The No. 25 Texas Longhorns improved to 2-0 on the season behind a second straight 31 point victory. Wednesday night's, 89-58, victory came over Louisiana Tech in as convincing fashion as was the one over Navy did two nights ago .Texas "advances" to the championship rounds of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer in New York City next week. Texas will take on No. 13/16 Illinois in one semifinal on November 18th, while Maryland and No. 5 Pittsburgh will meet in the other.
Rick Barnes went with the same starting five as in the first game and watched his Longhorns jump out to an early 15-10 lead after eight minutes and a 39-24 mark by halftime. Texas used an aggressive and efficient offensive performance by Tristan Thompson, solid defense by Dogus Balbay and Cory Joseph, and outstanding team passing to build their 15 point advantage. Texas had 11 assists in the first 20 minutes alone while also dominating the glass. Coach Barnes mentioned during his post-game thoughts that this was the first game or scrimmage during which Texas started quickly, and tonight's game was clearly over by half.
Team defense was the story in the second half. Texas created turnover after turnover, especially with ball pressure, and did a great job converting turnovers into easy fast break opportunities. Again it was Balbay and Joseph who led the defensive charge. I haven't seen the final box score yet but they must have had six to eight steals between the two of them. Thompson also stepped up his D in the second half blocking a handful of shots and in a manner that kept most of them in play.
A few other notes, bullet style:
- I have a tendency not to give Dogus Balbay enough credit, mainly because of his inability to hit a jump shot and it's effect on spacing and the Texas offense. While those deficiencies may show greater against stronger competition, he was simply outstanding tonight. He was like a gnat on defense and affected Louisiana Tech's guards more than any stats will show. Doge was equally solid on the other end-moving the ball quickly up the floor, attacking with his head up, and finishing at the rim instead of looking to pass. Tonight, Balbay was a game-changer.
- A nod to the two freshman. Joseph was measurably better tonight than he was against Navy. His defense was top notch, and it is easy to see why his high school coach raved about his abilities. I was a little concerned about his jumper after the first game; tonight it looked much better. He knocked down 2-of-3 from behind the arc and was well balanced with all three attempts. Thompson is my favorite Horn already. His back to the basket game is one that many college juniors and seniors are still searching for. TT has shown solid footwork and, most impressively, an ability to shoot over both shoulders. If his right hand is as good this season as he showed it to be in the first half, look out. He is going to be a special, special big man.
- Jordan Hamilton didn't go off like he did on Monday but let's chalk this up as a second straight solid performance. He played under control and showed no signs of a poor attitude.
- J'Covan Brown, on the other hand, struggled during the first half. He missed a couple of shots and started crying to the refs about non-calls. Then he got whistled for two of his own and started to act like he did last year. His head went down and started shaking from side to side and his arms got thrown into the air. Thankfully, he was more composed in the second half and did some good things. So, that's three out of four good halves for him.
Clint Chapman appears to be redshirting. Barnes mentioned this earlier in the week, and tonight, Chappy was not in uniform. If Clint was already behind Matt Hill, Alexis Wangmene, Gary Johnson, and Thompson, I guess this makes sense. And at least Johnson and
ThompsonHill will be gone after this year.
Through two games, this Texas team has looked as solid as anyone could have imagined. They are playing as a team, moving the ball, crisply on offense, and not settling for jump shot. On the other end, they've been able to win the rebounding battle in both games and held both opponents to under 40% from the floor. J'Covan and Hamilton look like different players; Thompson and Joseph have already been impactful; and Johnson and Dogus are leading by example. Heck, even Jai Lucas and Hill have provided some quality minutes. The competition takes a giant step up next week, but, again, through two games, I'm impressed.
Add your own thoughts in the comments section. PB may be around later with some of his own.
Next Game: vs. No. 13/16 Illinois Thursday, November 18 8:30 PM ESPN2