There are a few things you just can’t coach, and one of them is size. Seton Hall has it, Texas doesn’t — strike one.
When you’re on the road in a hostile environment against a really good team that boasts a clear size and athletic advantage, it certainly helps to hit your shots. Texas didn’t, converting only 1-of-13 looks from deep — strike two.
Despite the athletic limitations and the simply not being able to buy a bucket, this was a game well within Texas’ reach until the final moments. All Chris Beard’s Longhorns had to do was make a couple key plays in crunch time with the opportunities the Pirates kept handing them. Instead, Texas went just shy of eight minutes between points in the second half of the second half — a drought that spanned from the 8:43 mark to the 0:53 mark — wasting a stout defensive effort — strike three.
No, this obviously isn’t a baseball recap, though that’s a little hard to tell given Texas scored just four points in what was essentially the final quarter of the game.
The first two notes paint the picture of this performance pretty perfectly.
Texas has experience and skill, but the Longhorns were quite obviously overwhelmed and overmatched physically against Seton Hall — this despite 7’2 Ike Obiagu suffering an early ankle injury that sidelined him for much of the contest. Though he wasn’t finding much luck grabbing boards from the onset, Tre Mitchell was Texas’ only offense early, scoring six quick points, only to more than four minutes pass before another Longhorn — Marcus Carr — connect on a field goal.
Nevertheless, despite Seton Hall making Texas work for absolutely everything, forcing the Longhorns off of the perimeter and congesting the paint when they drove, Texas weathered the Pirates’ first punch and threw some jabs of their own, with Mitchell, Timmy Allen, Carr, and Courtney Ramey willing their way to points, and doing so in fairly efficient fashion — Texas shot 55.6% from the field in the first half of a tie game, 37-37.
Coming out of the break, Ramey connected on Texas’ first and only three of the evening for a 5-0 spurt to push the Horns ahead, 42-37, but when the back and forth ensued, the difference was that Seton Hall had both Jared Rhoden and Bryce Aiken to rely upon offensively, while Texas had only Mitchell, who finished with a game-high 19 points.
None of it was appealing offense for fans of offense and points — defensive fanatics were feeling alive as ever. Mitchell’s final points came before the aforementioned near-eight-minute scoring drought, which began with a layup from a mostly productive Allen, who also scored two late layups to keep Texas’ alive down the stretch.
But while the Longhorns wandered through the offensive wilderness for nearly a quarter of the game, Rhoden quietly added a couple buckets for the Pirates. And when Allen finally snapped that scoring slump, trailing 58-59 with less than a minute remaining, Aiken delivered what felt like the dagger — a step-back three with 34.3 remaining to lift Seton Hall to a 62-58 lead.
The next time down, Aiken did deliver the dagger, draining both free throws to deal Texas their second loss of the season.
A few thoughts...
- Again, size is something Texas can’t do too much about until Dylan Disu is healthy, and even then, he’s only 6’9, so Texas won’t suddenly look like last year’s squad when he returns. Texas has two losses this season, and on both occasions, Gonzaga and Seton Hall were simply too much for the Longhorns inside. So, expect this to be a theme in whatever other losses the Longhorns have this season.
- Beard’s offense is one that can be remarkably efficient, but his teams play at a turtle’s pace and thus far, haven’t been capitalizing on turnovers or scoring on fast breaks. When the easy buckets aren’t there and you’re minimizing your opportunities, offense can get ugly. It was exactly that on Thursday night and arguably the primary reason Texas lost. Add on top of that that the Longhorns guards can, at times, play too much isolation hero ball — which didn’t work on Thursday, and you have a team that’s making a habit of scoring droughts. Mitchell (19), Allen (17), and Carr (10) all scored in double figures. Ramey added nine, but Jase Febres and the entire bench failed to hit a single shot, shooting 0-of-8.
- Texas has been truly tested twice this season, and failed both. Now, Gonzaga is truly elite and despite the physical limitations against Seton Hall, Texas was a half of horrific shooting away from a resume-building road win. But, the fact is Texas has been tested twice and lost both times, so regardless of the experience and depth this team has, it’s probably safe to expected more than a few more speed bumps for this group once conference play kicks off.