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Texas Basketball: Horns Coast Past Sooners

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The Texas Longhorns pulled away from the Oklahoma Sooners early in the second half and cruised to a 66-46 victory. For the second straight conference game, the Texas opponent was clearly overmatched.

On Tuesday night, Texas dominated the Red Raiders from start to finish and on both ends of the floor. This afternoon's contest was a bit different. The Longhorns allowed OU to dictate tempo for the first 20 minutes and only led 27-19 at the break. In the first half, Texas failed to attack the rim and shot just a single free throw. The Longhorns were also sloppy with the basketball, turning it over six times in a low possession game.

The second half was much better, though. The ‘Horns created tempo with pressure defense and were more active attacking the basket off the dribble and in the low post. Texas shot 20 free throws in the second half and won the half, 39-27.

Texas was led by Jordan Hamilton's 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting (5-of-8 from three) and six boards. The balanced scoring continued with Tristan Thompson, 15 points and eight boards, Gary Johnson 14 points and five rebounds, and Cory Joseph, 12 points and five boards.

Texas handily outpaced the Sooners 10-2 in fast break points and 13-4 in points off turnovers. Much of those advantages were earned in the second half. On the flip side, Texas did not dominate the glass like they have this season. Texas outrebounded OU just 33-32 and gave up 10 offensive rebounds to the Sooners. OU actually outscored Texas 13-6 in second chance points.

If Texas had sank a few more free throws or given up fewer offensive rebounds, the margin of victory could have easily approached the 31 points of Tuesday night.

A few things that I really liked:

  • Dogus Balbay was an incredible energy boost to start the second half. His defense was the biggest catalyst for the tempo change from the first half to the second. In fact, Dogus actually stole the OU's second half inbounds play. Balbay finished with four points, two steals, and two assists in just 16 minutes of action. Doge also frustrated Carl Blair of OU and consistently made it difficult to even pass the ball to the wing during OU's offensive sets. While Doge's minutes are down some from last year, his impact is huge when he is in the game.
  • I've already touched on this in the brief summary, but Texas fed the post, low and high, in a big way in the second half. Thompson had some nice moves in the half court after catching the ball in deep low post position, while Gary got his high elbow jumper working to further create space for TT.
  • Jordan Hamilton had another solid game almost caused Jeff Capel to lose it with his two three-pointers to start the second. During halftime, OU had clearly talked about playing a zone defense while also sticking closely to Hamilton. So, OU starts the second half in a zone and Hamilton promptly nails two threes in the first minute and a half. Capel called a quick timeout and could only shake his head at his team's execution.
  • The Texas defense on Cade Davis. OU's leading scored just five points in 31 minutes before fouling out. A nod goes to Gary Johnson first, but to the entire team for shutting down OU's only real chance to make this game close.
  • Texas three-point defense. Adding OU's 1-for-15 performance from behind the arc to Texas Tech's 0-for-11 mark on Tuesday night, the Longhorns have now held Big 12 opponents to an astounding 1-for-26 (4%) from deep.

A few things that I didn't like:

  • OU, and in particular Andrew Fitzgerald, picked on Matt Hill. Even with his limited athleticism, the Texas post is usually better at using his body and position to play good post defense. This afternoon, though, Matt got bounced around and looked a step slow. I still contend that Hill is a better option than Alexis Wangmene, whose lack of basketball IQ and rock hands never cease to amaze me. However, Hill has to be more solid on the defensive end for Texas to be great.
  • Tempo in the first half. The Longhorns allowed the game to be played much too slowly. Even as improved as the Texas half court offense is, this team needs to score in transition to be really efficient.
  • Free throws. Brick. Texas went a middle-schoolesque 52% (11-for-22) from the foul stripe. Much of this falls on Thompson, who went 5-of-10, Tristan can make free throws and usually does make one-of-two. However, every free throw by Thompson is different. Sometimes he shoots the ball with the appropriate arc, and sometimes he doesn't. One time he'll bend his knees and shoots the ball off his toes and the next time, he won't. And so on. His execution must become more consistent for him to improve as a free throw shooter. Somewhere down the line, a game will be close in the final minute or two and Barnes will have to decide if TT can stay on the floor.

Texas is now predictably 2-0 in Big 12 play. The Longhorns were given a nice break by conference schedulers by drawing Texas Tech and OU to start conference play. The next five games are anything but nice and easy, and will show if Texas will contend with Kansas for the conference title or with a host of other teams for third and fourth places and a first round bye in the Big 12 tournament.

The ‘Horns next five are vs. A&M (16-1 and winners of 13 straight), at Kansas (17-0 and riding a 69 game home court winning streak), at Oklahoma State (13-4 and Stillwater is never easy), vs. Missouri (15-3), and at A&M (where Texas hasn't won since 2004).

Winning both home games in this stretch is a must, as is stealing at least one of the three road tilts. 5-0 is unthinkable. 4-1 would position Texas as the second best team in the conference. 3-2 is the goal. 2-3 is more probable. 1-4 would be painful. 0-5 would put us on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble.

Next Game: vs. Texas A&M  -- Wednesday, January 19th  8 pm   ESPN2