18 March 2011
A 17-point lead turned into a four-point win against 13-seed Oakland in the second (weird) round of the NCAA Tournament. There’s a lot of good things about this 85-81 win, most importantly that it means Texas survives and advances to face the winner of the Memphis (12)/Arizona (5) game. But, if the Longhorns still expect to be a national championship contender, and they do, then they’ll need to iron out a few wrinkles.
Let’s start with the bad, for no other reason than that it’s always better to finish with the good:
Texas led by 15 with five minutes left, but felt into a sort of lackadaisical haze, sleepwalking on defense in the final minutes, allowing the Grizzlies to cut the lead to five with a little over a minute left.
Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton had a LaceDarius Dunn-esque performance against the Longhorns, scoring the bulk of his 25 total points in the second half.
The Longhorns turned the ball over 10 times in the game, as opposed to Oakland’s eight turnovers.
Rick Barnes knows that defense is his team’s ticket to Houston, but Texas allowed 80 points today. Granted, it was against a No.2-ranked offense. And, luckily, the Longhorns had an above-average scoring day.
And now, for the good:
The patience and overall balance by Texas on offense was the kind of performance that, if duplicated successively, takes teams to the Final Four. Good stuff by all five starters:
Jordan Hamilton – 19 points
Tristan Thompson – 17
Cory Joseph – 11
Gary Johnson – 8
Dogus Balbay – 4 (come on, you’ll take that)
Off the bench, J’Covan Brown led the team in scoring with 21 points. Jai Lucas even chipped in five.
When I say patience, I mean just nine three-pointers attempted (4 were made). In comparison with Oakland’s 7-29 day from behind the arch, that’s pretty good.
When I say patience, I also mean Jordan Hamilton, who still found a way to score his average on a day when his outside shot just wasn’t falling. J-Ham attacked the rim today and also scored on a few put-backs.
Tristan Thompson set the school tournament record for blocks in a game with seven of ‘em and gave Keith Benson trouble down low all day, with half of his total rebounds coming on the offensive end. Hell, at one point, Thompson was even trending on Twitter.
Is the above paragraph bittersweet news for Texas fans? Because with play like this, TT might be a lottery pick.
Thompson’s underlooked Canadian friend Cory Joseph had a nice game. It doesn’t stick out at you, but he was 2-3 from deep and both were big shots.
In terms of minutes, J’Covan Brown is essentially a starter. He plays more, and much better than Dogus Balbay.
Balbay: 17 minutes, 4 points, 1 assist, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 2 TO.
Brown: 24 minutes, 21 points, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 0 TO.
Balbay, though, is the table-setter defensively for Barnes. A lot of people are calling for Brown to start (I used to be one of them), but I like the spark he brings off the bench and I like Balbay’s veteran poise out on the floor to start.
Besides, does a Balbay, Lucas, Hill, Wangmene bench scare opponents? Didn’t think so.
Gary Johnson is a guy who has been a punching bag recently, but he was 4-6 today and played within himself for the most part. Could use some more on the glass, just two total boards in 31 minutes, but it is progress.
Texas kept Keith Benson under wraps. He had 15 points and 11 rebounds, decent numbers, but the Grizzlies needed more from their big man to win. The fact that he got into foul trouble was huge, and you can thank Tristan Thompson’s aggressiveness for that.
We’ll find out the Longhorns’ next opponent soon enough. For now, enjoy the win over Oakland and the fact that they’re still dancing after their first game, something you couldn’t say last year.
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