Holy crap, did that just actually happen? Not sure if I was drunk or dreaming, but my eyes just registered that after one of the single worst-played basketball games I have ever watched out of one player, Javan Felix came down and GUTTED Temple with a game-winning three. In honor of Felix's rollercoaster ride of an afternoon, let's play a little Good, Bad, and Ugly.
- Basically everything about the first half. Texas was in a groove offensively, propelled by Isaiah Taylor racing up and down the floor in transition to the tune of 15 points. He even swished a gorgeous in-your-face three — not a bad way to get your first of the season. This team is at its best when Zay is attacking, attacking, and then, yeah, doing a little more attacking. It relaxes them mentally, allows the bigs to clean up the glass, puts Taylor at the free throw line, and gets the other team in foul trouble.
- Ibeh and Ridley. Things started to go south for Texas when both Ibeh and Ridley, stop me if you've heard this before, got into foul trouble late in the first half. Having one of those guys back as an anchor allows Texas' perimeter players to play clean defense without worrying about giving up uncontested layups if they get beat. Ridley (11 pts, 8 rebs, 3 blocks) was solid throughout the game...when he was in (only played 18 minutes). Temple had zero answer for him down low on defense. Ibeh (11 pts, 6 rebs, 4 blocks in just 16 minutes) was relatively quiet for much of the game, but dominated the OT period when Cam fouled out after one of the worst defensive foul calls you will ever see. The Owls were terrified of his length down low, leading to a few travel calls that had a huge impact on how the game turned out.
- Temple's Anthony Lee. Pretty much decimated Texas down low whenever Ridley and Ibeh were out. Finished with 23 points and a whopping 14 boards, but his miserable 3/9 effort at the stripe kept Temple from sealing the game late.
- Felix's final shot. This doesn't need a whole lot of explanation, but for Felix to have THAT HORRENDOUS of a game and somehow still pull the game winner out of his ass is pretty awesome.
- Basically everything about the second half. Whatever adjustments Fran Dunphy made at halftime pretty much stopped Texas in their tracks. He finally switched to a 2-3, and it was just devastating to UT's offensive flow. Having his players run back to designated spots on defense also took away the massive advantage in transition Texas enjoyed in the first half. I asserted on Twitter that down the stretch Texas caved like a timid high school team facing a full-court press. That might actually be generous. You CAN'T play scared. You just can't. Taylor got into foul trouble, our guards stopped attacking, and Temple took advantage with some of the easiest turnover baskets you'll ever see. Worse, that allowed a previously church mouse quiet crowd to get into the game. Yuck.
- Zone offense in the second half. Dunphy's primary adjustment was to elevate both the top and back lines of his 2-3 zone in order to constrict the passing angles for UT's short guards. Barnes responded on one possession by inverting Lammert and Felix so the top of the key passer was a guy who could see over the defense. But after Felix screwed up the shot inside, Barnes inexplicably went away from what was altogether a strong idea. Should have had somebody like Yancy or Holland (if he has to be out there) in the hole against the zone...but going away from the idea entirely after one possession makes absolutely no sense. Normally, teams don't elevate the back line of their zone because it leads to easy backside alley-oop passes and easy dumpoffs from the player in the hole of the zone. We never tried any of that, and an unpunished Temple unsurprisingly stuck with the same strategy throughout most of the second half and OT. Meanwhile, our guards up top were unable to execute Barnes' preferred zone strategy of "Swing it around the perimeter and pray," leading to Temple stealing pass after pass up top and running the other way for dunks.
- Javan Felix and Demarcus Holland. I don't want to belabor the point, but Felix played probably the worst game by a player these eyes have seen. Like, possibly ever. Yeah, he hit the three at the end and that was nice. But for 99% of the game he was absolutely lost. He only had five turnovers, but they came during a Temple run that felt like a "Brutality" finishing move in Mortal Kombat. That's the one where the winning character deals the losing one about 20 consecutive blows that ends in the losing character bursting into a messy combination of bloods and bones. Yeah. That's pretty much what the end of regulation was like for Texas. He freaking lost his mind on offense. Felix was also just abysmal on defense, and only went 2/11 from the field. I'm not sure I've ever seen a worse finisher at the rim in college basketball. Holland wasn't much better offensively, constantly getting caught in random awkward spots and having to throw up some of the goofiest FG attempts (0/9) you will ever see. He did bring his consistent Avery Bradley-lite defense to keep Temple star Will Cummings in check though.
Hey, we won! It was gross and stressful as hell in the second half and OT, but we won in our first road game. We're 8-1, and this game could definitely be good on our tourney resume come March. We get a week off before (what should be) an easy game against Texas State, then the fun starts in earnest with games at UNC and the team they just knocked off the #1 spot in the country, Michigan State, two Saturday's from now. And this team is...at least a lot of the time...fun to watch! I'll throw up a "Hook Em" for that.