Shooting From the Corner: Oklahoma State 65, Texas 64

Posted by    |    January 13th, 2018 at 8:29 pm

The karma gods who rewarded Texas with a thrilling double overtime victory on Wednesday night brought Texas back to Earth today in a 65-64 loss that was well within Texas’ grasp for the vast majority of the second half. Oklahoma State ended the game on a 15-2 run, wiping out a double-digit lead that Texas had more or less maintained for a significant chunk of the second half. You could point to a number of reasons for this collapse, be it missed free throws, missed shots at the rim, unnecessary turnovers, but it probably boils down to fatigue. With the loss of Andrew Jones and Kerwin Roach II, Texas’ rotation is down to seven players. Unfortunately for Shaka Smart, this is not the weaker Big 12 of the 1990s where running 7 players (four of them freshmen) is a potential recipe for success. Texas put forth a game effort, but a double overtime game followed by a game against a team playing a half-court pressure defense with the added mental fatigue of dealing with Jones’ leukemia diagnosis was probably just a bit too much to overcome.

The Good

Eric Davis Jr

We’re five games into the Big 12 conference slate and Davis is hitting 41% (13-32) of his threes. Whoever of you says you saw that coming is a liar. My Smart Texas Basketball co-author Jeff Haley clued me into a weird stat; coming into this game, Davis had yet to hit a three that Synergy considers ‘unguarded’. Davis was at one point 0-12 on unguarded threes and 11-21 (52%) on guarded threes, which is exactly the opposite of how it goes for most players. It’s almost as if Davis needs a hand in his face to hit shots. Maybe Shaka can convince opponents to try bear-hugging Davis the rest of the season, because he’s been going off lately in traditionally low-percentage situations. He’s earned his minutes the last couple games, without question.

Team Rebounding

Having a lineup with three trees helps rebounding, but even with that said Texas is snagging a lot of boards on both ends of the floor. 15 offensive rebounds (44% of their available offensive rebounding chances) and 26 defensive rebounds (nearly 75%) are both great numbers. To put it in perspective, Texas had almost as many defensive rebounds as Oklahoma State had total rebounds.

Jericho Sims

I’ve been concerned about playing Sims heavy minutes because — to put it mildly — he’s limited in what he can do on the offensive end and Texas is already short of offensive threats. To the coaching staff’s credit, they know he’s a hammer and they’re putting him in spots to hit nails. Lob passes, putbacks, hook shots near the rim are things he can use his significant athleticism to do effectively and they’re largely only asking him to do that. Sometimes he ends up in the corner which allows the defense to sag waaaaaay off and clog up passing lanes, but I didn’t notice that happening much as the game wore on so they adjusted to keep him closer to the bucket (or setting screens, which is preferable to him hanging out in the corner). Sims is pressed into extra minutes because of injuries and they’re finding ways to make him more than just a body.

The Mixed Bag

Matt Coleman

Coleman was more good than bad today. He came back from early foul trouble to put in a solid effort with moments of individual brilliance. He showed another sign of learning on the job, regularly attacking the pressure instead of letting it consume him. He forced tempo upon the defense time and again, hammering the ball into the floor as he made the defense react to him instead of the other way around. His driving the lane is getting more decisive, and his runner is becoming a reliable go-to move. He threw some bullet passes to bigs in the post. There was a lot to like. A lot to like.

Hang on, I need to fix something. Bear with me for a moment.

The Good, Part Two

Matt Coleman

Yep, alright, that’s better.

The four turnovers were problematic and his offensive foul in the last few moments was something he needs to work on, but Coleman is starting to command the floor. If he was doing this with a full team, I have no doubt Texas wins today.

The Bad

Dylan Osetkowski

Osetkowski ran out of gas today, which is understandable considering he played 89 of a possible 90 minutes in the last two games. Still, his shots weren’t falling and his turnovers were largely unforced, both of which are in no small part due to his fatigue. He missed some free throws that could’ve iced the game, in part because he wasn’t using his legs as much to shoot. Texas needs to find Dylan some rest in games, short rotation or no. Speaking of which…

The Rotation

Did James Banks leave his feet in Austin? Is Royce Hamm an urban legend? Are they so bad that they can’t even give Dylan a couple minute breather? I’m not asking for Banks or Hamm to take over point, just go out and give a couple high-energy minutes here and there so we’re not at the end of February watching Osetkowski being duct taped to Jericho Sims & Mohamed Bamba like Reggie Ray in Not Another Teen Movie.

Free Throws

Missed free throws finally cost Texas a game. 10-17 from the line is pretty bad, and it was a combination of expected misses (Sims) and normally solid shooters (Osetkowski, Young, Febres who missed literally his first of the year today) that led to a 59% mark from the line. When your team is this depleted, the little things become big things very quickly.

Texas is probably 4-5 games away from Roach joining the lineup, and the hope is that by the time Roach returns Texas is still firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The next two games are not kind, with a home game against Texas Tech and a trip to Morgantown on the schedule. The ceiling and floor for this season are narrowing, and it’s up to the coaching staff and the players to keep the option of playing meaningful March games alive as long as possible.

The next game is on Wednesday against top-10 (?!) Texas Tech, tip is 7 PM CT on LHN.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Rydel.

