Last season, Texas State had an obnoxiously loud cheering section in the south O-Zone as they pushed Texas to the limit. This afternoon, their cheering section stayed up in the mezzanine and witnessed a thorough beating. Unlike last season, Texas used an early 16-0 run to bury the Bobcats and had the game well in hand before the second TV timeout. In some of its best basketball of the season, Texas jumped out to a massive 35-12 lead with 5:00 left in the first half. While I'd love to simply pat the team on the back for laying a woodshed beating on Texas State, there are definitely some interesting things to take from today's game. By "interesting," I mean things that will cause Rick Barnes to yell at the youngsters during chalk talk.
While the game against Long Beach State seemed to represent a significant step forward for the Horns--especially some of the freshmen--this game largely represents a step sideways. This win is definitely better than the ho-hum second-half blowouts in our first few games, but this team absolutely has the ability to do better. While some of the early season wins were 20-point wins that felt a lot closer, this game was a 30-point win that felt like it should have been by 50. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure the team didnt just get bored at some points of the game today.
As I'm also smack dab in the middle of law school finals--a common theme for BON authors--I'll offer some truncated remarks and highlights after the jump.
Let's use bullet points to break this down:
- Before the game, Terrence Rencher was honored. He's currently an assistant coach for Texas State and got a really nice ovation. Good stuff.
- Yes, there were a ton of football recruits at the game. They roped off a large portion of the North O-Zone for all the recruits, but they mostly looked like football recruits. I decided against walking up to them, stalking them, or trying to make a complete list of everyone there and what they were doing. Not really my thing. In any case, they were only there for about 10 minutes of the game, left at halftime, and didnt come back during the second half.
- Damion James is a BAD, BAD man: Today's game was Damion James at his best. In only 23 minutes, he scored 21 points on 80% shooting, grabbed 16 boards, defused a nuclear bomb, married the prom queen, then stole the Heisman trophy from Mark Ingram. He was that good today. Damion got a ton of his points on put-backs and by being a stud on the glass. Texas State simply had no answer for Damion, who played one of his best games as a Longhorn. Outside of his incredible production today, Damion continued demonstrating that he's the leader of this team, which was a role I wasn't sure he could truly encompass. I dont think he's getting enough credit from the fans for what he's doing this season. He's not TJ, KD, or DJ, but he's become much more efficient with his shooting and is truly embracing his strengths as a basketball player.
- Justin Mason is BAD, man: With Ward out for the season, Lucas still not eligible, and Brown going down today with an ankle injury, we were subjected to 22 minutes from Justin Mason. I know he's become a punching bag, but his game today was truly awful. He scored 2 points, grabbed 1 board, dished 2 assists, and turned the ball over 6 (!!!!!!) times. And I think that kinda speaks for itself.
- Avery Bradley plays his best half of the season: As we'll discuss in a second, it's not entirely fair to lump them together, but the aggressiveness on offense by Bradley and Hamilton might be THE story from this game that doesnt involve Damion James being a bad, bad man. Bradley and Hamilton combined to shoot 12-29, which was a little less than half our shots for the game. While many of us (and even Rick Barnes) chided Avery Bradley to be more aggressive in seeking his own shot, he has taken that advice to heart the last few games. Playing a season-high 32 minutes, Bradley scored 15 points today on 6-13 shooting, but he did almost all his damage in the first half. With six minutes left in the first half, Avery had scored ten points, which was as many as the entire Texas State team. In the second half, Bradley scored 3 points on 1-5 shooting and had a few turnovers. I didnt think too many of his shots were forced--quite the opposite actually--but he's definitely started looking to shoot when he gets the ball in certain areas of the court.
- Jordan Hamilton continues to be the most frustrating player on the roster: Perhaps more than past few games, Jordan Hamilton was looking to "get his" today. He took 16 shots from the field, making only 6, and drew several patented headshakes from the bench for some of his decisions. Some of the most egregious decisions came when he decided to unleash from behind the arc, where he only went 1-6. Despite some questionable shots, Rick gave Hamilton a fairly lengthy leash and let him play over 25 minutes for the second straight game. He knows how important Hamilton is to this team moving forward. Some of Hamilton's baskets are simply gorgeous, but he's going to have to start using better discretion with his shots. On the plus side, he did grab 7 rebounds.
- The Pittman Effect: For the second straight game, Texas scored a ton of points without having Dexter Pittman play a major role on offense. The Texas State defenders were collapsing on Dexter to an almost comical extent, and they basically quit guarding Justin Mason and/or Dogus Balbay when they were off-the-ball. At one point, there wasn't a defender within 8-10 feet of Balbay when he was on the wing. The team has played at a pretty quick tempo the past two games, and, as long as teams want to keep trying to outrun Texas, then Dexter's role is probably going to be diminished. All that said, Dexter still had 9 points and 9 boards in 17 minutes, which is pretty sexy.
- Number 50 is Cursed: J'Covan Brown went down with an ankle injury today, and we'll have to wait for the official word over the extent of his injury. I think #50 should be retired for this season.
- Texas State is really, really bad: As I mentioned earlier, Texas barnstormed out to a 35-12 lead in the first 15 minutes. After that, it seemed like the team got a little bored and let their foot off the gas, especially at the end of the first half. While I'd love to simply wax poetically over our defense, I have to acknowledge that a portion of their success was due to the utter awfulness of Texas State. The Bobcats shot 26% from the field and just looked hopeless at certain points in the game. That said, there were some VICIOUS blocks by Texas defenders in the game and *six* different Longhorns had at least one block today.
- We are struggling from behind the arc: Coming into today's game, Texas was shooting a little over 30% from behind the arc and that number is going to fall a little further after today's game. Texas went 5-21 from three-point range today, and, if you take out Avery Bradley's 3-6 effort, the team went 2-15. We've talked a lot about the improved outside shooting by all our newcomers, but, as of now, we're still waiting to reap the benefits. Hopefully, Jai Lucas--and his 43% rate from downtown--can help add some consistency to our outside shooting.
- One more cupcake before the UNC/MSU stretch: Texas gets one more cupcake before they hit the heart of their non-conference schedule. Barring a meltdown against UT Pan-Am, Texas will be 9-0 heading into their showdown with UNC. Hook 'Em!