There was a significant chunk of this game where I was preparing to talk about how this loss impacted the rest of the season; in my view this was the second-most winnable game left on Texas’ schedule, and if they weren’t able to pull it out then Texas might be on a path to miss the NIT Tournament. Fortunately for Texas and my sanity, the Longhorns were able to regain the lead and close out a home win against the struggling Iowa State Cyclones. It’s now the folks over at Wide Right Natty Lite who have to contemplate a season without any post-season tournament. I realize this is not the sort of “positive” Texas fans were wanting heading into the season, but here we are. Congratulations, we’re mediocre with moments of competency instead of terrible!
If Jericho Sims was playing in a system like Bill Self runs at Kansas, he’d be averaging 17/12 this season. Yes, that was equal parts praise of Sims and minor dig at Shaka Smart, but it’s true. Sims is playing with an incredible level of confidence right now and it shows in his decisiveness. There are very few plays where Sims looks like he’s not sure what to do any more; he can drive the ball, he can defend bigs and guards, and he’s dunking the ball over errrbody. I mean, look at this:
Stretch had a good offensive game today, going 3-5 from three and hitting both of his free throws. He’s still not finishing at the rim in traffic well, but the progression from the freshman has been nice to see. He’s getting more comfortable on the floor, and if he can start to anticipate better on defense - sometimes he does, sometimes he’s just gambling - he can really ramp up his value to the team. 13 points and 4 rebounds is a good stat line for somebody coming off the bench, but his ceiling suggests he can do more.
For what feels like the first time in a decade, Texas shot almost as many free throws as their opponent (11 to 13 for ISU). Not only that, they made nearly 82% of their free throws (9/11). Weird how that started happening when Texas would go hard to the rim. Maybe somebody should look into that.
For the first ~30 minutes of this game, Ramey was bad. His passes were off - one of which he was in the paint and threw it straight into a Cyclone, then started complaining to Sims for not being able to, I guess rip the ball through the chest of said Cyclone - his shot selection was tough, his defense was spotty, and he was responsible for more turnovers than assists. That said, the last 10 minutes of the game Ramey was damn near unstoppable; he had two layups, two threes, two free throws, and a steal in the final quarter of the game. When he’s locked in, he’s a real help to this team; the trick is getting more minutes like the last 10 than the first 30.
I really liked Coleman’s game today; he was attacking the paint, moving the ball around the court, and played about as good a defense on Tyrese Halliburton as one can without help. He was the main player keeping Texas within shouting distance when Sims sat early in the second half with foul trouble, if he hadn’t turned it on this would be a much different recap. Having said that, he had five turnovers with a couple of them were really boneheaded giveaways. I don’t want to hammer a guy too hard for scoring 14 points on 10 shots, but he needs to clean up the turnovers because he’s the only guy on the team who Shaka Smart can really count on to handle the ball in crunch time.
It’s a sign of where this team is that they ‘only’ turned the ball over on 23% of their possessions and it felt like a positive step. For a team with this many theoretical ballhandlers, every time Coleman went to the bench in the first half the Cyclones would start to press because they believed it would work....and it did.
Jones got bullied by stronger players again today and it’s going to continue to be an issue the rest of the season, especially Monday against Kansas. He might pick up five fouls in six minutes against Udoka Azubuike & David McCormack. I would honestly consider starting Williams over him on Monday to see if they can get Kansas to play more four-out ball.
Texas is 4-4 in conference play with a three game stretch of @ Kansas, vs Texas Tech, and vs Baylor in the next week. Any win out of those three would be positive for Texas, especially if they could force a season split against either Kansas and/or Baylor. Do I think it will happen? Probably not, but the home game against Tech is the most likely of the three. It would be emblematic of how this is the weirdest college basketball season possible if this Texas team went into Lawrence and got a win, but they’ll get their shot on Monday. Tip time is 8 PM CT on ESPN.
In women’s basketball news, the Lady Longhorns are currently in 3rd place in the Big 12 at 6-3 & 14-7 overall. They seem to have recovered from their early season issues and are now being talked about as a NCAA Tournament team.
BWG’s writing tunes provided by Sasha.