Game Notes: Kansas at Texas
What happened to Texas?
by Brad Long & Justin Walsh
Ladies and Gentleman, this is a Long Walsh production. So check it, we’re in Austin for the KU-UT game and let’s just say this: Austin is a dangerous place for a couple of writers in their 20′s to be in. This wasn’t the first time in 6th street for Brad, but it sure as hell was for me and let me just say that I felt like Luke Skywalker his first time running through Mos Eisley spaceport. “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” And I say that with the most respect possible for beautiful women in bars at 2 a.m. Trying to fake being sober. They try so hard. And with that, we move on to the game!
– The Erwin Center is hopping. With the mood in the building you would never guess that this team had gone from being No. 1 a week ago to going 2-4 and dropping out of the top 10. Losing to OU two days ago? Did that even happen? The sentiment seems to be if Texas can beat Kansas tonight, all will be forgiven.
– Texas starts Dogus Balbay, Avery Bradley, Damion James, Gary Johnson(?) and Big Dexy. Kansas is rolling with Sherron Collins, Brady Morningstar, Xavier Henry (Diary Keeper!), Marcus Morris and Cole Aldrich. X hits a three on his first position. What slump? Dex answers with a monster two hand dunk and the foul. Rick Barnes substitution roller coaster begins. J’Covan Brown comes in for Dogus. Should be interesting to see how often Justin Mason gets burn; Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports told me that he didn’t think Justin had a chance in hell of getting in this game “Anything Justin can do for UT in this game, Dogus can do more effectively.” I can’t find an argument to that statement.
– Damion James hits a pull up three. James is like Jay Bilas’ wet dream. He’s a guy who you can honestly say came to college, stayed all four years and got better every single season. James never would’ve hit that shot two years ago. 10-8 Texas at 15:32 with the first timeout.
– The game starts to go back and forth, Kansas is moving the ball well, while Texas looks confused offensively. Their kicking the ball into Dex, he’s getting double and triple teamed, yet still can’t find anyone to kick it out to. There’s a lot of standing around going on.
– At 12:35 Rick Barnes looks for some instant offense so in comes Jordan Hamilton, who torched OSU for 27 in 19 min. but struggled against OU. Jordan gets the ball on the wing, drives… annnnnd… air ball… not looking good for the Horns. Dexter Pittman hasn’t attempted to post up since about three minutes in. To be fair, he has canceled out anything Cole Aldrich has tried to do offensively.
– Tyshawn Taylor hits a huge three it’s 25 -14 Kansas. Kansas’ D is picking up the intensity. It feels like Texas hasn’t scored since they were in Stillwater. KU is now on a 17-0 run. Sherron Collins hits a pull up 3 off a nasty cross on Dogus. I thought he was the defensive specialist out of their 27 point guards?
– Avery Bradley chases down Sherron Collins, not an easy feat, for the LeBron-style block from behind. Damion James hits a trey…Finally. Kansas 22-0 run is over. The gym is pretty much still in shock. Matt Hill (Who?) checks in. Damion James hits another three. NBA scouts take note. Cole Aldrich finally makes a basket with one of the most awkward releases in college basketball history. J’Covan tries to make something happen when the Texas offense gets stagnant again. He misses a floater, but at least someone is trying to be aggressive besides James.
– The University of Texas decides to bring out the football team and recognize them for a great season and a Big 12 Championship. All I can imagine is how they’re just reminding Colt of that National Championship that he really didn’t get to play for. Poor kid. Damion James has 15 at the half, Dex is their next highest scorer with 3 points, all of which came on his first offensive possession. He has literally stopped playing offensively. Marcus Morris leads KU with 8. Their scoring has been much more balanced and their points are mostly coming from within the flow of the offense. Texas…not so much.
– Texas gets the ball to start the half. Turnover. Rick Barnes is not amused. Xavier catches a backdoor alley-oop and knows what to do with it. “HULK SMASH!”. X is a man child. His body is NBA ready right now. While I’m typing this Kansas steals the ball and X scores again. 17:38 into the second half and the student sections are the only fans that are semi interested in the game at this point. 24-39 Kansas.
