Texas Basketball Falls Just Short Once Again, Loses to Baylor 77-72

Nine. That's the total number of points by which Texas lost its three home games to Kansas, Missouri, and Baylor. And that's to say nothing of our 4-point loss at K-State, and 3-point loss at Baylor. And of course we opened the season by losing to Oregon State by 5 in overtime, and NC State by 3.

Following tonight's 77-72 loss to Baylor, this Texas team is an astounding 1-8 in games decided by 6 points or less. Coming in to tonight's game, Texas was ranked 320th in terms of "Luck" as measured by actual wins versus expected wins, a number which should only get worse after tonight's latest heartbreaker.

The Barnes-bashing monoliths will glom on to that number as reflective of our coach-they-love-to-hate. Alas, over the last five seasons, with the same know-nothing head coach, Texas went 30-25 in games decided by 6 points or less. Not that it will stop some of you, but if this team falls short of the NCAA Tournament, it will not be because of Rick Barnes.

It will be because of the players. Some of it's youth, but a lot of it is just dumb, inexcusable, low-IQ basketball. And I regret to say that the biggest reason this team may be on the wrong side of the bubble is its phenomenally talented point guard, Myck Kabongo. Make no mistake: the kid really is phenomenally talented. But he is also a very raw and uncertain player from a mental perspective. The senseless fouls that send him to the bench early in the first half. The senseless foul that sends Pierre Jackson to the free throw line with 12 seconds on the shot clock. The turnover meekly disguised as an entry pass into the post. The failure to execute what the coaches have instructed out of a timeout. The failure to execute what the coaches have instructed at the end of the half. The failure to stick with Brady Heslip.

I could go on, but it's too depressing. We needed Myck Kabongo to be better than he is in terms of his understanding of the game. That's the bottom line, and it's maddeningly frustrating because he is very much as physically talented as advertised. Don't get me wrong: Myck Kabongo is also a hard worker, an eager learner, a bright kid, and a terrific teammate, and he's going to be a great player. And hopefully a great Longhorn player. But this year he's merely been good -- a mixture of impressive talent, and really raw understanding of how to play at this level. And we've needed him to be better than that.

It's not just Myck, of course. The performance tonight of Clint Chapman -- a fifth year senior, no less -- summarized his entire career in one game, and every reason I've never been one of those who thought he could be a strong player: 21 minutes, 6 points on uncontested shots, a missed dunk on his lone contested shot, 4 fouls, and 0 rebounds. Zero. Dean Melchione could have managed a rebound in 21 minutes. So could I, for that matter. Zero.

Sheldon McClellan did his thing: one truly forgettable half, coupled with a half that makes you drool for more. And even J`Covan Brown, who -- God bless him -- has done everything in his power to haul this team on his back to the NCAAs, had an inexplicable brain fart and threw the ball away on our final possession to tie. It's been that kind of season, and when you look at how a team goes 1-8 in close games, that's the kind of thing that's happened over and over again, starting with that heartbreaking turnover at K-State on the botched hand off.

And then there was the second half defense tonight, which was as filled with mental mistakes as the first half in Stillwater. Whether it was Kabongo failing to stick with Brady Heslip -- who buried a trio of three-pointers across five possessions -- or Julien Lewis letting Gary Franklin shoot an uncontested three that gave Baylor the lead, our guards just played terribly unsound defense across the second half, losing track of shooters and struggling to stay in front of penetration. All after a truly excellent first half. The inconsistency is exasperating.

The unfortunate truth is that Baylor out-executed us down the stretch. They made play after play, and left no points on the board. We made a few senseless turnovers, missed three front ends of one-and-ones, and had our power forward get outrebounded by their power forward 16 to 0. Zero.

Good grief.

This season has always been about next year, but this team has teased us with its flashes of great play, and along with falling in love with these kids and how hard they play, I've grown to desperately want them to earn an NCAA Tournament berth. And it just hasn't happened. Not yet, anyway, and time is fast running out. There's lots to be excited about for next year, but it doesn't make this year any less frustrating, or disheartening.

For the record, none of this is to say that Rick Barnes is above criticism. He's made mistakes, and he has weakness to improve upon himself. And those who wish to discuss that in a substantive way are more than welcome to do so here -- indeed, such constructive criticism is encouraged. With that said, those who want to yell for Barnes to be fired will be dismissed as the know-nothing candyasses that they are. And I make no apologies for that.

On that note, I'm going to retreat to three six fingers of scotch, and hope that this young group of fighters has one last rally in them down the stretch. And that for once they don't fall just short.

Hook 'em

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