Shooting From the Corner: Texas 99, TCU 98 2OT

Posted by    |    January 11th, 2018 at 12:32 am

There are times when life reminds you of the place sports resides in the larger context of the world, times when you realize that there are events much larger than arguing over Shaka’s ability to coach or whether Texas has an effective offense. There are times when you remember that sports are as much a place for people to project their own emotions, problems, and pride as it is a form of entertainment. You get pushed out of the comfortable bubble where being angry at the execution of a post entry pass is a real concern and pushed into the real world where people live, they die, they struggle, they survive, and sometimes they even thrive. You’re reminded that the world can be an unyieldingly cruel bitch, a world that doesn’t care about your past issues while it piles more on you than you think you can bear. Life is not inherently fair for a lot of people in this world, and sometimes it takes seeing an avatar of youth & vibrant health being brought back to mortality for many of us to remember that the athletes we root for and against are people with entire lives we know nothing about outside of the occasional Tom Rinaldi puff piece. A lot of the young men and women we study from game to game have all sorts of personal problems they’re dealing with outside of our view; maybe it’s an upcoming exam, maybe it’s problems with their parents or partners, and maybe it’s something even more grave. We the fans don’t think about that enough; I know I don’t. So when something serious — something actually serious —hits our archetypes made flesh, we get a stark reminder that while the games matter, they don’t matter.

And yet, they obviously do matter. They matter to the teammates of the afflicted apotheosis, they matter to the coaches in charge of cultivating this singularly gifted human, they matter to the support staff and the athletic department. The game, for all its irrelevance in the larger scope of things, is supremely relevant for everyone with a personal connection to the teammate who is suddenly absent. It’s a uniquely human trait to infuse such meaning into an event that won’t heal their friend; an emotional avenue to express what that person means to them, a tribute through expended energy that won’t make a difference in their prognosis but might make all the difference in how the afflicted teammate attacks his treatment. So much of life is window dressing designed to imbue importance to those that matter. A wedding doesn’t need $40,000 in food, bands, and 100 white doves released at the end when the words are what’s important, but at the same time all of that extraneous bullshit implies the amount of work the couple is willing to go through to illustrate the importance of this union. Christmas doesn’t need a house covered in lights that are programmed to roll through a 25-minute musical number strangers can hear on 88.7 FM as you sit in your car watching the lights with the engine and the heater running, but it helps set the mood for your own family as the kids get ready for Santa to hammer them with gifts on December 25th. We waste so much energy and time on things that aren’t meaningful, but that intentional waste of energy and time has an incredible amount of meaning in its own way.

Maybe tonight’s one-point double-overtime win didn’t really make a difference in Andrew Jones’ diagnosis. Maybe the Texas players keeping a spot warm on the bench for Andrew doesn’t matter in Andrew Jones’ prognosis.

pic.twitter.com/2gcYvczvrZ

— Sports Night (@Sports_NightTX) January 11, 2018

Maybe Eric Davis Jr and Dylan Osetkowski holding Andrew Jones’ jersey as they sung the Eyes of Texas doesn’t make the chemo any more effective.

The #EyesOfTexas in honor of @DrewdotCash & Shaka Smart is in tears! pic.twitter.com/IsBeGxg3XU

— Chris Bennett (@chrisgb00) January 11, 2018

But maybe it does matter.

Maybe seeing Jacob Young repping his buddy lifts Jones’ spirits.

That was for you brother AJ1 !!! pic.twitter.com/bWXTF9o8JG

— Jacob Young (@YEAHLILJ) January 11, 2018

Maybe James Banks walking back to the locker room holding Jones’ jersey up high reminds Jones of the people who care about him.

VIDEO: Texas players carry Andrew Jones’s jersey off the court and back to the locker room after extremely emotional win over TCU #HookEm pic.twitter.com/OnrsuFAR9o

— Jeff Barker (@JeffBarker_) January 11, 2018

Maybe seeing his coach with tears in his eyes after the game gets Jones to fight through the dark times a little harder.

In case you weren’t sure if tonight meant something to the coaches. pic.twitter.com/pAY9AkYzDh

— (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ 1115 (@Bitterwhiteguy) January 11, 2018

None of it matters.

All of it matters.

Every person who came to the game wearing a #JonesStrong shirt mattered. Every fan who took the time to make a poster about Andrew Jones mattered. They mattered in an emotional sense as much as every person who registered as a blood and marrow donor on BeTheMatch today mattered in a practical sense. It all matters to a family reeling from a terrible diagnosis, a family who watched the game from a Dallas hospital, a family that is no stranger to medical bills and hard times. They watched the game, they saw the signs, they felt the support, and they appreciated every bit of it. I know this for a fact.

Tonight the Texas Longhorns won a game, but the Texas faithful won the hearts of an appreciative family. Keep it up, Longhorns.

WHEN YOU TELL LEUKEMIA TO SUCK IT pic.twitter.com/EntD7023gh

— (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ 1115 (@Bitterwhiteguy) January 11, 2018

Next game: @ Oklahoma State on Saturday, 4 PM CT on ESPNNews.

BWG’s writing tunes provided by Christoph.