After playing inspired basketball in a thrilling win Saturday over North Carolina, the Texas Longhorns played somewhat less inspired ball tonight. Texas' play was sloppy to such an extreme that it bordered on bizarre. After some trouble, the Longhorns took control late in the game, finishing with a final score of 67-55 against Appalachian State. Mountaineer sharp-shooter Frank Eaves led all scorers with 20.
In games like this, no one really can challenge Longhorn center Cameron Ridley. He is just too big and strong, and can pretty much do whatever he wants. It was like watching an adult playing against children. He finished the game with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 blocked shots.
Some really outstanding shooting by Eaves kept the Mountaineers in the game a little longer than otherwise expected. Eaves connected on 6-8 shots from three point range, and as a team Appalachian State was 12-20 from three point range, which in part accounts for why coach Jim Fox's team was still hanging around with the Longhorns with eight minutes remaining in the game. (Quick basketball rule of thumb: when a team makes 12 three pointers -- as the Longhorns did this weekend against North Carolina -- it can hang in a game with anyone.)
In general, it was a sloppy game, or a joy for connoisseurs of missed dunks and layups. The game was sloppy enough that at the end of the first half Longhorn Network announcer Lowell Galindo declared that it was, "not the cleanest first half of basketball." But former Texas coach Tom Penders' perm remains as clean as ever -- it was the most on point part of the game.
At halftime, Texas honored Penders' 1989-1990 Runnin' Horns, a team that made the regional final round of the NCAA tournament. It was a nice idea, but it would have been better at a game with more people in attendance. It would have been fun during halftime of a conference game, when there is a little bit more juice in the building. Anyway, it is a team worth honoring -- the last 25 years of Texas basketball have been pretty good, and that team got the last quarter century off to a strong start.
While we are on the subject of the Runnin' Horns, we have to acknowledge just how good that 1989-1990 team was. In that season Texas took nearly twice as many threes as its opponents. The Horns also took 240 more free throws than they allowed. Over the course of the season, Texas opponents turned the ball over 150 times more than the Runnin' Horns. And Penders' men chased down nearly 100 extra offensive rebounds than their opposition. When you do all of these things, you generally get both better shots than your opponents, and a lot more of them.
- Play time is over for Texas. From here on out, the competition will be much tougher. Next up will be a road trip to Stanford, followed by a post holiday game at home against Connecticut. And after that the two month slog through the Big 12 begins.
- Javan Felix was quietly efficient tonight, scoring 14 points on 9 shots and only one turnover. He was 2-3 from long range, but also was reasonably effective scoring inside the arc as well.
- We got an extended look at the lineup pairing Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh tonight, and it still looks like it will be trouble for Texas. When the two play together, it cripples the offense as it is presently constructed. While there are some possible solutions to help fix the Texas spacing when two non-shooting bigs play together (setting up ball screens on the side of the floor rather than at the top is where I would start) the truth is that the Texas offense isn't going to look very good when Connor Lammert has to sit.
- We had one of the first match up press sightings of the season. Texas came out in the man to man press at the start of the game, and tried to double the ball handler once or twice out of it. It really didn't look ready for prime time, and it only made sporadic appearances throughout the game. I doubt we see Smart rolling with it in the early part of the conference season. (You can read more on Shaka Smart's presses here.)
- Shaka Smart was pretty unimpressed with his team's performance and approach to the game tonight based on his post game comments. Texas didn't seem all that focused to me, and it seems that he agrees.
- We did at least get a nice Kerwin Roach dunk tonight.