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Shooting From the Corner: Texas 78, Xavier 76 OT

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2018 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational - Michigan State v Texas Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Texas gutted out a 78-76 overtime win against a Xavier squad who rolled into the NIT on a tear, having won 8 of their last 10 games including two wins against NCAA Tournament teams Villanova & Seton Hall. The game alternated between moments where these two teams reminded me why they were in contention for a NCAA bid and moments where they reminded me why they’re in the NIT Tournament. Texas definitely has not quit on this season, they’re invested in seeing this tournament run go as far as it can; as much as a program’s culture can be difficult to tangibly illustrate, watching how a squad reacts to missing out on a major goal can be instructive. Other programs - or even some previous Barnes teams - could have mailed it in when they were relegated to the NIT, but this squad gives a damn. Whatever cracks in Shaka’s tenure are visible externally, internally they’re still focused and invested.

The Good

Jericho Sims

15-20 games ago, it was fair to question if Sims would ever resurface in anything resembling his freshman form. He was riding the pine behind the pleasant surprise of Jaxson Hayes, and he might as well have started renting a bedroom inside the coaching staff’s doghouse. Fast forward a couple of months and it seems like Sims is back to being who he was as a freshman with the added bonus of a reasonable free throw form. 11 points on 3-5 shooting, 5-6 from the line, 7 rebounds, and a monster block to force overtime is about as good as anyone can hope for from Sims at this point. He still needs to work on his low-post moves and he seems to be a foul magnet in the first two minutes of a half, but a team can win with what Sims provided from the 5.

Kerwin Roach II

Snoop picked a great day to have a great game. While his free throw shooting was a source of significant consternation in the BWG domicile - there’s never an OT if he makes more than 7 of his 15 attempts - and he constituted half of the team’s 10 turnovers, he also drove the ball intelligently, never fell in love with the three ball, and was tied for the team lead with 8 rebounds. Having him as the 6th man seems to be working out quite well, especially if it limits Eli Long’s minutes. I’m on record as being uncomfortable with him running point in high-leverage situations, but today he made mostly good choices with the ball in his hands. Hats off to him.

Courtney Ramey

Anyone want to guess who led the team in minutes today? Ramey was on the floor for 43 of the 45 minutes, and given how active he was on the defensive end it’s impressive he only had three fouls. Ramey had as many points as Jase Febres (17) and showcased a number of moves in the paint that point towards an even better finish rate at the rim in his future. If he can pair his already-impressive 39% three-point shooting percentage (he has more three-point makes than Roach on the season) with the strength to get slightly better angles to the rim in coming seasons, he’s going to be a monster.

Jase Febres / Three-Point Shooting

When Febres gets going, that shot is as beautiful as any in the college game. Febres was 5-8 from three, but more importantly he’s now using his threes to setup drives to the rim. Opponents will have to hesitate just a bit more when they close out because he’s starting to show the willingness to pump fake and drive past defenders. Febres becoming ‘multiple’ is a problem for other teams.

The team as a whole shot 11-23 from three (48%) and the threes they took were nearly all good choices. I don’t remember groaning at any single one of them, which is nice. I don’t want to groan during games, it’s never a good sign; it’s not like I see an alley-oop and groan in appreciation.

Non-Roach Free Throws

Only three players shot free throws for Texas tonight and two of them acquitted themselves well. Sims went 5-6 and Dylan Osetkowski went 3-4.

Honorable mention to Gerald Liddell for putting in 10 quality minutes off the bench. He’s very limited offensively, but you can see the athleticism that got him offers from places like Kansas, Florida State, and Iowa State. If he can do more than be a hustle guy next year he should see some more minutes.

It’s Complicated

Low Post Defense

Sims tried his hardest, but Tyrique Jones and Zach Hankins were stronger and beat whichever big they were up against time and again in the paint. Those two combined to go 16-20 from two, which is (busts out calculator) not great. Texas managed to mitigate their effectiveness somewhat by doubling the post with a guard with quick hands (Ramey, mostly) and it limited how much those two impacted the game late.

The Bad

Kamaka Hepa

He had a rough game early and never saw the floor again. If he’s not scoring and he’s getting bullied in the paint, there’s not a lot of reason to have him out there right now.

The Refs/Clock Operators

Right before the half, Texas missed a shot which hit the rim and bounced into the hands of a Xavier player. Instead of the clock expiring, the refs blew their whistles and granted Xavier the ball, which resulted in a full-court pass and last-second make. What should’ve happened is the refs should have gone to the monitor with a stopwatch and realized their error. It didn’t, and Xavier went into halftime with 2 extra points that, you know, seem kinda important in an overtime contest.

Texas is onto the (kinda) Elite Eight and will face the winner of Colorado & Norfolk State. As the higher seed, the game will be in Austin again. The game is scheduled for Wednesday, March 27th. Tip time is supposedly 8 PM CT on ESPN.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by A.M.R..