The Longhorns and Red Raiders went back in forth in a clean and high scoring first half, before Tech eventually led 50-47 at half. Tech shot the ball extremely well over the first twenty minutes, including an eye-popping 8-of-13 from three.
The Texas offense was led by an unexpected source, Justin Mason. Mason (18 points, four rebounds, five assists) was uncharacteristically aggressive on offense as he attacked the lane and repeatedly finished in traffic. Justin even sank a rare three-pointer. Damion James and Dogus Balbay also had strong offensive performances in the first half.
It was the Texas defense that needed fixing to secure a conference victory.
The Longhorns were better defensively in the second, especially contesting threes and limiting dribble penetration. Texas won the final twenty minutes 48-33 as Tech cooled off from deep and was limited in their second looks. James continued his consistently outstanding play and chaulked up another double-double, 28 points and 13 boards, to become the Big 12's All Time leader in double-doubles, passing former Longhorn Chris Mihm.
Other quick high points:
- Dexter Pittman was patient. Texas Tech was without two of their interior players and was forced to go small for most of the game. Rick Barnes countered by going small too, and Dex only played 18 minutes. His time on the floor was productive though-10 points and seven boards. This wasn't the breakout game that some of us had hoped to see; however, Dexter played within the flow of the offense and the Texas guards looked to feed him the ball when he was on the floor.
- Damion James is a beast. Period.
- Dogus Balbay played solidly on both ends of the floor. It was obvious from the opening possession that Tech was going to defend him as most teams do-with both feed in the paint and close to Pittman. It was also obvious from the opening possession that Dogus had been instructed to shoot the mid-range jumper when open. He missed his first attempt but hit a couple of others. 13 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and a steal is just about perfect. Last, if you didn't see Balbay's block, watch Sportscenter. It was special!
- J'Covan Brown was frustrated and out of sync in the first half. He came to Austin with a reputation for having a temper on the court. In November and December, that reputation rarely showed. As the jumpers have started to rim out and the competition has increased in January, his frustration is beginning to show more and more. He is visibly upset with he misses open looks and even more demonstrative when he disagrees with a foul call or wants a whistle on one of his own drives. After a forgettable first half, he played smarter in the second as he looked to pass and protected the ball better. The less he worries about getting his or about whistles or non-whistles and the more he just plays basketball, the better he and the Longhorns will be.
- Avery Bradley. As PB mentioned in the TBR, he continues to move along. I didn't remember him doing much in the first but looked down and he had eight points at halftime. His two second half threes were crucial to putting the Red Raiders away. Bradley was the fifth Longhorn to score in double figures (14 points and three boards). I would like to see him be a little more selfish on offense. Taking 10-15 shots per game should be the norm.
- Last, as many of you called for, the rotation is starting to tighten. Entering the season, we had 14 potential contributors. Injuries to Varez Ward and Shawn Williams quickly cut that number to a dozen. The ineffectiveness of Matt Hill and Clint Chapman has reduced that number to just ten. Now, Alexis Wangmene is our biggest frontcourt sub. However, he has been disappointing too. Tonight, Wingman played just five minutes. Against bigger front lines, the ‘Horns are going to need more time than that but maybe not much more. Jai Lucas is effective but only in spots and, to me, as long as Brown is playing with his head on straight, I don't see the need for Lucas to be out there. Tonight, Jai played only six minutes. Overall, Texas is down to a ten man rotation and will probably be eight or nine per game, depending on the opponent.
Tonight's win was far from dominating. That said, there was a lot to enjoy: 1) the offense clicked; 2) Mason and Balbay were aggressive offensively; 3) Bradley re-discovered his jumper; 4) Pittman was productive in limited minutes; and 5) the Texas defense held when it was needed most.
NEXT GAME: vs. No. 24 Baylor - Saturday, January 30th 3 pm Big 12 Network
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