Texas Longhorns Basketball: Inside the Numbers, Week 4

Hanging onto the rock has been a struggle. - Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think we will have to win ugly. We will just have to value the ball better. We still had 19 turnovers and that is too many. We are just going to have to learn to value the ball and we will be all right. -- Sheldon McClellan (Nov. 27, 2012, Texassports.com)

An ugly win is better than an ugly loss. This week Texas had one of each, with a decent performance sandwiched in between.

This team is going to take some patience. I am realizing that. Before the season, I was very excited about Texas' size, and what that would mean for a team that struggled with interior defense last season. I am still excited about the size, but I didn't anticipate the turnover problems this team would have. The Longhorns turn the ball over almost one out of every three possessions -- no Rick Barnes team in recent memory has ever had anything close to this much trouble maintaining possession of the rock. With this limitation, Texas needs to shoot the hell out of the ball just to generate a decent offensive output; giving up the ball on nearly 30 percent of its possessions leaves little margin for error. When the Longhorns do shoot the hell out of the ball, as they did this week against UT Arlington, then the offense does alright. It is a tough way to win.

It does leave me wondering how much of an effect Myck Kabongo can have on this team. But for now, he isn't a part of this team, so there is no sense in wishing.

I don't think that a complicated diagnosis of the problems with this team is necessary. The offense is both timid and careless. This is a terrible combination. Aggressive and careless is much better. It is a cliché that a bad shot is better than a good turnover, but at least it is an accurate cliché. When Texas drives to the basket, good things happen.

The Week In Review

Background information on the statistics is posted here, here, and here.

TEXAS (65) vs SAM HOUSTON STATE (37)

CATEGORY

TEXAS

SAM HOUSTON ST

DIFFERENCE

FGA

43

62

-19

FTA

38

11

27

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

61.1

67.2

-6.1

Off Rebs

7

8

-1

TOs

19

14

5

ORB - TO

-12

-6

-6

TS%

0.532

0.275

0.257

ORB%

23%

17%

TO%

26%

19%

Points/100 Poss

89

51

Sam Houston State was blown out by Texas, despite getting six extra "shots" (where "shots" refers to the composite number FGA + 0.475xFTA). A few extra shots mean nothing with such a large difference in team true shooting percentages (recall that a 0.01 differential in TS% is worth approximately 1.3 extra shots).

How does a team get a true shooting percentage of 0.275? It takes a combination of factors. First, Sam Houston State went 7-34 from two point range. Only seven of Sam Houston State's shots were at the rim, and Texas blocked two of these shots, allowing the Bearkats to go 2-7 from in close. This inability to penetrate the Longhorn defense also limited coach Jason Hooten's squad to 11 attempts at the free throw line, where they only made five free throws. The two easiest places to score on a basketball court are the free throw line and right in front of the basket.

Sam Houston State went 5-27 on two point jump shots. Part of this poor output on two point jump shots was because Texas blocked four of the Bearkats mid-range attempts. For those of you keeping track, the Longhorns blocked almost as many two point shots as Sam Houston State made. On top of that, the Bearkats went 6-28 from three point range, which is a robust 21 percent. What a mess.

Texas' true shooting percentage was fairly good, at 0.532. Texas' shooting percentages from the floor weren't particularly good, as the Longhorns managed an effective field goal percentage of 43 percent, but the Longhorns compensated with frequent trips to the line. Texas shot nearly as many free throw attempts as field goal attempts, and hit 74 percent of its free throws. While a game that features many trips to the line isn't much fun to watch, getting to the line makes for effective offense. The free throw line is the easiest place to score points.

Jonathan Holmes led Texas with 3.5 Points Above Median (PAM). Holmes went 4-6 from the free throw line, made both of his shots at the rim, and hit his only attempt from three point range. Julien Lewis had a PAM of 2.5, and Ioannis Papapetrou chipped in 2.1 Points Above Median.

The Longhorns again struggled with turnovers, which undermined what was otherwise a decent night for the offense. Javan Felix led the way with five turnovers (a 36 percent turnover rate), while Cameron Ridley turned the ball over four times (a 45 percent turnover rate). Three of Ridley's four turnovers were offensive fouls. This has been the story of the season for the freshman center. Fouls are severely limiting Ridley's ability to contribute on offense.

The Longhorns didn't earn many extra shots on the offensive glass. While Sam Houston State is not a very good team, one thing that they do well is get defensive rebounds. So give the Bearkats credit for keeping the much bigger Longhorns off of the offensive glass.

TEXAS (70) vs UT ARLINGTON (54)

CATEGORY

TEXAS

UT ARLINGTON

DIFFERENCE

FGA

51

61

-10

FTA

20

20

0

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

60.5

70.5

-10

Off Rebs

6

20

-14

TOs

16

19

-3

ORB - TO

-10

1

-11

TS%

0.579

0.383

0.196

ORB%

20%

44%

TO%

23%

27%

Points/100 Poss

99

78

UT Arlington isn't a pushover. The Mavericks are a decent team and play excellent defense. But none of that matters when the Longhorns hit their shots. Texas went 13-26 from three point range, which gave them a true shooting percentage of 0.579. Along with the hot shooting from outside, the Texas defense was excellent, holding UT Arlington to a 0.383 true shooting percentage. The huge advantage in true shooting percentage was more than enough to make up for the ten extra shots attempted by the Mavericks.

