A few quick thoughts on a disappointing 63-61 loss to Michigan State at Madison Square Garden. This was obviously one that we should have won.
*It doesn't matter how talented we are if we don't rebound the basketball better. Michigan State got shot after shot. Too many times Texas turned around to see the missed shot instead of putting a body on a Spartan. We looked especially inept at securing long rebounds.
*The Horns shot the ball atrociously to start both halves. In the first half they were 4/14 before really settling down, attacking the basket, and playing solid team basketball. But then they came out in the second half with the same youthful jitters. We were only 2/7 before I lost count. We stopped getting dribble penetration, stopped forcing turnovers and got almost no fast break points in the second half.
*We are much better suited to play an up tempo style that we saw for most of the first half than the slower half court game we played for most of the second. The Horns were consistently converting steals into fast break opportunities. With athletes like Kevin Durant and Damion James running the wings for DJ Augustin, we should really try to run more.
*Kevin Durant played an outstanding first half but got lost in the second. He settled too quickly for long jumpers instead of driving to the basket and pressuring the defense. Unfortunately, the few times he did get to the rim he missed easy ones.
*DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams were both very good on the offensive end. After starting a little fast, AJ settled down and hit huge three pointers. DJ is quicker than he looks and really uses angles well to beat his man off the dribble. I can't wait to see him develop even more.
*Matt Hill played well in relief of Connor Atchley. Connor picked up three quick fouls and sat for most of the first half. Hill was active on the glass, especially on the offensive end. He converted two of his five offensive boards into easy points. Hill also started the second half. The clock is running on Atchley's starting position. He is too slow on defense and not physical enough on either end to be a consistent rebounding presence. He will be helpful in spots but is a liability as a starter.
*This is a very young team. For the first time all season, Barnes had five freshmen on the floor together for a few minutes when AJ took a breather. They simply haven't played a lot of basketball together. Tonight was a real learning experience against a physical and well coached ball club. Basically, Michigan State attacked the offensive glass and made one more shot down the stretch than we did. In our first two games, Texas shot close to 50% from the floor. Tonight we shot only 35%. Unlike in football, an early season loss to an unranked opponent is not devastating. In fact, this type of game will hopefully yield huge dividends down the road. Texas came close by forcing countless Spartan turnovers and by riding the hot hands of Durant (first half only) and Abrams but couldn't close it out. Too many second chance opportunities for Michigan State and too many missed easy ones for the Horns. I repeat, this is a game that we should have won. With continued improvement on the glass, this is a game that we will win in the future.
Next Game (Consolation): Friday vs. St. John's 6 PM CST (ESPN2)