With five players in double figures, the Texas Longhorns easily defeated the DePaul Blue Demons 77-59. Cameron Ridley led all scorers with 19 points, going 7-8 from the free throw line. Cleveland Melvin scored 15 points for DePaul.
The usual problems for Texas were nowhere to be found. The Longhorns, troubled by free throws all season, were 23-28 from the stripe. And Rick Barnes' defense, which has frequently been victimized by three point shots, had no such troubles tonight. The Blue Demons came into the game shooting a hair under 40 percent from long distance, but in this game only managed to connect on 5-17 threes.
But tonight, I want to write about Cameron Ridley. I am sure he will have both good games and bad games ahead of him, but for the second night in a row, Ridley has played extremely well. Against BYU, Ridley looked powerful and imposing; tonight against DePaul, the sophomore center just looked comfortable. When he recieved the ball in the post, he was under control, making a move or passing off to his teammates. He recorded an assist for the second night in a row, catching the ball on the block before dumping it off to a teammate cutting to the rim. Last night, that teammate was Jonathan Holmes; tonight it was Demarcus Holland.
But the place where Ridley looked the most comfortable tonight was at the free throw line. Ridley's struggles at the free throw line have been well-documented, although in recent weeks his stroke at the line has started to take shape. Tonight was the first time that we saw the benefit, where his progress on his free throw shot finally brought results. Perhaps it was just a fluke -- flukes are common and just a part of life -- or perhaps it was the first indication of real improvement. We will have to wait and see.
Some additional notes:
1. Jonathan Holmes continues to delight and amuse me. He was again ruthlessly efficient, scoring 10 points and connecting on the Longhorns' only two three-balls of the evening. But it is more than that with Holmes. He moves so quickly across the floor, and plays with constant energy; he is always making plays. Tonight, the most Jonathan Holmes play of the evening occurred early in the second half, when the junior forward came running out of nowhere, grabbed an offensive rebound while diving out of bounds, and flipped the ball to Isaiah Taylor for an easy layup.
2. Kendal Yancy had a nice game, scoring 10 points, chasing down three offensive boards, and playing his part on D. He doesn't jump off the screen with dazzling ability in the way that fellow freshman Isaiah Taylor and Damarcus Croaker do. But one thing that does stand out on the television -- Kendal Yancy is solidly put together. He has a little bit of wrecking ball in him.
3. While much of the focus is (properly) on Cameron Ridley's good night from the free throw line, Isaiah Taylor also went 8-10 from the stripe. Coming into this game, Taylor had only made 59 percent of his free throws, but in the last two nights his free throw stat lines have registered 7-10 and 8-10. Making free throws is important for Taylor because, like Ridley, he will be shooting a lot of them. Taylor is currently one of a select group of Division I players who has more free throw attempts than field goal attempts this season.
4. This isn't new or original, but I have always thought the Blue Demon was an odd mascot choice for a Catholic university.
5. Javan Felix had a quiet evening, but on nights like this he can just let his ever-evolving Amish beard do the talking. That beard always comes to ball.