Julien Lewis (PAM=6.5), Sheldon McClellan (PAM=5.5), and Ioannis Papapetrou (PAM=4.8) keyed the Texas attack. When these three guys are knocking down shots, the Longhorns offense suddenly comes to life. The Texas defense creates a significant margin for error for the offense; as of now, this may be the best defense that Rick Barnes has ever coached. The Longhorns blocked 20 percent of the Mavericks two point attempts. Cameron Ridley had a very good game, blocking 15 percent of opponent two point attempts while on the floor, and Jonathan Holmes chipped in with a shot block percentage of 7 percent. The only Maverick to have a decent offensive game was center Jordan Reves, who managed a PAM of 2.2.

UT Arlington did end up with 10 extra shots. This was mostly because of offensive rebounds. Scott Cross' squad is a good rebounding team. The Mavericks held Texas to a 20 percent offensive rebounding percentage, and got to 44 percent of the available offensive rebounds. Part of the Maverick's "success" rebounding was due to getting so many shot attempts blocked. Five of the UT Arlington offensive rebounds were off of shots that were missed because they were blocked. Several of these offensive rebounds were credited to the team, rather than individual players, which is what happens when a shot is blocked out of bounds. While I have never seen it studied, I suspect that after a blocked shot the offense and defense have roughly a 50/50 chance at getting the rebound.

Jordan Reves (ORB=18%) and Brandon Edwards (ORB=21%) were both active on the offensive glass, as they have been for their entire college careers. Reves is a really good player.

While Texas' turnover percentage was a bit higher than you would like, it wasn't a disaster. The Longhorns turned the ball over in 23 percent of their possessions -- we have seen far worse from this team. One positive here is that freshman Cameron Ridley did not turn the ball over a single time in this game.

TEXAS (41) vs GEORGETOWN (64)

CATEGORY

TEXAS

GEORGETOWN

DIFFERENCE

FGA

48

61

-13

FTA

21

16

5

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

58.0

68.6

-10.6

Off Rebs

11

14

-3

TOs

22

14

8

ORB - TO

-11

0

-11

TS%

0.354

0.466

-0.113

ORB%

29%

37%

TO%

32%

20%

Points/100 Poss

59

93

This game, on the other hand, was a turnover disaster. Texas scored 0.59 points per possession. This is unspeakably bad. The Texas defense was good, keeping the Hoyas to under one point per possession. Georgetown blew out Texas, racking up a large advantage in both true shooting percentage and the number of shots attempted.

Texas' 0.354 true shooting percentage was in part due to not knocking down shots. The Longhorns went 2-13 from three point range and only hit on 25 percent of their two point jump shots. (Coming into the game Texas was making 35% of their two point jump shots, which is around the NCAA average.) The Hoyas also were outstanding in defending the rim. The Longhorns managed to get to the tin frequently, attempting 39 percent of their shots from in close. Georgetown blocked one out of every three of these shots, holding Texas to 42 percent shooting at the rim. (Coming into the game, Texas had made 68 percent of its shots at the rim, significantly above NCAA average.) Greg Whittington and Otto Porter were doing work on D.

Prince Ibeh led Texas with a PAM of 0.1. Yeah, it was that bad.

The Texas defense held its own. Georgetown's true shooting percentage of 0.466 is not very good, either. Otto Porter was held in check, with a PAM of -1.4. Only Nate Lubick (PAM=5.3) and Markel Starks (PAM=2.4) really hurt Texas, but on a night where the Horns couldn't hit a bull in the butt with a banjo, that was enough.

Texas wasn't great on the glass, although Holmes did his usual excellent work. Holmes got to 33 percent of the defensive rebounds and 22 percent of the offensive rebounds while he was in the game. Holmes was an excellent offensive rebounder last season, and this year his rebounding numbers have improved on the defensive end. It is a nice improvement for Holmes. Some credit for this probably goes to the Texas guards, and to Ridley and Ibeh. Texas has allowed fewer attempts at the rim this season, thanks in part to better perimeter play. When the offense gets to the rim, it forces the defense to rotate, often making defensive rebounds harder to come by. This has a measurable and significant effect on rebounding numbers. Additionally, when the offense does penetrate, Ridley and Ibeh have often been the ones rotating to help, which leaves Holmes in much better position.

The turnovers were bad. Really bad. This is a serious problem, and will need to get fixed before Texas can put together some semblance of reasonable play on offense. I can't point a finger at any one player in this game, as virtually everyone other than Papapetrou and Lammert got in on the action. It takes a group effort to turn the ball over in one out of every three possessions.

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