We'll forego the usual recap and just dive into the meat of the analysis. There are no MVPs when you lose by 17 points.
1. Don't overdo the panic. Texas lost and lost badly, but it wasn't nearly as devastating as it seemed. Texas trailed 29-7 at the 10:00 mark in the first half. They hit their shots, we did not. We turned the ball over. They did not. We missed free throws. They hit eleventy three pointers. From that point forward, Texas outscored A&M 56-51.
I don't say point this out to suggest the "better team lost" or that the final 30 minutes were any more important than the first 10. I only note that the two teams are much more evenly matched than last night's final result suggests. Don't hang yourself over this one.
2. "Don't let Josh Carter get hot." That was one of yesterday's keys to the game, but Carter buried us in the first half. After missing his first three point attempt of the game, Carter went on to nail his next three in a row. He also hit on two free throws to score 8 points in about a five minute span, and it was his three point basket that put Texas in the 29-7 hole.
And that was that. Credit Texas A&M for pounding the ball inside early; not only that, but converting those looks in the paint. Connor got absolutely muscled around and Damion James was just plain outsized. Once Texas began collapsing with help defense, the Aggies had plenty of easy looks from the outside. Once more, the three point shot destroys Texas.
3. AJ Abrams should not play 39 minutes against a team that big and physical. What's the point? He can't create his own look. We're not good at creating great open shots for him. He's a zero on the glass. And a liability on defense.
I don't want to be too harsh on Abrams, because he can be a solid player, but there are games and teams against which he's clearly ineffective. And it would really be nice if Rick would sit him when it appears we're in such a contest.
To be fair, we were down by 22 points so quickly that one can't blame Barnes too much for sticking with Abrams and hoping he got hot from the outside. At the same time, Abrams just isn't very effective against teams who can defend. He finished the game 3-13 overall, 2-7 from downtown. And only 2 rebounds in 39 minutes of action. Our lack of depth at guard is just killing us right now.
4. Bad shooting all around. AJ wasn't the only Longhorn missing shots last night. Though you have to credit A&M to some degree, Texas also missed open jumper after open jumper. Brick-brick-brick. With no defenders in our face. Augustin finished 6 of 18 (2-9 from downtown). Damion was 1-6. Connor only 3-8. Yuck.
5. Dexter Pittman's getting close. The big fella had 14 points, 7 rebounds, and a steal in just 14 minutes of action. He also had four fouls. Though he's still learning how to harness his body, he's playing with better control than at any time since he arrived. The big story of the second half of Texas' season might not be Gary Johnson, as we expected. It might be Dexter Pittman. He's really hard for opponents to deal with when he's playing basketball the officials can live with.
6. Adjustments going forward? The most unsettling thing about this Texas team right now is that there's no cure for the weakness which hurts us most: perimeter defense. We're a three guard team, and all three start. Seriously: what do you do?
Mason is a great defender, but he can't do it all. Augustin and Abrams are both midgets. And behind them there's... Lewis? Mooney? Harrison Smith? There just aren't any answers. I think the one thing Rick ought to think about trying more throughout the rest of the season is a lineup of DJ, Mason, Damion, Connor, and Pittman/Wang/Gary/Chap. That gives us size, rebounding, and an interesting offensive mix. I love AJ Abrams when he's shooting well and all, but playing two sub-six foot guards for 35-40 minutes a game is crippling this team.