I've got one of those post-victory buzzes where there's no limit to my excitement. For at least one more week, Texas fans get to keep dreaming. And if there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's never to take that part of sports fandom for granted. Eventually, you learn that anticipation is as big a part of sports enjoyment as the games themselves. If we falter in Houston, the succeeding week won't be nearly as exciting as this one. So let's enjoy it.
To today's box score:
- I mentioned it in my writeup, as did LIC in the comments, but it's worth repeating: among all of AJ's impressive numbers today, maybe none is more satisfying than the four defensive rebounds. I know from my memory and my notes that at least three of those were tough boards in traffic, and it's the kind of thing you just love to see from AJ, who only gets on our bad sides when he's a one-trick pony. Today, he was great across the board - shooting, rebounding, and defense. An A+ for a player who's going to leave a lasting mark on the Texas record books.
- Do we take Damion James' off-the-charts rebounding for granted? I caught myself glossing over his 16 rebound performance, undoubtedly because - well, because it's par for the course. At one point during today's telecast, the announcer noted James has put together the second-highest single season rebounding performance in school history. Absolutely remarkable.
- It seems a little silly to talk about 'turning points' in a season that started as well as Texas' did, but we did hit a bit of a nasty skid to open Big 12 play. Remember that? When we all wondered what it would take to get Justin Mason's head straight again? One more feather in Rick Barnes' cap, as Mason's been a stat sheet stuffer over the last third of the season. The move to get Mason involved as a complementary point guard to DJ has paid huge dividends, with both players seeming to enjoy a boost in their play. (Not to mention the team.) 6 assists for Mason in just 28 minutes of action; 8 for DJ in 40 minutes.
- I gave Dexy a hard time in the postgame write up for his defensive miscues today, but failed to applaud his terrific rebounding effort. The big fella picks up 6 boards in just 8 minutes of action today - simply an eye-popping rate once again. We're going to need 15 good minutes from him next Friday.
- The box score confirms what we saw this afternoon - Connor Atchley had a very, very solid game today. 15 points, 5 boards, and 3 blocks in 33 minutes and, as mentioned in the postgame wrap, perfect play as DJ's pick man. I don't know of anyone who tracks +/- stats for college basketball, but I'd be curious to see what his +/- numbers were on the season. We're at our best when he's out there on the floor.
- If you just glance at the box score above, one thing that immediately stands out is how few minutes Texas is getting from its bench. We're all well aware of this, of course, and as mentioned last week, I'm not concerned about this not being Rick Barnes' deepest squad. With that said, this is not a team that can afford any significant foul trouble. Stanford is an above average team (95th nationally) at getting to the line, so it's certainly something to keep an eye on. I guess the big question is: which players can Texas least afford to lose to foul trouble? For this particular match up, I'd say DJ and Damion James are the two I'd be most concerned to see on the bench next Friday.
- We've talked about this all year, but the free throw shooting continues to disappoint. It's only cost Texas one game this season, but it remains a dark cloud looming on the horizon. It'd be a crying shame to lose a game to rain this weekend.
- Finally, Texas has succeeded this year not by being an elite shooting team (we're middle of the pack), but by never turning the ball over and doing an above average job on the offensive glass. Today, we uncharacteristically coughed it up 13 times, but compensated with great rebounding and outstanding shooting. The big worry comes if we swing and miss in two of the three categories. Shooting well is the easiest path to success, but barring that, we must do well rebounding and protecting the ball.