Game Recap: Texas prevailed in a slow, half-court contest with Oral Roberts, 66-56, to improve to 11-0. Oral Roberts may not be a name team, but the Golden Eagles are a solid ball club that gave the #4 Longhorns all they could handle for forty minutes.
Texas was lucky to be tied at 33 at halftime after allowing Oral Roberts to control the pace, grab countless offensive rebounds, and connect for 11 second chance points. The Golden Eagles would have lead at the break if it wasn’t for their poor three-point shooting (2-of-12 in the first half). The Longhorns also assisted the upset effort by running their most stagnant half of offense since the second half of the UCLA game.
Give Coach Barnes and the Horns credit, though. The second half was a different story. Even though Oral Roberts was still able to dictate tempo and force the Horns into a half-court game, Texas still prevailed and outscored ORU 33-23 in the second half.
Texas was better on the glass in the second half and turned a -2 rebounding margin at the half into a +3 rebounding margin for the game. The Longhorns were better on defense as well. ORU shot an abysmal 31% from the floor after the break. Last, Texas moved better on offense and attacked the rim off the dribble. AJ Abrams got involved in the second half scoring on pull ups, curl moves, and runners, and DJ Augustin was able to get into the paint more often and finally iced the game at the free throw line.
The outcome was: As close as expected. I agree with Coach Barnes, Oral Roberts is an NCAA tournament team. They played solid half-court defense, completely took away transition opportunities, and were able to score effectively in the post. If Shawn King doesn’t get into foul trouble, the final score would have been even closer.
The Offensive MVP was: DJ Augustin...I guess This was far from a virtuoso performance from DJ but on a night when every Horn struggled from the floor, the nod goes DJ for attacking the rim, getting to the line, and finding a way to put the ball in the hole. Augustin led the Horns with 24 points but shot just 6-of-20 from the floor and forced some shots that he normally doesn’t take.
The Horns opened the second half on an 8-0 run and gained a lead they would never relinquish. ORU never gave up, though, and kept chipping away at the lead. But Augustin’s ability to create his own shot in the paint or get fouled and score at the line proved to be too much. Augustin was 11-of-12 on the night at the free throw line and shooting 82% for the year.
The Defensive MVP was: Justin Mason Texas wasn’t bad in the first half on defense, they just gave up too many offensive rebounds. I’m sure this was Barnes’ biggest beef with the first half. In the second half, the effort on the defensive glass changed and no Horn was more productive than Mason. Justin had seven defensive rebounds and ten rebounds overall. He also added two steals. Despite not getting his offensive game going again, Mason was still a valuable contributor. He did a nice job of staying in front of his man in the half court, helping his teammates from the weakside, and blocking out against bigger players. The offense will come, but if we can get this kind of defensive effort from Mason, Barnes will be pleased.
The Freshman Evaluation tonight was: A failing grade. Clint Chapman was the Horn that irked Coach Barnes tonight. After Clint scored on a nice turnaround jumper in the lane, he made an equally poor play on the defensive end. Chap didn’t box out and allowed his man an easy offensive rebound and layup. Barnes immediately pulled Chap from the game. He never returned. Some might say that one mistake shouldn’t banish a player for the rest of the night, and they are probably right. I would guess that Barnes intended to put Clint back in the game in the second half, but Texas was never able to pull away and Barnes stuck with his starters.
Wangmene played just a few more minutes but contributed even less. It is rare when you see all five starters play more than 35 minutes in a college basketball game, but that is what happened tonight. Barnes didn’t like what he saw from Chap and Wingman.
Dexter Pittman Watch: 5 minutes, 2 points (1/1), 1 rebound, 3 fouls. The low post move which resulted in a one-handed slam was impressive. The foul a minute ratio is not. I am rooting hard for Sexy Dex, I’m just not sure he is going to be able to contribute more than about 5-8 minutes per game this season. Give him another year with Todd Wright and Coach Barnes and it may be a different story, but right now he still can’t change ends quickly, is severely limited with his lateral movement, and simply can’t jump.
Three Things: (1) The Kevin Durant effect on offense is back. What do I mean? Well, the Durant effect is when four players fail to move in the half-court because the fifth starter is an elite player who can create his own shot on any possession. Last year that elite player was obviously Durant, while this year it’s Augustin. Texas must continue to move on offense and not just rely on DJ’s dribble drive. I’d love to get Damion James a touch in the post, see Mason slash from the wing, or see Connor slip his ball screen to the basket and get hit by DJ for a slam. The Horns did show better movement in the second half, but they have a long way to go.
(2) This team cannot be elite without Gary Johnson. That may be hard to believe considering the team is 11-0 and already has wins over two top-ten programs, but it’s true. When Connor drifts to the perimeter, Texas is essentially starting five guards. All five starters are tremendously talented offensively but a quality, elite team in college basketball must have a post presence, even a small one. Right now, Texas doesn’t and, in the long run, that will be their limiting factor. This point deserves its own post and it will have one. Just dream with me for a moment. With Gary, rebounding will improve on both ends, defensive intensity will rise, a low post scoring threat will emerge, and maybe, most importantly, all five starters will be able to rest for than just a few moments per game.
(3) The students are gone. The game tipped at 5:30 p.m. This is a difficult time for a working Austinites but not for students. I’d guess there were at least one hundred students in attendance. For those of you who don’t keep up with the college calendar, today was the last day of finals for UT students and a lot of them have already left town. It’s a shame that the Wisconsin home game falls smack in the middle of the semester break. Guess we’ll have to wait until Saturday January 26th when Coach Knight and Texas Tech visit before the Drum is a rockin’.
NEXT GAME: Road vs. #9 Michigan State (Auburn Hills) – Saturday 12/22 5:30 p.m. ESPN2