Continuing with thoughts on Texas' 73-41 win over Western Carolina.
- Foul control. [Grade: A] Texas went inside to Pittman on its first two possessions, one resulting in a made basket, the other in a foul by Richie Gordon. By halftime, Gordon had picked up two more fouls, while Big Sexy had drawn just a single foul. Of course, by halftime it was also apparent it wouldn't have mattered much if it had been otherwise, but hey, it's good seeing Dexy play with good body control.
- Guard composure. [Grade: C] Texas' guards seemed to maintain a roughly 1:1 ratio of good to bad offensive possessions, finishing the night with 20 turnovers, struggling at times with the length of WCU's guards.
- Don't settle. [Grade: B-] Post entry remains an issue for most of the guards, although Rick said in the post-game that the team focused exclusively on defense after the UC-Irvine game, prompting him to say he wasn't surprised by the sloppy offensive showing.
Damion James [29 mins, 4-9 FG / 2-3 3P / 8-10 FT, 18 PT, 7 REB (2 OR), 2 AST, 3 TO, 1 STL, 1 BLK]
Another very solid night for James, who is back where he should be -- near the rim for most of the game. He's playing strong on the interior and, outside a couple missed lay ups, giving Texas exactly what we need from him. I absolutely love the way we're looking for him on alley-oops. His hands and dribble still present some limitations, but those have greater implications for his future at the next level. If he's hitting 20-foot jumpers as he has been so far early on, he becomes an even more valuable asset than he already is.
Dexter Pittman [17 mins, 4-6 FG / 0-0 3P / 1-4 FT, 9 PT, 6 REB (2 OR), 0 AST, 1 TO, 0 STL, 0 BLK]
This was a tough game for Pittman, through no fault of his own. As mentioned above, the team apparently spent little to no time working on offense leading up to the game, and it showed. Once Texas got a comfortable lead and it became clear the frenetic style wasn't going to provide much for Pittman, Barnes mostly rested him. Fine by me.
J'Covan Brown [21 mins, 3-3 FG / 2-2 3P / 2-2 FT, 10 PT, 3 REB (0 OR), 3 AST, 6 TO, 0 STL, 0 BLK]
My oh my does he have a smooth scorer's stroke. Playing much more calmly last night, he was mostly solid, with two beautiful post feeds that suggest he can be more than a scorer only point. The turnover rate will probably remain high throughout the year, but Texas will live with them if he's adding 3-4 dimes a game to go with the 10-15 points he looks capable of contributing. We're so deep he may not get the chance, but he's capable of filling it up for 25 on a hot night.
Justin Mason [23 mins, 0-1 FG / 0-0 3P / 0-0 FT, 0 PT, 4 REB (0 OR), 1 AST, 2 TO, 0 STL, 0 BLK]
No, that stat line is not pulled from a box score from last year. Mason's defense remains solid, but it's not special. As Hamilton and Bradley bring their games along, it's just going to be impossible to justify 20-25 minutes a game for Mason. He's a great kid and a terrific warrior, but the mostly empty stat lines are more the norm than exception.
Varez Ward [25 mins, 4-6 FG / 0-1 3P / 2-6 FT, 10 PT, 2 REB (1 OR), 0 AST, 1 TO, 3 STL, 0 BLK]
It's nice seeing Ward come into his own on the offensive end of the floor, where he's learning to put his superior toughness and athleticism to use in getting to the rim as a scorer. He can score 10 points a game all year if he starts to hit his free throws. That said, he's still raw and at times seems uncertain running the halfcourt offense. I like what he adds, though, and think he'll continue to progress throughout the year. He's a big asset against some of the longer, athletic teams we'll have to beat to achieve our goals.
Gary Johnson [19 mins, 4-4 FG / 0-0 3P / 2-3 FT, 10 PT, 7 REB (2 OR), 0 AST, 1 TO, 0 STL, 1 BLK]
It was Gary's best game in a while, turning in exactly the kind of performance we need from him -- some aggressive offensive play in the block, strong rebounding, and quality, physical defense. Without any creators last year, Gary struggled trying to get it on his own; it'll come to him this year, and if he stays within himself and ready, he'll get his.
Jordan Hamilton [14 mins, 2-7 FG / 1-5 3P / 0-0 FT, 5 PT, 6 REB (1 OR), 0 AST, 1 TO, 0 STL, 1 BLK]
He's settling offensively right now, but I've seen enough of him with the ball in his hands to see whats ahead for him. Now having seen him for two full games, he's got better handles than I anticipated and while he needs to add upper body strength for his game to get where it's eventually going to go, he can pick up points near the rim right now. He's quick, fluid, and lonnnnnng. I'd love to see him start working his offensive game inside-out, and when he's mismatched against a shorter guard, we can iso for him. Defensively, he's trying, which is good, but you can see he's having to concentrate -- this is more than he's used to.
Dogus Balbay [20 mins 0-3-6 FG / 0-0 3P / 1-2 FT, 1 PT, 4 REB (0 OR), 3 AST, 3 TO, 0 STL, 1 BLK]
The Dogus has sort of become for me what Chris Ogbonnaya once was: an important contributor who most underrate and I love a little too much. I'm fine with that, and his game will prove us both right, at varying times. If he were just a little bit better with being decisive as a creator on offense, he'd be a true force, but as is, he's our best on-ball defender, and an uncanny blur with the ball in his hands. His limitations with being decisive and translating his skills into buckets will keep him from being a guy that demands 30+ minutes a game, but I don't see him getting any less than 20, and he's a critical player for us, especially in the early going while the freshmen get up to speed.
Alexis Wangmene [11 mins, 1-2 FG / 0-0 3P / 2-2 FT, 4 PT, 4 REB (1 OR), 0 AST, 0 TO, 0 STL, 1 BLK]
The theme continues: he's got so much room to improve within this season. The strength and length are exceptional, but he's choppy and uncertain out there right now. He's just getting back into the flow of full-speed, full-contact basketball, and once he fully acclimates, he'll be a terrific 15 minute per game complement to Big Sexy.
Avery Bradley [17 mins, 2-4 FG / 0-1 3P / 0-2 FT, 4 PT, 0 REB (0 OR), 1 AST, 1 TO, 2 STL, 0 BLK]
From the pre-season roundtable: "I've developed quite a habit of scavenging rabidly for online videos of AB and the three things that stood out that elevated my excitement from enthusiastic to out-of-control were: (1) the quality, but even more than that the intensity, of his defense; (2) what Jay Bilas might call Rise-a-bility or Hop-tuitive-ness - an explosiveness in his leaping that allows him to finish 50% more buckets than any mortal his size would; and (3) his competitiveness and eagerness to seek out, and conquer, challenges."
As is true for this team for a whole... we haven't seen anything yet...