On Wednesday night, Texas hosted the Colorado Buffaloes in the NIT quarterfinals. After an overtime win against Xavier in the round-of-16 and a 2-game win streak, the Longhorns came into this game playing better than usual.
The Colorado Buffaloes, who finished 4th in the Pac-12, have a young team, with 5 freshmen, 8 sophomores, 3 juniors, and 1 senior. Players like sophomore guard Tyler Bey, who averages 13.4 PPG and 9.8 RPG, have led the team throughout the season. But with youth leadership comes inconsistency, which the Buffaloes dealt with both through the year and Wednesday night.
The entire first half was dominated by Texas. Colorado had positive bursts early on, creating an 8-0 run to get the score from 14-5 to 14-13. After that run, Colorado was not able to get anything going. Texas noticed Colorado’s struggles early on, and capitalized on them throughout the half.
Texas responded to the 8-0 Colorado run by putting up a 15-0 run to give themselves a 29-13 lead. Colorado looked defeated and depleted as a team, giving Texas more confidence to extend their lead. Dylan Osetkowski led the run to extend the lead, as he finished with 13 points in the first half. Kerwin Roach, Matt Coleman, Courtney Ramey and freshman Gerald Liddell hit three-pointers in the first half to help Texas to their 53.8% 3-point field goal percentage in the first half. Their defense played well too, as they held the struggling shooters of Colorado to 19 points in the first half. The confidence was beaming from this Texas squad, and helped the team finish the half with a comfortable 25 point lead, up 44-19.
Texas and Colorado both came out of the half looking flat. The teams only scored 6 points between them in the first 5 minutes of the half. Although Texas still had their lead (46-23), the team was looking bad, and allowed Colorado to get on a little run. After a 5-0 run by Colorado, Texas had two consecutive missed dunks within seconds of each other. Colorado took advantage of this, making a three-pointer on the ensuing possession. Colorado had then cut the lead down to 15 points (46-31), looked to make a comeback. Texas had started the second half shooting 2-15, the polar opposite of their 46.2% field goal percentage they had in the first half.
The Longhorns felt the mounting pressure of Colorado, and responded well. Following the run by Colorado, Texas made a 15-5 run to extend their lead back to 25 points. This resilience and utter dominance displayed by Texas showed that the team are ready to compete, even if it didn’t earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. After this point in the game, Texas used bench players for most of the remaining time. Colorado’s only bright spot in their poor team performance was Tyler Bey, who finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Despite a late run from Colorado, Texas finished the game with the a sizable 13-point lead, winning 68-55.
Osetkowski Dominance. – Dylan Osetkowski has shown flashes of brilliance in his career. Although most of his damage was done in the first half, Osetkowski showed that he is enjoying his last moments playing for Texas. Finishing with 15 points (7-11 field goals), 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals, he played as well as he ever has for Texas. In the NIT, Osetkowski has played a key role in the Texas game plan, and is looking to continue that role moving forward against TCU in New York.
Texas Confidence. – The Longhorns played with a lot of confidence against Colorado Wednesday night. Whether it was because of the struggles of Colorado or the looseness the team played with, they need to continue to play with that swagger. With Kerwin Roach back in the lineup and showing his full potential, the team looks like they are having fun. This will be an important part of their game that they need to maintain against TCU in the NIT semifinals.
Scoring Lull. – Texas needs to make sure to not let off the gas when they have large leads as they did Wednesday night. Colorado came out flat in the second half, but Texas has played teams that will disintegrate any lead that was there before in an instance (remember the 18-point lead against Baylor?). Texas has all the talent and skills necessary to win the NIT, they just need to be sure to stay engaged and keep their foot on the gas.
Texas will face off against TCU in the semifinals of the NIT at Madison Square Garden in New York City on April 2nd at 8 PM CST. This game will be televised on ESPN.
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