Aggressiveness of UT’s bigs - - Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh knew they would have to shoulder the load down low with Connor Lammert (illness) and Shaquille Cleare (root canal) out, and they seemed to make it a point to attack the rim on both sides.
“I thought those guys were rally involved in everything we did,” Shaka Smart said. “They were involved in half court and got involved in full court. That’s what we want.”
Ridley has lost about 20 pounds and didn’t seem to have any issues getting up-and-down the court as he finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds [the only double-double of the game] to go along with an assist and two blocks.
“I wanted to lose the weight for myself, for my future in basketball if I’m capable of having one,” he said. “Obviously to play in Coach Smart’s system, to play up-and-down the way he wants to, I have to be able to play longer minutes than I ever have before.”
TSU didn’t really have anyone to match him physically, but that’s been the case plenty before and Ridley didn’t attack the paint like he maybe should have.
That wasn’t the case in this one.
“He’s worked hard,” he said. “He’s had a really good off-season.”
Ibeh has never been, and will never be known as an offensive-first post player but he’s worked hard to improve and you could tell in the way he simply tried to go at the rim.
He might not take a jump shot all season and that’s completely fine because that’s not what the staff wants him to do. They know what he brings defensively [more on that in a second]. So whatever he gives them offensively is a bonus in my eyes.
He made two moves that should his growth on the offensive side. The first came in man-to-man coverage where he faked inside, beat his man baseline with one dribble and was at the rim for an easy layup.
The second came on a nice feed in the teeth of the paint where he drop-stepped and muscled in a dunk with two defenders draped over him.
“For Cam, his numbers really reflect it,” Smart said. “Prince played much better than his numbers indicate. For them we just want them to fly around. I excited about those guys.”
Kerwin Roach – He wasn’t lying when he said that he and Isaiah Taylor ere like Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay.
We all knew how fast Taylor was coming into this one, but for those that hadn’t seen him prior to this, and still haven’t seen him, you are in for a real treat.
He really has no limitations offensively. He can get to the rim when he wants and has a tight enough jumper, which makes his pump fakes and dribble penetrations that much more effective.
Roach finished with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go along with two assists and three rebounds.
“I’m pretty good but I’m not satisfied with how I did,” roach said. “I could have done better. I just wanted to come out here and play basketball like I know how to.”
Roach’s biggest moment of the game came on back-to-back possessions in the second half when he posterized two defenders with a dunk and then followed that with a three.
“Coach always wants us to have the mentality of being aggressive so I just wanted to go out there and do that,” he said.
Rotation with substitutions – First it was Tevin Mack, who took Ridley place just over a minute in. Then it was Eric Davis, who came in for Demarcus Holland less than a minute later.
Kerwin Roach followed seconds later meaning that all three freshmen saw playing time within the first two minutes.
Javan Felix and Jordan Barnett subbed in after the freshmen had played, which didn’t surprise me all that much.
I know Barnett would probably be the last person off the bench – he has to have more confidence in himself to see more playing time. But I was a bit surprised to see the freshmen get in before Felix. I said it in the live thread and I’ll say it again, he better be careful because Smart is going to play these freshmen. Felix could be in some trouble if his shot isn’t falling.
“I like playing with good depth but, at the same time, it has to be quality depth,” Smart said. “I do think that’s one of our strength as our team and we had two guys out tonight.”
Eric Davis – You’ll grow to really like this sharp-shooting freshman. The thing I like most about him is that he doesn’t need to do a lot to produce a lot. He doesn’t take stupid shots and is nails from the free throw line. He finished with 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting, though two of those shots came in the final minutes.
Free Throws – The Longhorns were 23-of-27 on the night. Cameron Ridley was 7-of-8 while Isaiah Taylor [4-of-4], Demarcus Holland [2-of-2], and Eric Davis [4-of-4] made all of their attempts.
Three point shooting – Last season’s game high for three-point field goals attempted by Texas was 27. The Longhorns shot 30 on Friday, making 12 of them.
Smart didn’t mind the volume of threes and reminded us that Texas played largely with four guards due to the absences of Connor Lammert and Shaquille Cleare, who were out with an illness and because of a root canal respectively.
Texas’ freshmen led UT in three-point attempts and makes. Mack was 4-of-9, Roach was 2-of-4 and Davis was 2-of-5.
And get used to that. Smart’s going to let them shoot. As he said after the game, you can’t coach every shot because that causes hesitancy.
Ball movement in transition - One glaring difference I noticed was how much Texas was advancing the ball in transition.
The ball will always beat the dribble so passing it forward makes sense. But that was not something Texas did especially well or frequently last season. The sample size is small but that appears to be changing under Shaka Smart.
The more they get used to this, the better UT’s transition offense should be.
THE “NOT NECESSARILY BAD, BUT NOT QUITE GOOD ENOUGH TO BE GOOD”
Freshmen rebounding – If Tevin Mack is going to play the 4 like the staff would like him to do at times, he’s going to have to do a better job on the glass.
This is more about effort than anything so I think it’ll get better. But he’s got to do a better job of finding a body when the shot goes up to block out.
That said, he did have six rebounds and I think he’ll end up being just fine in this category.
Javan Felix – He was next to last coming off the bench, behind all three freshmen, and finished with six points, four assists, and two rebounds. Compare those numbers to what Texas’ freshmen did and you can see that Felix has his work cut out for him for playing time. He has to pick it up.
I asked Smart if he was trying to send a message to Felix by subbing in the freshmen before Felix. He said it had more to do with the freshmen earning that playing time than Felix.
“I don’t think it’s anything specific to any one player,” he said. “I think it’s what those freshmen have earned. Those guys have been really good. They’ve been three of our better players the last five weeks since practice started.”
As I’d mentioned up above, Lammert and Cleare were both held out of this one. Smart didn’t say that they would definitely be able to play against Washington on Nov. 13, but he’s hopeful.
“Shaq is on the mend,” Smart said. “He had a root canal. He had to see the oral surgeon today. He’s in some pain. You never now how guys will hold on this long of a trip. Connor is getting much better.”