I couldn't be a whole lot happier with this win. The Longhorns (22-6, 8-5) were hardly perfect, but they were consistently very good, they were poised, and best of all, they appeared both prepared and focused. We haven't had much positive to talk about the past six weeks; tonight, there's reason to applaud this team, and Rick Barnes. Quick-react bullets:
- My game ball goes to Gary Johnson. His team defense set the tone and was a huge reason James Anderson was stuffed, start to finish. You can't stop Anderson with one guy; you need a team effort, and no one played that role better than Johnson. Add in his effort as a rebounder, and solid, opportunistic offense, and he's my MVP for the night.
- I single out Gary, but his approach was one we saw from player to player, just about across the board. This was the most cohesive we've looked as a team in months. Literally.
- Jordan Hamilton's not a rookie anymore. What a fantastic game he played. He looks relaxed and poised, and with it we're seeing that he does, in fact, have all-around game. I know it was hard to see for the first half of the season, but he's been building towards this for weeks. If you're still a Jordan pessimist, now's the time to let it go.
- His stat line won't be anything glorious, but Justin Mason gave us great minutes tonight. He did enough little things on offense to be the player I talked about on Monday, and he was just superb on defense -- his best effort in years, probably. Huge.
- All three of the seniors were huge, really. Damion was a force on offense in the first half, and a brilliant defender throughout the game. The job he and Johnson did slowing down Muonelo after the fast start was something to behold. As for Dexter Pittman, that second half was just... (oh man it's been too long) SEXY...
- J'Covan Brown's thinking out there, instead of playing, and it's hurting him. He was pretty bad for most of the night, and you could see that he was thinking about not being bad instead of just playing basketball. He's a good shooter lost in the wilderness right now. If I'm Rick Barnes, I give J'Covan one of Brown's patented ass-slaps, tell him it's all good, and to keep at it. He might have wanted to be good a little too much tonight.
- As poorly as I've thought Rick Barnes has handled much of this season, this was the most encouraging game we've seen since December. Texas didn't just win because it had the superior talent; it won because it played Oklahoma State the right way. We were clearly prepared well for this game, and we executed -- especially defensively -- a strong plan of attack. The team looked hungry for a win, but never frantic and out of control. If there's a glaring "need to improve" takeaway, it'd be our zone offense, but hey, you can only do so much at once, and we clearly worked hard on our team defense and our offensive approach against man sets.
- I've got a big day at the Combine tomorrow, so that's it from me. Wiggo or txtwstr may jump in with a game review later, but for now, this is your celebration thread.
NEXT GAME: at Texas A&M (19-8, 8-5) -- Saturday, February 27th 1 pm ESPN