Late Game Tempo

There’s something to be said about being patient and setting up your offense, but I have to feel like if Texas had gotten the ball up the court more expediently and started their offense a couple seconds faster each possession they might have earned themselves another possession or two at the end of the game. It’s a fine line between pushing tempo and hurrying too much, but personally I wanted the Longhorns to get going a little faster in the last three minutes of the game.

The Press

Kerwin Roach II

Just going to throw it out there that having your leading scorer available for a game that ends as a two-point loss might have affected things. Thanks again, Snoop.

Texas is 7-7 in conference play and things don’t get any easier as they go to Waco on Wednesday to play a Baylor Bears team that is defying the odds and staying in the NCAA Tournament discussion despite losing multiple starters for the season. The Longhorns have another chance to cement a spot in the dance with a win in Waco, but with Snoop’s availability unknown to anyone outside the university Texas fans should prepare for another game without their leading scorer and another game where beating a zone defense will likely determine the outcome of the game. Tip time is at 8 PM CT on ESPN2.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Anna.