– Rick Barnes has apparently finally figured out that Dex doesn’t want to play anymore. Looks like Cole Aldrich is Damion James’ problem now. He attempts to guard him in the post. Fails horribly. Foul. Texas really needs a spark. J’Covan Brown comes back in. Drops in a floater. He has pretty much been the only consistently aggressive guard offensively for Texas. Rick Barnes decides that Damion James on Aldrich is a bad idea. He puts Dex back in. Dex posts up for the first time since 3 minutes in the first half. He misses. Cole Aldrich tries to take Dex across the middle of the lane and shoot a running hook shot. Airball. Bill Self looks like he is going to have an aneurysm.
– And now Kansas has pulled away. To make a long, whistle happy story short: Kansas is smooth and never lost their cool, whereas Texas seemed confused and shell shocked the entire game. Now for some insight and quotes.
– What the hell is wrong with Texas? It’s 2 in the morning on Tuesday, Justin and I are still completely confused, and UT has lost 5 of their last 7. When looking at the schedule weeks ago, it seemed this game was a lock to be the game of the year. Two top ranked teams, both chock full of young talent and senior leadership. Kansas expected the game to be harder (Xavier Henry was smiling like Shirley Temple after the game, it was clear he didn’t expect the game to be that easy), and Texas expected to be in the game period. In the end, it took J’Covan Brown completely taking over the last five minutes of the game just to keep it under a 20-point lead. The team had a problem simply sticking to their own game plan.
– Rick Barnes [on Dexter Pittman's play]: Bob Knight told me that Dexter Pittman should be the best screener in the country. But he gets tired, so he just goes and sits on the block. And you can’t do that. If he would move, they couldn’t double team. He’s gotta be a screener. Tonight we knew he was going to be double teamed, and he can pass out of it…but you can’t do it effectively if you stand straight up the second you get the ball. He always catches the ball standing straight up, and they were letting him catch it.
SLAM: Does it bother you that 24 games into the season, that even your senior leaders had problems following the game plan?
Rick Barnes: Yeah, it is frustrating, because Dexter is a big time player. But when he’s in the game in these high pressure situations, he can get tired. And when he gets tired, he doesn’t set picks, like I said earlier. Him having 3 points wouldn’t be a problem if he just rebounded, but 3 rebounds isn’t acceptable for him. If he scored just 3 points, but had 9 rebounds to go with those 5 blocks? I’d take that any day of the week.
It was interesting to see Rick so candid about his team. But it wasn’t just Dexter. Rick was having to answer about his much heralded freshman. He didn’t avoid the question at all.
Rick Barnes [on their freshmen]: Our goal was that by a week and a half ago, we were thinking that… we knew coming in that we needed to get those guys in the lineup. We were hoping, and I really thought that those three guys (Bradley, Brown, Hamilton) by the end of January would understand what it takes. Avery picked it up quicker; He has a motor with his intensity. He’s competitive. And J’Covan showed spurts of it and he’d take a step forward and two steps back… Jordan still has got to understand what he’s got to do to help.
SLAM: But Rick, do you think possibly that expectations should be tempered for Jordan since he didn’t play basketball all of last year?
Rick Barnes: I guess you could say that, but we have another guard [J'Covan] with that same situation and I believe he scored 28 points tonight. Jordan is a talented player, and he has the ability to really impact the game offensively for us. It’s just a question of when he figures out that he doesn’t have to think he needs to shoot every possession he gets to stay in the game. Because Jordan can pass the ball, but right now he’s trying to figure out how to help the team. If there’s one thing I want him to understand, it’s that if he would just reverse back to J’Covan sometimes and get him those drives to the goal, the defense will have to adjust, and then J’Covan would have the ability to kick out to an open Jordan. He’ll get it, we just have to go back to practice.
And as for Kansas? They are who we thought they were. The number one team in the country. As of right now, March looks like it’s going to be a two-horse race. The Jayhawks and the Wildcats. And everyone else is a few paces back, losing breath to catch up.