The Texas Longhorns fell to Northwestern tonight in Brooklyn, losing 77-58. Bryant McIntosh led all scorers with 20 points, and also logged five assists. Tevin Mack scored 18 points for Texas.
It was a game that both played out, and ended, strangely, with both Northwestern’s Vic Law and Tevin Mack being called for technical fouls right before time expired. It wasn’t the only chippy moment in the game, as earlier in the half James Banks was ejected for giving a little tap to a Wildcat in a scuffle going for a loose ball.
Northwestern beat Texas in every element of the game. The Wildcats shot 52 percent from two-point range and connected on 44 percent of their threes. Meanwhile, the Longhorns terrible shooting results — 19-51 from the field and 13-27 on free throws — and turnover troubles — Texas gave up the ball in 21 percent of its possessions — were symptoms of significant offensive problems.
Coach Chris Collins’ team didn’t have any problems, as Northwestern’s patient offense paid off all night. The Texas Longhorns switch nearly every ball screen, a fact that the Wildcats were well aware of. They ran ball screens to set up the match-up that they wanted, usually getting point guard Bryant McIntosh isolated on the perimeter with one of Texas’ big men. Then McIntosh would go to work, driving the big man off the dribble. Occasionally, the score didn’t come directly from McIntosh, but came from an offensive rebound after one of the Longhorns’ most important rebounders was taken out of position, or a kick-out pass from the Wildcat point guard to an open perimeter shooter.
The Longhorns got off to a rough start with three turnovers on first three possessions that would foreshadow much of the rest of the game. It took a fourth turnover and a few bad defensive breakdowns (including one that led to a Vic Law dunk) before Shaka Smart called a time out three minutes into the game. The Longhorns, down 8-0, came out of the time out and turned the ball over yet again.
A few minutes later, Texas broke its scoring drought when Tevin Mack hit an open three in the corner off of a set in bounds play. Mack would lead the way in the first half for Texas, scoring 10 points off of 3-5 three point shooting.
Midway through the half, the Texas defense started to pay some dividends for the Longhorns. The full court press delivered a quick score for Kerwin Roach and things looked to be turning around, even though freshman center Jarrett Allen picked up his second foul with 10:20 remaining in the period.
With Allen down for the half Shaka Smart responded by going small, moving Mack into the front court where he played along side with James Banks. This lineup gave the Longhorns its best stretch of basketball in the entire game, using an aggressive defense to create chances in transition. Texas took its first lead and maintained a 23-22 advantage at the under eight minute media timeout.
The small lineup worked while Banks was on the floor in part because Banks is so good defensively that he can cover up for a somewhat undersized teammate. The Texas freshman appears to be the team’s most important defender; his size affects everything attempted around the basket and he is an outstanding rebounder.
After the media timeout, things went the way of the Wildcats again. Unable to get into transition, the Texas offense stagnated and struggled to penetrate inside the compact Northwestern defense. The Wildcats were sealing off lanes for dribble penetration and post entry all night, leaving Jarrett Allen and Shaquille Cleare little room to operate inside. As a team that aspires to play inside-out, the Texas Longhorns will need to have an answer against teams that elect to pack the paint with helping defenders in the manner that Northwestern did tonight.
Meanwhile, the Northwestern offense closed out the half well behind three-point jumpers from Bryant McIntosh, Nathan Taphorn, and Scottie Lindsey. This scoring outburst happened despite Vic Law sitting out with two fouls. Law — one of the Wildcats’ most important players — would remain in foul trouble for the rest of the game, and ended up hardly being a factor at all. Texas went into the locker room down 26-34.
Texas’ struggles continued in the second half. Northwestern found two early layups and knocked down a pair of threes before Smart called a timeout with 16:46 remaining and a 44-27 score. The Longhorns would never threaten for the rest of the game, despite some Wildcat foul trouble. An inability to score in the half court coupled with an inability to get stops in the half court made it impossible for the Longhorns to get things any closer than this.
The Longhorns will get a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow afternoon against Colorado before going on Thanksgiving break.