5 THOUGHTS ON Texas' 69-64 LOSS AT KU
#1 ... Believe it or not, Texas played well enough to win at KU Saturday
This was the Texas team we expected to see all season: Attacking the rim (at least in the first half), blowing by opponents before they could set up defensively, blocking shots and playing with a veteran presence in a hostile environment.
And it doesn't get any more hostile than Phog Allen Fieldhouse, where KU had won 22 in a row before today and where 16,000 raucous fans were celebrating the 60th anniversary of the building (with throwback unis for players and cheerleaders) - coming off a loss at Kansas State earlier this week.
And with 9:51 left, Texas led 50-44. But the Horns fell back into old habits, settling for long-range jumpers after dominating inside (ill-timed 3-point attempts missed by Javan Felix at the 9:10 mark; Myles Turner at 7:12 mark; and Jonathan Holmes at 5:06 mark). That helped trigger a 17-6 run by Kansas - in which KU hit its only 3 (1-of-8 for the game). That surge, which brought a quiet/nervous Allen Fieldhouse back to deafening - proved to be too much for UT to overcome.
With 12.4 seconds left, Texas had the ball down 2 - 66-64 - and Isaiah Taylor (17 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 block), who played brilliantly/aggressively most of the game, appeared to be fouled by KU's Frank Mason on a drive to the basket. But there was no call, and the Jayhawks' Kelly Oubre ended up with the ball. Texas was forced to foul. Oubre hit both FTs with 6.2 seconds left, putting KU up 68-64 - effectively icing the game.
Texas had 14 blocks - 5 by Myles Turner, 4 by Prince Ibeh.
#2 ... In some ways, this game makes Texas' failed season so far (17-12 overall, 6-10 Big 12) even more frustrating.
Because that kind of effort has been in this team all along. And Rick Barnes, the players ... haven't been able to figure out how to put that kind of effort on the floor from night to night.
But after the game, players sounded like they'd found something.
#3 ... After shooting 15 free throws in the first half with an attacking mindset, the Horns shot just 3 FTs in the second half as the team went from 4-of-5 from 3-point range to 6-of-20 (that's 2-of-15 from 3 to finish the game).
That's a pattern that has haunted Texas all year.
Settling for more jump shots in the second half really hurt the Horns. KU, meanwhile, made up for 1-of-8 3-point shooting by continuing to attack Texas' defense (despite 14 blocks by the Horns) and kept going to the FT line.
The Jayhawks were 11 of 13 from the foul line in the first half and 15 of 19 from the FT line in the second half.
In short, KU shot 32 FTs (made 26) and that proved to be the difference over Texas, which finished 12 of 18 from the foul line.
#4 ... As well as many Longhorns played today - Taylor's attacking drives, the blocks by Turner and Ibeh, big 3s late by Holland and Yancy - Jonathan Holmes continues to weigh down this team.
It may be the cruelest irony of a season full of them. No one works harder than Holmes, the team's only senior.
But Holmes was 1-of-7 shooting (0-of-3 from 3), and for the sixth time in UT's last seven games, he didn't attempt a single FT. When Holmes, a 6-8 power forward, is at his best, he's working inside, getting rebounds, garbage baskets and getting to the foul line. When he's at his worst, he settles for 3-point attempts (Holmes is 11 of his last 49 3-pt attempts - 22.4 percent).
The outcome of the six games in which Holmes didn't attempt a FT? All losses (at Baylor, home vs Ok St, at OU, home vs Iowa St, at WVU, at KU).
Javan Felix is now in a shooting slump as well - going 1 of 14 from the floor the last three games (7 percent), including 0-of-7 from 3-point range. Felix was 0-for-4 FG vs KU Saturday, including 0-of-2 from 3. After going 0-of-6 FG (0-of-3 from 3) vs KU in Austin, he finishes the season 0-of-10 FG (0-of-5 from 3) vs the Jayhawks.
That's a lot of veteran leadership that is underperforming.
At least Rick Barnes cut Holmes' minutes Saturday at KU, giving him 16. That's the least amount of playing time Holmes has had in a non-injury, non-blowout game this season. Holmes played way too many minutes (29) vs Iowa State and (30) at OU - winnable games in which Holmes went a combined 3-of-14 FG (1-of-8 from 3) without going to the FT line.
Barnes gave more of Holmes' minutes to Ibeh Saturday. In 17 mins, Ibeh had 4 blocks, 5 rebounds, 2 points and 1 steal while providing an intimidating presence in the paint for UT.
I will continue to maintain the best big-man combination for UT is when Myles Turner and Ibeh are on the floor together. Their defensive energy feeds off one another.
They combined for 9 of UT's 14 blocks vs KU (and combined for 8 of UT's 13 blocks in a game they should have won at OU).
#5 ... Texas is now 1-11 vs the RPI Top 50 and has lost 8 of its last 11 games.
This team is not going to the NCAA Tournament unless it wins Monday vs Baylor, which took down WVU Saturday and has won 7 of its last 9, as well as next Saturday vs Kansas State.
KSU has won only 3 of its last 10, but the wins are against OU, KU and Iowa State (K-State beat ISU 70-69 on Saturday).
And even if Texas wins those two games, the Horns probably need to win two in the Big 12 tourney to convince anyone that it's suddenly figured something out.
And even if UT gets into the NCAA tourney, the Horns probably need to win 2 games there to save Rick Barnes, who was expected to return to the Sweet 16 this season with this cast.
Barnes implied to reporters Saturday after the KU loss that because Oklahoma State got into the NCAA tourney last year with an 8-10 league record that all Texas (6-10 Big 12) needs to do is beat BU and KSU. Of course, the Cowboys beat Kansas last season in the month of March as one of those 8 wins - a far better win than anything Texas has this season.
Baylor beat Texas by 23 in Waco on Jan. 31. At this point, even after a gutsy performance at Kansas, Texas (and its coach) are on the verge of being counted out.
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