WACO — Defeating the No. 6 ranked team on the road is a tough task. Struggling from the field makes the task tougher, and allowing an opponent to go for 32 points and 20 rebounds makes it almost impossible.
AUSTIN — Shaka Smart’s four-year-long recruitment of blue chip point guard Matt Coleman (Oak Hill Academy) has finally paid off as Coleman committed to the Longhorns on Monday night during the ESPN telecast of Oak Hill’s game against Nathan Hale.
Against a team designed to break opponent’s composure, Shaka Smart’s young Texas Longhorns played one of their most composed games of the season against the hard-pressing West Virginia Mountaineers, led by freshman Andrew Jones’ 17 points and freshman Jarrett Allen’s game-high 19 points and seven rebounds. Texas played a good all-around game, shooting 48 percent and making 78 percent of their free throws, but the Mountaineer defense forced 19 turnovers and played better than Texas did when it mattered down the stretch to defeat Texas, 74-72.
A valiant effort from an undermanned Texas squad fell just short as the #10 Mountaineers came into Austin and took down a Texas team that played with a passion and energy that belies their record.
Things really seemed to be okay a week ago. Texas had just beaten Oklahoma State on Wednesday before losing a close game at Iowa State where they were in the game in the final minute against a team that had just lost by two at number one Baylor. Not where Texas fans wanted to be, but headed in the right direction.
When little things turn into big things. That’s been the single, most exhaustive issue for a Texas team that can’t get out of their own way this season. More than the lack of a true point guard. More than the lack of veteran leadership. More than any systemic issues. It’s the little things. And, in their aggregation, how those little things become big.
It looked as if Texas was about to step on TCU’s throat with just under nine minutes left in the second half. Freshman Jacob Young laid the ball up and in to make it 53-46 with Texas in control of the game, the crowd loud and on its feet and Shaka Smart’s young Texas team with the opportunity to take control of the game for good.
In their momentary calm before the storm that is the next three games after tonight’s contest (WVU, @Baylor, @KU), the Longhorns (7-8, 1-2) host the TCU Horned Frogs (12-3, 1-2) at the Erwin Center. The Horned Frogs, under new head coach (and TCU alumnus) Jamie Dixon, have hopes for an ascension amongst their Big 12 brethren and hope Dixon’s hard nosed, purposeful brand of basketball will function in a talented, if not exactly headlining, group of hoops schools. So far, there’s little to see as far as a significant change between Dixon’s first squad and Johnson’s last, but he did a nice job at Pitt and he certainly is worthy of some leeway.
Early turnovers and some big three point makes from the Cyclones doomed an otherwise applaudable game from the Texas Longhorns as they fell to Iowa State *-* in Ames.
Coming off their first conference win (and one of the better games they’ve played all year), the Longhorns (7-7, 1-1) head north on I-35 to take on an Iowa State Cyclone (9-4, 1-1) team that one-part knows exactly who they are and one-part finds themselves searching for a new identity post Georges Niang. Is this a winnable game for Texas or simply another in the long line of UT teams who come up to Ames only to head home in disappointed fashion?