Texas 85 Oakland 81: Longhorns Advance, Will Face Arizona

Wiggo handled the Texas vs Oakland recap, so let me just chime in with a few additional thoughts on the game play.

First of all, anyone complaining about this win needs to get his head checked. Could we have played better? Of course. Did Gary Johnson drive me crazy down the stretch? Natch. But anyone feeling unsatisfied this afternoon either wasn't paying attention or just doesn't understand the nature of college basketball and the NCAA Tournament.

Let's be clear about this: Oakland played well. Indeed, they played well enough to win, and point number one regarding reasons to feel great about today's win is that if we hadn't played good basketball ourselves? We'd have joined Vanderbilt and Louisville on the quick trip home. It's easy to forget because our expectations for this Texas team are so high, and because we played well enough to win by 20 but couldn't close out, but yeah, Oakland was good. They deserved a higher seed than they got, and drew as crappy an opponent as Texas did. Both teams got screwed. Fortunately, we were the team to get the win. And we earned it.

Put another way, had Texas gotten properly seeded and drawn a weaker opponent, but played as well as they did for much of this game, we have a much easier path to the second round. As is, we beat a quality opponent in impressive fashion, poor close-out excepted. If you want to complain about the last five minutes of play, that's legitimate, but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

As far as player performances, for the most part we got exactly what we needed from everyone. Player notes after the jump:

Jordan Hamilton - The best part of what we saw from Hammy was his commitment to playing within the offense. Only one really poor outside shot, the rest was good stuff that we want him taking. He was great on the glass once again and for the most part kept his head in the game on defense. That's the Hammy that makes us a Sweet 16 team.

J'Covan Brown - Game ball. Brown delivered perhaps his best overall performance as a Longhorn, calmly dropping 21 points in 24 minutes, hitting all 12 free throws, and a perfect 3-0 assist-to-turnover ratio. Brown did an excellent job attacking a soft Oakland defense, repeatedly creating opportunities either for himself or his teammates with his drives. He probably should have gone to the line two more times than he did. In any event, he's quietly had a great month, and has been everything asked of him since the Twitter episode. Keep it up, kid.

Tristan Thompson - My prediction that he's coming back has nothing to do with his game. It can't. He's been too good, as he was again. At this point it's just about a feeling about who he is and what he wants out of his college experience. Thompson faced a formidable challenge in Benson today, and lesser freshmen would have folded. Thompson didn't win every battle, but he won a lot of them, and so many in such impressive fashion. His body balance and ability to finish with both hands is truly remarkable.

Gary Johnson - The three first half buckets were nice, but Gary was mentally terrible in the second half and it's just inexplicable that the senior can make so many of the mistakes that he's making. Whether it's turning his back to the ball or coughing it up late on a turnover, or failing to get a body on his man to block out, Johnson's struggling right now. We need better from him. He's a senior. We expect better.

Joseph, Balbay, Lucas - A typically solid game from Joseph: Nothing spectacular, but he contributed several big buckets, gave us solid defense, and helped hit the boards a bit. Liked Balbay's approach early in the game, but he really needs to keep attacking when he's in there; he's extremely difficult to stay in front of (and Arizona doesn't play defense). Lucas was purposeful in his minutes, giving us 5 points in 10 solid minutes, if not great defense.

Wangmene, Hill - After a terrible first half, Lexi gave us some productive minutes down the stretch with solid defense and a couple boards. With Thompson staying out of foul trouble and playing 38 minutes, Hill was a non-factor.

All in all, I was quite pleased with the performance. We didn't shoot the ball great, but we continued to score by getting to the line (and making them) and running a credible offense to get good looks in the paint. We also pushed the ball and ran, which was smart of Rick, and always seems to help this team. We needed to do a better job on the defensive glass, and that's where Gary's continued slump is hurting us. We're better off playing Wangmene alongside Thompson if Gary's not going to do the basics.

A big win for Texas, who moves on to play Arizona, narrow winners over Memphis. Watching the Cats just now, they have good size, but they don't defend well at all, struggled to run with Memphis, and looked limited offensively outside Williams. If Texas can take care of business on the glass, keep the tempo moving, and attack Arizona's porous defense, they should be able to outscore the Cats and move on to the Sweet 16.

One up, one down. So far, so good.

Hook 'em!

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