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Texas Basketball Report 5.3: Taking Down Temple

Assuming we don't win in Chapel Hill on Wednesday night, Texas' 77-65 win over Temple on Saturday was critical to the Longhorns' NCAA Tournament resume. Particularly if Texas were to finish with a 9-9 conference record, without that win it would be awfully difficult to feel good about our chances on Selection Sunday. (By the way, since I wrote about the strength of the Big 12 this year a couple weeks ago, the conference has raised its profile considerably. The conference now has an average KenPom rating of .8265, up from .8131, picking up quality wins from Kansas (over Long Beach State and Ohio State), Missouri (Villanova), Baylor (BYU), Texas (Temple), Kansas State (Alabama), and Oklahoma State (Missouri State).)

It didn't look particularly promising in the early going on Saturday, as Texas quickly fell behind by 8 and trailed by 3 at intermission. But Texas dominated the second half 46-31 and held a double-digit lead for the last 8:24 of the game. Let's take a look at the individual performances against Temple and what Rick Barnes and Texas did differently in the second half to take command of the game.

J'Covan Brown -- 38 minutes, 23 points (10-21, 2-9 3PFG, 1-2 FTs), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 turnovers

I'm fine with J'Covan shooting threes within the offense, even while he's cold as he currently is -- his stroke will come back, and he should keep taking open jumpers -- but a large part of what got us going in the second half was when JCB started using his crafty old man game to score around the rim. He's not a pure shooting guard who has to live and die with his ability to stroke it from the outside, and he responded really well to our adjustment to play the high-low game with Clint Chapman and Brown posting up.

Myck Kabongo -- 32 minutes, 18 points (5-10, 0-2 3PFG, 8-14 FTs), 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers

Kabongo once again followed up a forgettable first half with an absolutely stellar twenty minutes, completely breaking down Temple's defense, getting to the rim, and racking up free throw attempts. He needs to start making more of those, by the way -- take your time already, Myck, there's no rush -- but there aren't many players in college basketball who are better at drawing fouls on the opponent. First of all, he's got that thing he does with his head -- The Whinney, as I've begun fondly referring to it -- and while there's definitely a little bit of Manu Ginobli/FIFA action going on, he's also just ridiculously difficult to stay in front of. And when he takes it to the rim and instigates contact, he's going to get those calls all day. More, more, more, Myck. And don't wait until the second half to start.

Sheldon McClellan -- 32 minutes, 6 points (1-5, 0-3 3PFG, 4-6 FTs), 8 rebounds, 1 steal

I noted in last week's TBR that (1) McClellan needed to play more minutes and that those minutes should come from Lewis, and (2) that the one area where I thought he could improve was on the glass. McClellan didn't start, but he played 32 minutes to Lewis' 12, and he had by far his best game as a rebounder, helping us absolutely own the defensive glass. The guy can absolutely fly and there's no reason he can't continue that kind of production rebounding. As for his offensive game, he still has so much to learn that it's going to be a while yet before the consistency comes, but if he can involve himself around the rim, both as a rebounder and offensive attacker, he'll rack up rebounds and get to the line.

This is a good point to note that all three of the above guards did a much better job in the second half of defending Temple's penetration, as big a factor in our second half turnaround as anything else. Once we started closing out three point shooters without bailing on body position to defend penetration, Temple became one dimensional, and their points in the paint all but dried up.

Clint Chapman -- 27 minutes, 7 points (2-5, 0-1 3PFG, 3-5 FTs), 13 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 2 blocks

Rick noted in the post-game that Chappy's performance against Temple was his best as a Longhorn, and there's no question about it. The senior was a force on both ends of the floor, contributing rebounding, passing, defense, and a little bit of scoring, and he was in many ways the defining player of the second half. He took charges, blocked shots, played the high post to deliver entry passes, and was even our second pass on our press break when Temple went to full court pressure. Really smart adjustment by Barnes to have Chapman serve as our passer, putting his height and skill to productive use. Now we just need this kind of production from Chappy against stiffer competition; the Owls are an even smaller team than us, and the Tar Heels and Big 12 in general will provide much tougher tests.

