On Saturday in Stillwater the Texas Longhorns let one get away. Texas held a substantial lead late in the second half, and then watched as that lead gradually slipped away.
Things happen pretty quickly in a basketball game, and that leads us to try to fill in the gaps as to what might have happened. The stories we end up with are often wrong.
To counteract this, I find it helpful to slow things down. This post is an attempt to do that for the final five minutes of Texas' loss at Oklahoma State.
For this much-slower-than-game-speed look at things, let's pick up the action with a little more than five minutes remaining in the game and Texas leading 62-53. Oklahoma State big man Mitchell Solomon has just fouled out of the game. OSU coach Mike Boynton has responded by going with a small lineup, playing 6'6 wing Lindy Waters in Solomon's place.
In this possession, Texas gets a shot for Jacob Young off of a baseline out of bounds play. Unfortunately, ESPN is messing around showing a replay when the ball is inbounded, so I don't have much to show you. Jacob Young was pretty open, but just missed the shot. Mohamed Bamba fouled Brandon Averette going for an offensive rebound, and Averette made two free throws to make the score 62-55.
On the ensuing possession, Matt Coleman brings the ball up, guarded by Averette. Through this critical stretch of the game Averette did a pretty good job guarding Coleman, but here Coleman beats him.
In the image below OSU is looking to deny every pass Coleman could make. Coleman sees the backs of a lot of heads, and goes to make a play for himself off the bounce.
That play ends up at the rim, where there is some late defensive help for Averette. Coleman misses a contested shot from pretty close in.
The rebound kicks out about ten feet from the basket and the Cowboys grab the ball and head up the floor. Jeffrey Carroll finds himself with a three on two opportunity in transition, and takes the ball all the way in for a layup.
On the next trip up the floor, Texas finds itself still up 62-57. Jacob Young brings the ball up the floor, and Averette is face-guarding Coleman to keep him from catching the ball. Coleman moves around and tries to cut free, but he cannot shake Averette. So Mohamed Bamba comes to set a high ball screen for Jacob Young.
In the image below we see the next part of the play. Bamba sets a screen for Young, and the defense basically blows its coverage. Bamba's defender is playing as if OSU is trying to force the ball to the sideline, and Young's defender is guarding things straight up. I suspect Young's defender is in the wrong here, as OSU would spend the rest of the game forcing ball screens to the sideline.
Against a busted defense Young easily gets into the middle of the floor. Shown below, we see that Osetkowski is about as open as he can be in the corner.
Young makes the pass and Osetkowski takes and misses the shot. As the image below shows, the defender isn't all that close to him as he shoots.
The Cowboys again grab the rebound and push the ball up the floor. Averette and Lindy Waters prepare to execute a ball screen.
Waters' pops out to the wing after setting the ball screen and Averette reverses to him. Bamba is guarding Waters after picking him up in transition, and runs out to defend him.
As Bamba runs out to contest what he thinks will be a shot, Waters fakes him off the floor.
Waters takes two dribbles and puts the ball up from around the elbow. Eric Davis is there to contest the shot, which bounces around a bit before falling in.
Texas would have been better off if Bamba wouldn't have left his feet. Still, forcing a mid-range pull up attempt is a pretty good outcome for a defense most of the time. Sometimes these shots still go in. Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor Osetkowski had a good catch and shoot chance from three-point range that he didn't put down.
Now the score is getting tight, with Texas up 62-59. Matt Coleman brings the ball up the floor and Texas sets up for what is typically called "Horns" in the basketball world. As shown in the image below, Coleman has the option of using either ball screen, and Texas will then play off of this to create chances to score.
To keep this post from being even longer than it otherwise would be, I am not going to show you how the ball screen played out. Instead, I will describe it and show the aftermath. Coleman used a ball screen from Bamba to go left, while Bamba popped out to the top of the key. Meanwhile, Osetkowski took the much smaller Lindsey down inside and sealed him off. Coleman hit Bamba with a pass, to set up what we see below.
In the image above, Bamba could have passed into Osetkowski, but either didn't see him or decided not to risk the pass. Instead he reversed the ball to Davis on the wing.
Most ball reversals like this in the Texas offense trigger the Longhorns into their continuity ball screen offense (a subject for another day). Starting the action, Bamba follows the pass to start the screen and Osetkowski clears out of the strong side of the play.
