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Shooting From the Corner: Texas 68, Texas Tech 58

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NCAA Basketball: Texas at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

This fucking team, man.

I don’t know what to say except: this fucking team, man.

It’s one thing to beat a struggling TCU squad at home or a dying on the vine Kansas State team on the road, but Texas Tech was trying to make its case that it’s the 3rd-best team in the Big 12 with only three games left to play and Texas flat out-played them for 36 of 40 minutes. The Longhorns controlled the pace of play, they ran good sets on both ends of the floor, and they converted in the biggest moments. This wasn’t just one dude going off - although Andrew Jones definitely went off - but rather a team that exploited the flaws & gaps of its opponent over and over again. Shaka straight beat Chris Beard on the chalkboard today. Texas is probably locked into 3rd-5th in the Big 12 standings at this point, and they can help their chances at 3rd soon enough.

The Good

The Coaches

Texas scored 1.1 PPP against one of the ten most efficient defenses in the nation in no small part because the coaches put their players in a place to succeed. They threw wrinkles at Tech which took advantage of their willingness to switch, they used Royce Hamm as the pivot point for the offense at the top of the three-point line to keep Tech from deflecting passes, and they recognized Andrew Jones was cooking and they set things up to enable him to go off. They ran a slow tempo but executed with precision that looked more like Virginia than High Point. More importantly, they kept this team focused for the fourth game in a row where their postseason lives were on the line. This hasn’t been the season we hoped for and the buck stops with the coaches, but the coaches deserve kudos for keeping this team going when the easier thing to do is call it a season and hit up LinkedIn.

Andrew Jones

Jones picked a good month to arise like a phoenix from the ashes of leukemia. His past four games he’s scored 21, 12, 22, & 22 and made 14/27 threes, but as much as the distance shooting has been great it has been his ability to finish in the lane and his defense that have made waves. Jones is balling out and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this sort of run.

Team Defense

Texas outscored Tech 38-21 in the second half, held Jahmi’us Ramsey to 13 points, kept Davide Moretti to only two free throw attempts (both due to Shaka’s second technical foul in as many games), and made Kyler Edwards a non-factor. Granted, this isn’t the same Tech team as last year, but the Longhorns grinded a Tech team down for 36 minutes. The only time the defense got out of sorts was the last four minutes of the first half, otherwise they were nails.

The New Energy Brothers

Royce Hamm Jr and Brock Cunningham are making the most of their minutes this season. Cunningham did what I saw him do in AAU ball; snagging every rebound within a county mile, diving for loose balls, and hitting timely threes. Hamm played well in the PnR defense, took mostly good shots, and had a monster block from behind on Clarke that set the tone early in this game. (Side note: somebody please find a video of that block and post it in the comments.) These two guys exemplify this 4-0 run and they have earned a lot of praise from Texas fans. SOME OF US MIGHT HAVE SEEN THIS COMING FROM BROCK CUNNINGHAM let’s not get hung up on what people said about Hamm in the past though it’s really not important. A Brock Cunningham rebound off a Royce Hamm block is my new spirit animal.

Are spirit animals still a thing?

EDIT: Somebody sent it to me:

Free Throws

Texas took one more free throw than their opponent for what feels like the first time all season, and it was a tale of two halves. Tech built its first half lead by shooting I believe (data on the halves isn’t up as I’m writing this) 11 free throws while Texas only had a couple attempts. The numbers inverted in the second half as Texas got to the line way more than the Red Raiders, and Texas converted on 70% of their attempts (10-14) in the game. It’s amazing how getting to the line can help fill in the gaps in offensive production, huh?

Matt Coleman Exorcising A Demon

Two years ago, Texas was up late on the Red Raiders in Lubbock and Coleman went to the line to shoot three free throws. Making those shots would’ve iced the game, but he missed them all and Tech crawled back to win in overtime. Today Coleman had a similar opportunity and nailed both his free throws. Mark that down as a small win in its own right.

It’s Complicated

Will Baker

Baker has to learn how not to telegraph his moves because teams like Tech will rack up charges on him. Having said that, his threes looked good out of his hand and the fact he’s in “It’s Complicated” is progress? This could’ve been a game for him to do more good than he did because he didn’t have to worry about size mismatches, and if he learns how to stop in the lane when a defender plants their feet then he’s going to be significantly more valuable next year. The confidence is starting to return for him.

The Bad

More Depth Hits

Donovan Williams was out for the second half with what was described as a minor knee injury and Kamaka Hepa did...something to only see the floor for one minute. That meant 7 players soaked up the vast majority of the 200 minutes available, and with a quick turnaround to head to Norman one has to wonder how much these guys will have left in the tank 72 hours from now.

Texas is working itself into the NCAA tournament, and they have another chance to make a statement on Tuesday at Oklahoma. Given that the Sooners are also in bubble talks, this might be an elimination game of sorts. Texas has a 32% win probability in this game, but they just beat Tech as a 20% win probability so never say never. Tip is 8 PM CT on ESPN2.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Denzo.