Jaylen Bond -- 22 minutes, 12 points (6-7, 0-1 3PFG), 8 rebounds, 2 turnovers, 1 steal

Other than an ill-advised (and air-balled) three pointer, Bond was fantastic on Saturday, doing excellent work on the glass and -- critically -- continuing to show an ability to put the ball in the bucket when he gets it near the rim. Bond played the final 8:11 of the first half, and 11 straight minutes in the second half until Barnes started subbing him offense/defense with Jonathan Holmes down the stretch. He's not quite as good a defender as Alexis Wangmene, but he's the superior rebounder, scorer, and open court player and there's no doubt that he's going to keep playing more and more minutes. Those strong hands and his excellent touch around the rim are hugely valuable and I think he can average 10 points and 8 boards the rest of the way for us. Big time development.

Jonathan Holmes -- 19 minutes, 7 points (1-3, 5-6 FTs), 6 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 steal

Holmes had a quiet-ish afternoon, but played solidly and, most importantly, continues to show development as a rebounder. I literally jumped out of my seat and pumped my fist on one defensive rebound -- not that it was a particularly huge moment, but because it was just such a man's rebound. He's learning to play strong. He also keeps the ball up over his head and doesn't bring it down to dribble, which is a habit even a lot of professional players can't seem to kick. The one area of concern remains fouls, and again, it's the needless fouls that he's got to eliminate. Fouls playing legit defense are fine and will diminish with time and experience, but he's too important a player that we can't afford for him to pick up fouls on mental errors, which about half of his whistles are.

Julien Lewis -- 12 minutes, 2 points (0-1, 0-1 3PFG, 2-2 FTs), 3 rebounds, 1 turnover

There's nothing to dislike about Lewis's game or his development, and he's going to be a terrific source of multi-year value for us, but I like him more as a strong guard we can bring off the bench, especially in his early development, and when we have a more versatile option in McClellan.

Alexis Wangmene -- 12 minutes, 0 points (0-2), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 block

The senior has done a great job for us providing that solid amount of value that we need, but his limitations are unmistakble, and where we can get more from someone else -- i.e. Jaylen Bond -- that's even better. Lexi can give us solid minutes of defense and rebounding, but you just cannot run any offense through him and his bad hands make him a bad bet to score if there's any resistance.

Sterling Gibbs -- 6 minutes, 2 points (1-2)

He's settling in nicely into his limited back up role, right about where I'd like him to be. Ideally you'd redshirt a player like Gibbs, but he's doing much better in his minutes. Although he's not a good shooter, he's a remarkably adept scorer, and he should develop into a solid little bench player for us by the time he's a junior.

Rick Barnes

Finally, this review wouldn't be complete without a tip of the cap to Rick Barnes, who had a fanstatic game in terms of in-game adjustments. Fran Dunphy is an excellent coach -- Penn consistently won the Ivy League with Dunphy and has dropped off since -- and Temple came out with a very good game plan for us. We struggled with it in the first half, and I feel confident in saying that had we not made some pretty substantial adjustments Saturday's game goes down to the wire, and we easily could have lost. Credit Rick Barnes and his staff, though, with making those adjustments. To name a few of the most important: (1) We went to the UCLA high post offense with Chapman and J'Covan, taking advantage of Chappy's height and Brown's savvy inside game. Chappy needs to be a little quicker/more decisive in that role, but he was infinitely better than Wangmene -- when he catches the ball in the high post the offense just stops. (2) I also liked the way Barnes used Chapman on the press break, similarly taking advantage of his height and skill to distribute the second pass on the break. (3) Barnes identified the effectiveness of the line up of JCB, Kabongo, McClellan, Bond, and Chappy and went with it all the way, and didn't get cute with over-substitutions or teaching lessons on mistakes with a trip to the bench. (4) The defensive adjustment we made in how we defended their high screen game and closing out on shooters was essential to our turnaround. (5) We did a much better job in the second half of setting up our own high screen game for Myck and J'Covan, and instructing them to penetrate, to great results.

All in all this was a deeply satisfying win. We're young and inconsistent, and as we saw in the first half our kids are still learning how to play against top-caliber athletes, but we continue to improve and at our current trajectory this team is a good bet to accomplish enough to earn a bid to the Dance. The competition only gets tougher from here on out, but so far so good. This is a really, really fun and interesting team to watch.

Hook 'em