This takes us to the next image. In this case the OSU defense is forcing Davis to go to the sideline. Bamba and Davis both see this, and Bamba angles his screen to help Davis attack along the sideline.
Just advancing a few frames allows us to see Davis attacking the secondary defender.
Davis beats that defender, turns the corner, and has a open path to the rim. Bamba is rolling with him.
Davis takes the ball all the way to the rim and misses a wide open layup. Bamba fumbles the offensive rebound and Averette races up the floor and is fouled by Coleman. After the media timeout Averette makes both of his free throws.
Up by one point, Texas brings the ball up the floor and sets things up for a spread pick and roll. The problem is that Coleman gets too close to the sideline; OSU's defense has been forcing everything sideline, and Coleman needs to know this and start the play closer to the middle of the floor. Things are bottled up.
Coleman doesn't panic. Instead he backs the ball out and tries to make a play off the dribble. He will work his way back to the middle and regain the offensive advantage. The next two photos are pretty self-explanatory.
Eventually Averette recovers and cuts Coleman off, but not before Coleman has penetrated into the center of things and shifted the defense. Coleman basically does the work of the ball screen on his own, taking many extra dribbles to do it.
It is at this point that Coleman spots Osetkowski in the corner and throws the pass. Waters, who is defending Osetkowski is out of position.
It is a little hard to capture with still photos exactly what happens next, so I will do my best to describe the action along with the photos as well as I can. In the image below, Waters is trying to close out on Osetkowski. He is running up on him a little too fast, and Osetkowski has a clear lane to drive right along the baseline.
Instead, Osetkowski drives to his left and tries to spin back around. He turns the ball over, and OSU runs down and scores in transition, taking the lead.
Texas comes up the floor and after a drive to the basket retains possession for a baseline out of bounds play. Coleman passes the ball to Osetkowski, who fakes a hand off to Coleman and then misses the shot shown in the photo below.
The good news for Texas is that the Longhorns do not give up anything in transition, and the defense gets a stop. The defense would hold strong until the final possession of the game.
On the Longhorns' next chance to score, Texas goes with a set play that Smart regularly uses to set up ball screens. In the interest of time, I am going to skip right to the ball screen. It is shown in the image below where the defense is again forcing the ball to the sideline, but this time Coleman has given himself more space to play with.
At this point, Texas is just in standard high ball screen action. Bamba rolls to the basket, and Osetkowski moves out to the perimeter to replace him
Coleman finds Osetkowski, who drives by his defender and scores at the basket. This puts Texas up by one.
After another stop by the Texas defense, the Longhorns go back to another set that they are comfortable with; the "Horns" ball screen. In the figure below we see it again; Coleman will use either a screen from Osetkowski or Bamba to start the action.
After working the ball to the center of the floor Coleman uses Bamba's screen. He will draw Bamba's defender, and reverse the ball to the Texas big man.
This brings us to the image below. Bamba has received the pass from Coleman and the defense is broken down. Bamba is wide open, but he is probably open for a reason. Jacob Young is also wide open, but Bamba takes the shot.
Osetkowski steps in and nearly saves the possession. He overpowers the defenders (two guys who are much smaller and weaker than him) and grabs the offensive rebound. He ends up getting fouled, but unfortunately misses the front end of a one-and-one.
The Longhorn defense yet again comes through. This time Mo Bamba blocks a shot that preserves the Texas lead. The Longhorns call a timeout and set up a play.
After the time out, we see things in the image below. Coleman has the ball a the point, while Texas is running some sort of off ball action to free up Davis on the wing.
Instead, Matt Coleman sees an opening and takes it. He drives into the paint (shown below) but ends up picking up a charge, giving the ball back to OSU.
In general, the aggressive play from Coleman here is good. I am not going to criticize the decision to attack; in fact the Texas offense has been somewhat hamstrung at times by Coleman passing on opportunities like this.
Rather than shooting the floater, Coleman might have made things better with a jump stop. Perhaps he would have found Osetkowski on the baseline. Or perhaps he would have been able to fake and draw a foul. This is all easy for me to say sitting here as I write, of course. Coleman made an aggressive play and it didn't work out.
On the next possession OSU would finally score on a tip in by Tavarius Shine. Texas would have one last look (and it was a pretty good one) that Jacob Young would miss in the final scramble to score.
It is a game the Longhorns could have won, and probably should have won. But they didn't make the plays that were needed late, and they headed back to Austin with a loss.