Now, that's more like it. The No. 9/10 Texas Longhorns found an offensive jewel stuck to the bench and locked down James Anderson in the second half to steal a huge conference road win, 72-60, over Oklahoma State. The ‘Horns improve to 5-2 in the Big XII and stop the slide of three losses in four games, which appeared headed for much worse.
On offense, Texas protected the ball much, much better. The official stats are not up yet, but it looks like the ‘Horns only had five turnovers on the game. That is outstanding and exactly what is required of this typically inefficient offensive team.
Second, Texas shot lights out. Led by Jordan Hamilton's second half offensive explosion and career-high 27 points, Texas shot 50% from the floor and 6-of-14 from behind the arc. Shockingly, Texas also took care of business from the line, with a 6-of-7 performance. It is amazing how much better a team looks when they actually put the ball in the basket.
James Anderson torched the ‘Horns for 24 points in the first half. Justin Mason, Avery Bradley, and Gary Johnson all took unsuccessful turns guarding the swingman. As good as he was in the first half, the rest of the Cowboys were invisible and OSU led by just four at the break.
Barnes went to Dogus Balbay on Anderson in the second. Balbay's defense and Hamilton's hot shooting were the difference. Anderson scored just four points in the second, and the OSU offense sputtered.
A few other quick points:
- Credit Rick Barnes for finally recognizing the weakness of playing Balbay and Justin Mason at the same time. Coming out of halftime, Barnes went with J'Covan Brown and Balbay. The floor opened, and OSU was forced to play defense more honestly.
- For as many rebounds as Gary Johnson dropped, he still battled tonight and finished with eight points and ten boards. That is about all we can ask for from our third or fourth scoring option.
- The rotation grew but maybe not as much as initially appeared. Jai Lucas played some in the first but none in the second; Clint Chapman gave us a few good minutes; and I don't believe Alexis Wangmene played at all. So, we still went with basically eight guys-Hamilton, Brown, and Johnson off the bench. That is fine with me. Barnes isn't trying to play 10 or 11 guys significant minutes any longer. He is going with the starting five, a frontcourt sub, a wing sub, and a backcourt sub. As long as Hamilton can play even decent defense, look for these eight to get the majority of minutes moving forward.
- His play will probably get overlooked tonight because Hamilton was so special, but J'Covan is starting to get it. Brow had four assists to just one turnover and, most importantly, he didn't force things on offense. Five points on 1-of-6 shooting is not going to jump off the stat sheet; however, he protected the ball, created for his teammates, and looked to feed the post in the first half and Hamilton in the second. Progress from the youngster.
- Justin Mason's two late offensive rebounds and two put-backs were really big.
It is only one game but I can't tell you how much better I feel about this team tonight than I did walking out of the Drum on Saturday. Hamilton took a giant leap forward; Texas was more efficient on offense by limiting turnovers and knocking down a couple of threes; dribble penetration was cut-off; and James and Johnson continued to battle down low. Pittman's disappearance is concerning but, for now, I'll focus on the positives.
Texas regains some confidence, steals a conference road game, and steadies the ship. Your thoughts here.
NEXT GAME: at Oklahoma - Saturday, February 6th 3 pm ESPN