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Longhorns Sloppy After Week Off

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Game Recap: In front of a season high 8,533 fans, the Longhorns (10-0) outlasted the Texas State Bobcats, 96-81, in what was the least impressive overall performance of the year. While some of the credit has to go the way of the Bobcats, the reason this wasn’t a 30 point win has more to do with execution failures and intensity lapses by the Horns than anything else.

Texas started the game with back to back to back turnovers, and the sharpness didn’t improve much from there. Throughout the first half, Texas was sloppy with the ball, extremely lazy on man-to-man defense, and generally not intense. Texas State repeatedly attacked the rim off the dribble and scored easily in the paint.

The Horns also allowed the full-court pressure of Texas State to disrupt their offense. Too often, Texas took shots without DJ Augustin even touching the ball after the Horns crossed half court. Texas State was allowing DJ to make the catch on the inbounds but then immediately doubling him and forcing him to pass back to Connor Atchley or Damion James. The Texas State defender then did a nice job of essentially face-guarding DJ for the remainder of the offensive possession. The strategy was clear and effective in the first half as Texas struggled to a 42-40 halftime lead.

The second half wasn’t much more impressive. While Augustin became more involved with the offense, the Horns still failed to knock down open jumpers or defend the dribble drive or the post.  While Texas did build a 21 points lead with just over seven minutes to go, the defensive intensity still wasn’t there. Texas State used a 12-2 run over the next three minutes to trim the lead back to just 11 points. The clock eventually ran out with Texas holding onto a 15 point lead.

The outcome was: Somewhat Disappointing. While the Horns did win by double digits and improve to 10-0, this game wasn’t about the outcome, but more about execution. The execution on both ends was below average. Ken Pomeroy’s game plan numbers rate the Horns’ offensive efficiency as the second lowest of the season; only in the UCLA game was the Longhorn offense less efficient.

Texas allowed the frantic full-court defense to effect their shot selection in the first half. In the first twenty minutes, Texas shot 40% from the floor and just 3-of-12 from three. The execution in the second half was better as Texas put up 54 points (22 of which were FTs) and shot 52% from the floor. Simply put, Texas forced some shots, had some others rattle out, and survived horrible shooting performances by Damion James and Justin Mason, but still scored 96 points. However, the offense was not the biggest problem. I’ll get to the defense below in the Defensive MVP section.

The Offensive MVP was: Connor Atchley Look at this line: 26 points (9/11 shooting, 4/5 from three), 10 rebounds, three steals, one assist, one block, and just one turnover in 37 minutes. Connor was, without a doubt, the best player on the court on Saturday afternoon. He did a great job stretching the defense with his jump shot off the pick-and-pop, rebounded effectively, and played with poise and intensity throughout. If the other Longhorns starters had played with the same energy, the game would have been over by halftime. As PB mentioned, there isn’t enough praise for the work done by Connor himself and by the Texas coaching staff with him over the last three years. Who would have ever thought that with James, Mason and DJ off their games and AJ forcing shots, that the offense would run effectively through Atchley. The transformation is truly remarkable.

The Defensive MVP was: No One. Truly, no Longhorn deserves this award. Texas State shot over 40% for the game, nearly 35% from three, and secured 13 offensive rebounds. The Bobcats stretched the court in the half-court by putting four players outside the arc and just a single player in the lane. They either pounded the ball inside for easy looks or easily drove past the Texas defenders and into the unclogged lane for easy finishes. While the Texas defense has been a question mark all year, this was the worst performance to date. The Longhorns didn’t move their feet laterally, didn’t forced turnovers, were slow to loose balls, and overall looked like a team that was going through the motions of defense and couldn’t wait to get the ball back on offense.

Just like we learned over the past four months with the football team, it doesn’t matter how effective you are on offense if your defense never gets stops.

The Freshman Evaluation tonight was: Hit or Miss. Clint Chapman was both impressive and mind boggling. While he did scored seven points, grab five rebounds, and block two shots in 12 minutes of play, he also fouled out. Yeah, that’s right, five fouls in about a quarter of the entire game. Chap used his long arms effectively on the glass and was even able to put back an offensive rebound by going strong to the basket instead of shooting a fade-away jumper. However, he tried to block just about every shot around him and continually lowered his arms, which resulted in consistent whistles. Chap will be able to stay eligible longer when he keeps his hands straight up on defense.

Alexis Wangmene played just seven minutes. He was in the game briefly in the first half but sat for most of the second half. To be honest, I didn’t see him do anything exceptionally well or strikingly horrible.

Dexter Pittman Watch: 4 minutes, 0 points (/1), 0 rebounds, 1 foul.  This was not a game for Sexy Dex. The pace was too fast and Texas State was spreading the floor way too much. At this point, Dex is still not able to run the floor well or defend in space. Coach Barnes smartly left Dex on the bench.

Three Things: (1) Justin Mason’s jumper is MIA. Justin was just 2-of-8 from the floor and 0-for-3 from three in this one, and he had open looks. As defenses collapse, defenders are correctly leaving Mason not AJ Abrams open for jump shots. Unfortunately, Mason isn’t knocking them down. He looked to be fading away slightly on a few of them, something I’m sure the coaches noticed as well. For the season, Mason is shooting 45% from the floor and just 29% from three. While the overall field goal percentage is respectable, a lot of his makes are coming on drives and layups. His pure jump shot percentage is much lower. Unless Mason is able to make the open jumper more consistently, defenses will play further and further away from him on the perimeter and cheat toward more and more DJ’s dribble drive.

(2) Taking DJ out of the game. Texas State employed a strategy that I expect teams to copy throughout the rest of the season. The Bobcats tried to play 4-on-4 essentially. As mentioned above, they let DJ catch the ball 90 feet from the basket but immediately make him give it up by sending the double team. After that, the sole job of DJ’s defender was to prevent him from getting the ball back. This worked well in the first half and predictably the Texas offense sputtered. Augustin was more aggressive in the second half, and Texas outscored Texas State by 13 points. For this offense to function properly, DJ has to have the ball. It will be extremely important for Texas to do whatever it takes for this to occur.

(3) Another step-up in competition. The last three Texas opponents have been total cupcakes. Four of the next five should be in the NCAA tournament. Yeah, it’s only December and conference season is still a few weeks away, but how well the Horns fair over the next five games will go a long way toward determining if Texas receives a protected seed in the NCAA tournament.

Box Score

NEXT GAME: Home vs. Oral Roberts – Tuesday 12/18 5:30 p.m.