Almost exactly a year ago, on November 24th, the Horns locked up with Iowa in an early season tournament. Iowa got the better of the Horns that day, and we wrote a recap of the game for the Hornsblog. Here's what happened last year (note the similarity to our game with West Virginia this year):
This is not what I would call a bad loss, but it's a game that may be pretty typical of this team for the first part of the season. Freshman Daniel Gibson had some brilliant moments, but turned the ball over five times, including what was, in my mind, the key play of the game.
After a Texas burst that tied the game at 74, Texas forced a turnover and got the ball back with just over two minutes to go. With a chance to take the lead, Gibson, ten feet above the key, tried a crossover dribble move to his left, but was stripped of the ball by Mike Henderson. Gibson fouled Henderson, who made both free throws and put Iowa up 76-74. Texas briefly retook the lead before Pierre Pierce's game-winning 3-pointer, but that turnover was devastating.
I thought Texas played reasonably well, but it was not one of Rick Barnes' finest games as a coach. P.J. Tucker inexplicably attempted only five field goals, most of them in the final minutes of the game. When Texas needed points down the stretch, they went to Tucker, as they should, but I couldn't help but wonder why Texas waited so long to turn to their best offensive weapon.
Understandably, Barnes wanted to improve the inside game after a dismal effort against Chaminade. And Brad Buckman and Jason Klotz did play much better, scoring 18 and 11 points respectively. Nevertheless, Texas' inability to get Tucker involved in the offense was costly.
Barnes also decided that Kenton Paulino should only play 16 minutes. Gibson played 36 minutes, which would be understandable if Barnes were committed solely to Gibson's development. But Paulino had played significant minutes in both of Texas first two games--why not against Iowa? In some ways, I like the trial by fire approach for Gibson. Stick him in there and let him learn. But in a game in which a victory would mean a chance to play another high caliber non-conference opponent in the championship game, I would have preferred that Paulino have played more.
Texas also has an early-season affinity for the three-point shot. It's a deadly weapon in the college game, and Texas shoots it well, but the ball needs to go inside to Tucker more. All too often the Horns are settling for long jumpers with plenty of time on the shot clock. Gibson, who did make a few spectacular long balls, has been especially guilty of this and really needs to learn to pick his spots.
The other freshman, Lamarcus Aldridge, needs to seriously hit the weight room, and I find it puzzling that he thought about going to the NBA right out of high school. The kid obviously has tons of talent, but he should probably spend at least two years in college to develop. He'll make a lot more money if he does, that's for sure.
In the end, it was probably a good learning game for the Horns, though many of these problems are probably not going to go away for a while. Barnes is probably wise to manage this team to peak in March, but it may be a bumpy ride at times as this team learns how to win.
Texas plays Tennessee this afternoon in a non-televised game for 3rd place in the Maui Invitational. Tennessee was blown out early against North Carolina and lost 94-81. This should be an interesting matchup for Texas against a team that wouldn't mind banging away in a physical, defensive-minded game. I haven't seen Tennessee play yet, but Rick Barnes is pretty good at bouncing back after defeats. I'll go with Texas in an ugly game, 71-65.