A win isn’t necessarily always a win during the non-conference schedule and the Texas Longhorns delivered that type of unsatisfying result on Friday evening at the Erwin Center against the Prairie View A&M Panthers in a 70-56 victory.
Facing an opponents ranked in the 300s in KenPom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric with a 99-percent win probability, Texas was never exactly in danger of losing the game, but struggled to separate against Prairie View A&M.
The first half featured a paradigm that is becoming too familiar — attempts to play at pace with an inability to make good looks from deep and a reliance on taking those shots, especially early in the shot clock. Texas led 26-22 at halftime.
Texas only made four of 18 attempts from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes with a number of culprits. Andrew Jones took six attempts and only made two, while Jase Febres and Courtney Ramey combined to make one of eight shots.
All of those players are capable of shooting a higher percentage, but Febres is shooting too quickly at times because opponents are closing his windows. Jones looked like he was playing for his own results with some quick triggers and Ramey continued a yo-yo season that now features 16 points in the opener, one point against Purdue, 19 points against Cal Baptist, and zero points against Prairie View A&M.
To put it frankly, Ramey needs to be more consistent for the Longhorns to accomplish the program’s objectives this season. At the same time, the rest of the roster needs more consistency as well.
Any contributions from the frontcourt beyond Jericho Sims would be a welcome development, for instance. Sims played 29 minutes and had 10 rebounds and eight points on three shots from the field. Against a small opponent, the rest of the frontcourt didn’t show up, as Royce Hamm, Jr., Will Baker, Kai Jones, Kamaka Hepa, and Brock Cunningham combined for 13 minutes and two points on two shot attempts. Cunningham and Baker combined for two turnovers in five minutes, however. Neither has scored yet this season. Nor has Hepa.
The only truly efficient performance for Texas offensively was also questionable, as Donovan Williams managed to overcome out-of-control play and poor shot selection to somehow hit five of his six shots. One was a banked three-pointer when Williams clearly did not call glass, to explain the type of night that he somehow achieved.
When the Longhorns attacked the paint and managed to get shots off, the offense was efficient, but there were also numerous offensive fouls and too many shots taken without an extra pass or a pump fake. If the choice is between missing a three or committing an offensive foul, perhaps that becomes a Faustian bargain with some quickness.
The bottom line is that Texas needs to find a much better balance of knowing when to take shots and when to keep the ball moving as the offense tries to play at a faster place and adjusts to the advanced scouting of an offense that doesn’t have a frontcourt threat like Jaxson Hayes running to the rim.
Improvement is necessary quickly and across the board while also acknowledging that Prairie View A&M made three three-pointers and had three assists on 21 made baskets — there was a significant amount of luck in this performance by the Panthers.
With the Texas defense designed to take away ball movement and open threes, the Longhorns forced the Panthers into playing one-on-one basketball, a common theme throughout the first four games. The difference on Friday is that Prairie View A&M made a number of difficult, challenged shots from two-point range that wouldn’t go in at that rate against Texas over a larger sample size. Some of this was luck.
But luck doesn’t excuse the poor decisions in shot selection, Ramey’s lack of significant contributions, and a frontcourt that didn’t contribute much.
To advance past Georgetown at Madison Square Garden next week, Texas will need to play better. Significantly better.