Some of you may have missed the Horns overtime loss to Tennessee due to last minute Christmas shopping, travel, or sleep. Those of us who watched it were treated to a very good but extremely frustrating basketball game. Texas led by 15 at the half but quickly watched that lead dwindle because of turnovers. They finally relinquished the lead because of poor shot selection and some deep heroics by Tennessee' Chris Lofton. The overtime period wasn't even close as the Vols scored points on every possession.
Texas missed a major opportunity to strengthen the resume with a road out of conference win over an NCAA tournament bound team. So far, the win over LSU on a neutral court in Houston stands as our signature win. The Arkansas win was a solid one as well but it came at home. Coming out of the loss, some questions and frustrations surfaced concerning strategy, coaching moves, depth, etc. Here is the first ever BON basketball Q & A.
DJ Augustin had trouble all game inbounding the ball. Why did Coach Barnes not change strategies when it became apparent the 5'10" Augustin couldn't see the court well enough to make an effective pass?
Obviously we had difficulty in the second half handling the Tennessee pressure. The Horns were called for at least two 5 second calls with the last one coming with just seconds left in regulation and a chance to win. Texas also had multiple inbounds passes stolen. For the game, Texas committed 11 turnovers, seven of which were by Augustin. You expect your point guard to have a few turnovers because he plays so many minutes and handles the ball so often. But seven was a season high for DJ.
I have no problem with Augustin throwing the ball in against the press after a made basket. He is our best passer, can run the baseline, and can easily get the ball back to attack the pressure. It is important to note that very few teams apply as much pressure as Tennessee does after made baskets. The experience is Knoxville was a difficult one and one hopefully filled with lessons learned, but not one we are going to see the rest of the season.
I -do- have a problem with Augustin throwing the ball in on a sideline or baseline out of bounds play. I recognize that is our best passer but the inability to move combined with his height is too much to overcome. Plus he is also skilled at losing his man and providing an easy pass for a teammate. I expect to see Justin Mason or even Durant take over duties on baseline out of bounds plays and on sideline out of bounds plays against pressure.
AJ Abrams and Augustin are both under 6'. With both of them on the floor our defense is extremely small and our rebounding difficulties are compounded. Is it time for a bigger starting lineup with Augustin, Mason, Kevin Durant, Damion James, and a platoon at center? Abrams could provide a much needed scoring spark from the bench.
This is an interesting idea but I'm not quite sold yet. Abrams' ability to consistently nail the outside jumper doesn't allow defenders to help on drives by Mason or Augustin. Without Abrams on the floor, the lanes DJ is exploiting now will start to close faster. He also won't have a reliable three point shooter to kick the ball to after the D collapses.
As far as rebounding, Texas isn't as bad as they appear. In overall rebounds, Texas is actually second in the country. The Horns have also only been outrebounded three times in their first 11 games. Not bad considering we start three players under 6'2". If rebounding and team defense get worse during conference play and Connor Atchley, Matt Hill, and Dexter Pittman continue to progress, then going to a bigger starting lineup will be worth a second look.
Both Arkansas and Tennessee ran baseline out of bounds plays to get easy looks at the basket. Our defense looked horrible and never seemed to adjust. Why?
Our team defense this season has actually been very good considering the number of newcomers. But you are right; our defense on out of bounds plays as been atrocious recently. Texas always switches to a 2-3 zone on such plays even if they were in a man defense before the stoppage in play. Our defense on these plays has looked a lot like the Texas secondary with Durant playing the role of Michael Griffin. Durant repeatedly tried to cover too much ground against Arkansas (ala run support). It didn't look like he trusted Atchley or Hill or Pittman to defend underneath the basket, so he quickly helped out near the rim. He got sucked in close to the basket and Patrick Beverley easily got free for three pointers from the baseline. Our interior defense must tighten up without the help from the wing defenders. Otherwise, you are going to continue to see wide open looks as all five Texas defenders clog the lane. Basically everyone needs to play their role and not try to cover the entire floor.
Damion James was a Parade All American and Mr. Basketball in the state of Texas as a high school senior. Why does he look so bad on offense and will his hands ever soften?
James hasn't been the offensive machine we expected and his hands do look like James Thomas' on a bad night. However, it doesn't matter as long as plays solid defense, rebounds, and stays out of foul trouble. Damion is the fifth option on the offense. All four other starters are averaging double digits in points. Simply put, we don't need James to score to be successful. We do need him to rebound though. Remember he is only 6'7", but he is being asked to play power forward and rebound against taller players. Thankfully, James is a freak of an athlete and is coming on strong lately. He is averaging 11 rpg over the last four games. His hands will soften too. No worries here.