Some weeks are diamonds and some are cubic zirconium, as a few of you schmucks will discover on Valentine's Day (Lubbock Horn made reservations at Stella's two weeks ago, being a person who both enjoys and looks forward to marital relations). After an embarrassing blow out by a reawakened Aggie basketball team, things seemed headed quickly in the wrong direction. All of us know a few Aggies, and the obligatory "Your boys played a hell of a game last night" thing gets old faster than Britney Spears' pathetic British accent (Who thought Britney would get out of the nuthouse before we beat the Gomers at anything yet this year?). The women's team lost a heartbreaker against an improved Baylor squad in Waco, then had their butts handed to them in a home loss to Oklahoma. Rumors about Scott indicated that maybe Colorado had the inside track. Things looked blacker and bleaker than Tom Cruise's heart.
But it's always darkest just before the dawn, and in Saturday's tussle with the Bears, my beloved, mighty, fighting Texas Longhorns grabbed a second-half lead they never surrendered on an early second half technical foul by character actor Baylor Coach Scott Drew. Flailing his arms and screaming like a madman, I swear Drew looked mad enough to shoot somebody dead. And nobody from a good school like Baylor would ever do that.
At any rate, for the Baylor game we apparently discovered that driving to the bucket can cause good things to happen. We get to shoot a bunch of free throws, we can dish to our teammates, and our shots are much closer and more likely to go in than when we shoot from a long way away. I'm not sure why this basic roundball principle evaded us in the A&M loss, but it kept our lead in the Baylor game even when D.J. Augustine had an abysmal scoring performance. Fortunately, A.J. Abrams more than picked up the slack, hitting some timely and spectacular 3's.
The Baptists kept things close most of the game due to our curiously poor free throw shooting and the lack of polish of Gary Johnson. There has been much speculation about the true freshman messing with team chemistry after sitting out half the season with concerns over his heart condition. After all, the Horns coincidentally hit their mid-season slump about the time Johnson entered the lineup. But Johnson appears to be slowly coming into his own; his shot selection is getting better, and his defense, while still spotty, is steadily improving. By all accounts an affable, nice guy with a tough mind on the court, we will most need a big, quick forward with a nice shot who can effortlessly move from the 3 to the 4 during tournament time, and Johnson's assimilation appears to be well timed to that end.
Wednesday night's Oklahoma game initially appeared headed in the same direction as the A&M game. The Good Guys fell behind by 10 points midway through the first half and slowly, painfully clawed their way back, keeping things close through the early second half.
Then our guards took over. We've all heard the cliché about guards taking teams deep in the NCAA tournament. If that's the case, then the Horns are well positioned. Abrams and Augustine collectively recorded 32 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists. Combine that effort with the timely 3's hit by sophomore guard Justin Mason and we have something more interesting than a road win over the Dirt Burglars to discuss. The guards together lead Texas on an 18-7 run, effectively putting the game out of reach. Mason's late 3's sealed the deal, giving the Burnt Orange a 64-54 win.
Even though OU is not spectacular this year, it's road wins like Wednesday night that can make the difference between a 2 and 6 seed in the tournament. The real test comes after a trip to Ames, Iowa on Saturday – taking on the Kansas Jayhawks' juggernaut in Austin on ESPN this coming Monday. There are no easy patches in the Big XII – not in the South, anyway – but this five game stretch with A&M, Baylor, O.U., Iowa State on the road, and Kansas is particularly brutal. Obviously there are no guarantees, but so far, so good.
As far as football recruiting goes, we are swimming in an embarrassment of riches. With many Inside Texas posters retching over our failure to land Darrell Scott, we need to remember that the Horns still posted an incredible class, listed as #10 on ESPN, #14 on Rivals.com, and #17 on Scout.com. Whine all you want about Scott, and he would have been a good one, no doubt, but it's good to be a Texas Longhorn even in relative off years. The 2008 class is rich in receivers (including sure-handed Dan Buckner from Allen) and defensive backs (counting speedy, hard-hitting Aaron Williams from our own back yard), and, as always, one of the lightly-regarded, overlooked 2 or 3 star recruits will Brian Robison their way onto the playing field, into our hearts, and into the NFL. Remember, our football team is relatively young, and the talent coming back next year probably scared off a potential recruit or two.
In other words, celebrate what we have rather than crying over spilled milk. Besides, like Ryan Perrilloux, these things have a way of working themselves out. I'm not implying that Scott will be a discipline problem like Little Lord Fauntleroy, but simply noting that both we and he may ultimately be better off without each other. You know, like Baylor and Dave Bliss. Well, bad example. Like OU and Rhett Bomar. Oops. Like Coach Mark Mangino and fat cells. Too tacky? Like Coach Greg Robinson and UT. Never mind. Like…
Oh, hell, you know what I mean.
Jeff Conner's political and pop culture-infused Longhorn commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.