This season is pretty much toast, and with that comes a certain freedom to enjoy games divorced from the final score. Do I still want Texas to win? Sure, wins are more fun than losses; but it’s unreasonable to put any expectations on a team that is down four Purdue starters - Matt Coleman was added to the list of DNP along with Jericho Sims, Jase Febres, and Gerald Liddell - playing in a season where their March Madness hopes are effectively extinguished. Texas could have come out and laid an egg, and they didn’t; they fought their asses off in front of dozens of semi-interested fans. The result: Texas eliminated TCU from NIT contention for the second year in a row.
Yes, I know that’s not something to flex about.
No, I don’t care.
We all know you can’t really stop Will Baker, you can only hope to contain him. Everyone in the Big 12 knows you don’t leave the big man open from deep, it’s science. Baker took out a season of frustration on TCU in the first half, hitting his first three threes, laying down a dunk, and showing an array of low-post moves that happen when you guard him with 6’5” guards. Will Baker scored 20 points on 8-12 shooting including 4-6 from three, dished a couple of beautiful assists, and generally looked like a five-star for the first time all season. He now has a better career three-point percentage than Dogus Balbay, so...progress? Sure, it was one game, but if you can’t enjoy watching a guy take the monkey off his back and toss it into the Indian Ocean, I don’t know what to tell you.
Jones is a great player when he plays within himself. He can get his own shot, but when he’s forced to be an isolation creator things tend to veer off course. Tonight he played more of a combo/off-ball guard and more of his shots came from direct drives or spot-up shots. That’s a good place for him to be, and the 21 points on 7-14 shooting (3-5 from three) were largely in rhythm.
Defense on Desmond Bane
Do you know why Desmond Bane was quiet in the second half? Brock Cunningham & Courtney Ramey played him the way the Texas staff had been begging them to, by playing ball denial and forcing him to his left when he did get the ball. Bane was heating up in the first half, and Texas did a good job adjusting to keep him from going off in the second half.
Jamie Dixon’s Greek Theater
I wish I could show you all of the Jamie Dixon photos in the photo roll here, it’s a cornucopia of ridiculous overreactions. That’s in addition to just watching the game and seeing him react to foul calls and missed plays like he’s the instructor in a new form of scream yoga. It’s the little things. Hang on, I just figured out how to do this. Please enjoy Jamie Dixon as the Moirai:
Jones had some good moments, namely he was one of the most active rebounders on a Texas team sorely lacking that ability. He played decent defense; though it may have looked bad at times, there were a number of possessions where he was flying at an open shooter because he was covering up for someone else’s lapse. His scoring was very up & down; his two threes were in rhythm and showcased an emerging ability to hit the deep ball, but he still makes too many mistakes in transition. It’ll get better with time.
This probably shouldn’t be a surprise given that the team’s best rebounder is wearing sweatpants for the rest of the season, but Texas will need guys like Kai Jones, Will Baker, Royce Hamm, and all of the wings/guards to contribute to make up for at least some of Sims’ missing boards. West Virginia is probably going to have 25 offensive rebounds against Texas when they come to Austin.
Williams was incredibly passive tonight, which is surprising. I’m not sure if he was unsure of his role or was just being deferential, but if he’s not being aggressive then he’s not going to contribute much. It was an off night for the young man.
Texas snapped their skid, and now they go to The Octagon of Mild Discomfort to play Kansas State. Manhattan is normally a very tough place to play, but the Wildcats are 9-17 and have been beaten at home by Marquette, TCU, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Oklahoma State this season. Texas is short-handed, but it is a winnable game against a team which is 2-11 in conference play. I’m not going to say Texas is favored because lol come on, but this is not the Elite Eight team either. Bruce Weber just gave away a potential Texas Tech upset tonight by benching Cartier Diarra for yelling at him in the second half, who knows what the Wildcats mentality is right now. All I know is CBS definitely wasn’t planning on making this game one of their Saturday highlights when they picked it a few months ago. Tip time is 1 PM CT.
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