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Shooting From the Corner: Texas 62, TCU 61

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NCAA Basketball: Texas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Texas basketball, everybody!

The Longhorns picked up a sizable road win against TCU tonight, holding off a semi-furious rally by the skin of their collective teeth. There is a slender path for Texas to get to 9 wins in conference play and make their case as a bubble team, and this 62-61 win is one of the necessary pieces for that case. This four-game stretch of @ TCU, vs Iowa State, @ Kansas, and vs Texas Tech is one where if Texas can pull three out of four they’ll be 5-5 in conference play with the three hardest games already in their rear-view mirror. Will they make that mini-run? Time will tell - and skepticism is warranted - but they took the first step tonight. I bring this up because given the way the conference is unfolding, 9-9 could very well put Texas in at least a tie for fourth place in the conference and at least get the Longhorns into the discussion. We’re a long way from Selection Sunday though, and this team hasn’t yet shown they can string together enough good wins to get back into Madness talk. So take tonight as a good win and file it away.

The Good

Jericho Sims

Sims had trouble scoring due to Kevin Samuel playing a really good defensive game, but Sims was all over the court otherwise. He was setting screens all night, rebounding the ball about as well as anybody has against Samuel all season, and his defense on TCU’s last possession induced a traveling violation that extinguished the Horned Frogs’ final shot at a win. 9 points, 13 rebounds, a couple of blocks, and yeoman’s work everywhere.

Jase Febres

This is why they keep telling Febres to shoot. He hit 5-7 from three, one of which he hit from North Richland Hills. He had some early turnover issues, but he also got involved in the second half help defense on the hard hedge. (More on this later.) This whole thing works so much better when Febres is hot.

Defense on Desmond Bane

Bane lit up Texas for 51 points in two conference games last season, including 34 in Austin. Holding him to 12 points, 2-6 from three, and keeping him scoreless for a large chunk of the second half was critical to winning this game. Hopefully Texas can do it again in Austin in three weeks.

ESPN+ Games Are Over

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It’s Complicated

Matt Coleman

Coleman is still the best ballhandler on the team, and his 7 assists led the team by a significant amount. He’s the most decisive guard in the paint unlike the wildly variable choices made by some others. (don’tsayAndrewJonesdon’tsayAndrewJones) He had some bad turnovers and his play in the last 2-3 minutes offensively caused as many problems as it solved. I don’t know what exactly he was going for when he drove the lane with ~10 seconds left on the clock - and 4 on the shot clock - and turned back to the outside; buddy, you ran the clock down. It’s your shot, for better or worse. To not even get a shot off is criminal.

Courtney Ramey

Ramey finished at the rim better than he has most of the season, including a circus shot near the end of the game. He picked his threes better and his second-half play was mostly good. Unfortunately, his first half was basically nonexistent due to foul trouble. He also had a backcut he quit on which turned into one of Texas’ many turnovers. Ramey was up and down tonight, but Texas doesn’t win without his second-half contributions.

Hard Hedging

This complaint is less about the hard hedge than about everything going on behind it. Texas choosing to hard hedge - basically when the big sticks with the ballhandler and continues to push the ballhandler away from the lane either laterally or vertically - is a reasonable tactic, especially if you think the bigger value is keeping the guard from getting into the paint. Tonight, it turned into a bit of a trap as both the big and the guard stuck with the ballhandler, letting Samuel roll to the basket unattended with the idea they’re going to prevent the guard from passing over the top. BUT there’s another piece to this; one of the other defenders needs to tag the roll man in case the guard can get that pass out to the big. This is usually done by a weakside defender. The problem is that the weakside defender was either staying home or tagging way too late, and when Sims would retreat off the hedge there was an opening to hit the big when he’s established in the low post. Texas got beaten by this second aspect of the hedge repeatedly in the first half, it was the primary reason Samuel was the leading scorer at halftime. In the second half Texas was much better about sniffing out the pass, for example when Febres came down and intercepted the ball. This needs to be done more consistently if they’re going to keep hedging against teams with good passers.

The Bad

Turnovers

Want to know why Texas hit 11-22 from three and won by one point? Because they turned the ball over on 27% of their possessions. That’s a higher percentage than West Virginia forced, though TCU wasn’t exactly forcing a lot of them. Texas made plenty of unforced errors against the Horned Frogs. The sloppy play was all over, five different players had at least two turnovers on the night.

Texas has their next game at home against Iowa State, a team who has lost 7 of their last 9 and is trying to salvage something resembling a NIT bid. If they don’t win in Austin, their next game is at West Virginia so they’re staring down the barrel of a possible 2-7 conference record at the halfway point. Texas needs to keep Tyrese Halliburton in check if they want to win this one. The game is on the original ESPN+ beta test channel, LHN. Tip is 1 PM CT and the Cocaine Chinchilla is in the middle of a 36-hour Peloton session, drinking water bottles full of amphetamine-laced Four Loko. If his heart doesn’t explode, he’ll be ready to blast off with Lance Blanks in tow.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Fabio & Grooverider.