What a ridiculous game. Just ridiculous. Texas barely showed up for the first half, bricking and lolly-gagging their way to an 18 point halftime deficit. Us fans were about ready to mail it in and start the rationalization for such a shoddy performance, but the guys did the gut check thing at half time. They really did. From the first play of the second half, Texas showed a determination to win the game with improved defense and hustle.
Amazingly, it worked. I say 'amazingly' because it took a -lot- of effort, a -lot- of determination, a total reversal of performance from Kevin Durant, and an out-of-nowhere stunner of a game from Craig Winder.
I'll just offer a few scattered thoughts before I return to celebrating:
- I've been advocating that the guard bench minutes go to Winder over Lewis for at least six weeks now. Tonight showed why you give the minutes to a guy like Winder over a guy like Lewis. While I'm sure J.D.'s a terrific kid (and maybe even a pretty solid practice player), he's a zero in the games - totally unable to have a breakout game like the one we got from Craig tonight. A huge congratulations are in order for Winder's enormous second half showing. Enjoy it, sir. You're our lone senior, and you made the burnt orange faithful proud tonight. Craig: thank you.
- Connor Atchley continues to slump - at least in my book. I couldn't care less if Connor actually scores, but I -do- insist that he "play big" on the interior. He was blasted around the block by the Baylor frontcourt again. Rick's got to find a way to challenge Connor to be big, bad, and physical. That's really all we need from him. And the rest will take care of itself if he can at least do that much.
- Tough, tough game for DJ, but he was there to make the big shot at the end. Texas did a much better job in the second half of going away from random DJ drives to the basket which weren't there, instead running the offense through Durant in the post. Great adjustment by Barnes at the half.
- That KD battled through an 0-11 start to finish with 29 points and 13 rebounds is almost beyond description. As uncomfortable as he was in the first half, I thought he might just be doomed for a lousy evening at the Ford Center. Not so: KD was as impressive in the second half as he was lousy in the first. And really, it all started with his defense, which he amped up as a challenge to himself and his teammates. Durant's leadership tonight was the stuff of champions. It's simply impossible not to love this guy.
- On that note, I'm checking out for the night. We'll break out into full coverage again tomorrow morning, but my day of hoops is finally coming to an end. Tomorrow should be even more fun than today. . . if you can imagine.