The Longhorns let another opportunity at a key win slip away last night. They battled all game, but came up short in the end. Â A win last night would’ve put Texas in 4th place in the Big 12, right behind Kansas, Baylor and Missouri. One would think 4th place in the Big 12 will be good enough for an NCAA tournament bid, especially give the fact that the 3 teams holding the top 3 positions are all ranked in the top 10 nationally. All that is irrelevant now though. The loss puts Texas in a 3 way tie for 5th with Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Rodney McGruder led Kansas State with a career high 33 points, including a game sealing dunk that extended the Wildcats lead to 4 with a little over 9 seconds remaining. McGruder and the Wildcats came out on fire. They jumped out to a 16 point lead midway through the 1st half, but the young Longhorns fought back and finished the half only down 1. Myck Kabongo led the charge. Â The talented Canadian point guard displayed the playmaking ability that made him so highly recruited coming out of high school. Â The 2nd half was one of ups and downs for the Longhorns. Â They looked strong offensively, getting a big contribution from Sheldon McClellan. Â Sheldon, like Myck played his best game of the season thus far. Â He scored an efficient 19 points, giving Longhorn fans hope that he has finally broken out of the shooting slump that has plagued him recently. Â The Longhorns came up short on the defensive end though. Â To put it simply, they were outhustled by Kansas State. Â The Wildcats ran the same play for most of the 2nd half, and most of the time it resulted in a made basket or an offensive rebound. Â If the Longhorns are serious about beating any of the other top tier teams in the Big 12, they will have improve their defensive rebounding.
What Lies Ahead for Texas:
With Kansas coming to Austin on Saturday, this is not where the young Longhorns wanted to be at this point in the season. Â The Jayhawks are 5-0 in conference and are playing as well as anybody in the country right now. Â A Texas win on Saturday would do wonders for their NCAA tournament hopes.
Keys to Success for Texas:
– Contain Thomas Robinson: In addition to playing good defense on Robinson, the Longhorns need to keep Robinson off the glass and attack him to attempt to get him in foul trouble.
– More playing time for Sterling Gibbs: Gibbs came in against Kansas State and was pulled immediately after making a mistake. Â He didn’t even see the floor for the rest of the night. Â Bad coaching move on Rick Barnes’ part. Â He’s essentially killing Gibbs’ confidence right now. Â Texas could certainly use another good defender at the guard position with all the talented guards in the Big 12 this year.
– Throw the zone away: Â Kansas State hit 3 straight 3s to build a double digit lead last night when Texas went to the zone. Â For some reason, they aren’t playing the zone well, yet Rick Barnes keeps switching to it. Â There is one constant in all of Texas’ losses. Â The zone defense has given teams wide open shots time after time.
– Rebound: Pretty self explanatory. Â The strange thing about this Longhorns rebounding woes is that they are actually a pretty good rebounding team. Â They lose a lot of defensive rebounds to teammates fighting over the ball, guys not being able to hold on to the ball when it comes into their hands and fumbling the ball out of bounds.
– Start fast: The Longhorns have not started well against a good team all season long. Â It seems like they don’t start playing until they are down. Â A fast start against Kansas on Saturday will energize the crowd as well as give the young Longhorns confidence. Â And we’ve seen how well Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis shoot the ball when they’re confident.
– More touches for Jonathan Holmes: Holmes’ versatility isn’t being utilized well enough by the Texas coaching staff. Â If Texas wants to attack Thomas Robinson, Jonathan Holmes is the guy to do it. Â He has a good enough handle to take Robinson off the dribble, and can shoot the ball well enough to make Robinson play him honestly the entire possession.
– Keep playing hard: You can see the frustration on their faces at times. Â The little mistakes they make turn into made plays for the opposition, they are missing layups and easy shots, they are attacking the rim and aren’t getting the calls they should get. Â All that stuff happens in basketball. Â They just have to realize that they are a good team and soon, very soon, good things will start to happen for them and to them if they keep playing hard. Â By reading their tweets, it seems like they are in good spirits and these losses are only making them stronger and hungrier. Â Texas fans can only hope so
– Myck Kabongo notched his 2nd straight double double, finishing with 14 points and a game high 10 assists
– J’Covan Brown led the Longhorns with 22 points on 8 for 28 shooting.
– Sheldon McClellan added 19 points
– Clint Chapman continued his strong play with 11 points