Game Thoughts: UT, Oklahoma State

Jarrett Allen. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Jarrett Allen. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Texas – 82
Oklahoma State – 79
ESPN Box Score

Overall Game Thoughts

The Longhorns got big contributions from Tevin Mack and Eric Davis en route to a not-quite-as-close-as-it-looked win over the visiting Oklahoma State Cowboys on Wednesday night at the Erwin Center.

Plenty of good things to talk about, but a win (any fricking win at all) is enough to rejoice in for Texas fans.

Offense:

At the beginning of the first half, Kerwin looked tentative. Uncomfortable at just how high OSU was bringing ball pressure and hedging, Roach looked like he wasn’t sure exactly when to attack the ball screen defense or trust his athleticism against his defender.

That led to two early turnovers from Texas’ sophomore guard and some shaky offensive sets as the Longhorns waited too long to get into their action.

Then Shaka went small and started to pull up Mack as his four on ball screens. Well, actually, Mack rarely ever actually screened. The Longhorns instead went into multiple looks where the screener would flash toward the ball only to cut off early. This allowed Roach to set up a pick and roll look but then attack into the left open space that was occupied by the help defender.

This little wrinkle put Kerwin (and Andrew) into spots where they could attack into open areas and use their length and athleticism to force defensive rotation.

That’s where Tevin came in.

The sophomore swingman has been Texas’ best three point shooter from the jump this season, but he’s had his fair share of struggles when looking to finish in the lane. That was not the case tonight. Mack finished the game 6-10 from inside the arc (4-7 outside of it) including multiple difficult finishes at the basket in transition and on dribble penetration off of reversals/skips.

For a time, Mack was outscoring the entire Cowboy team in the second half.

Then Davis decided to get himself out of his shooting slump. Hobbled with a leg injury, Eric was forced to worry more about his movement than his poor shooting stroke of late. And, happily for Texas fans, it did the trick. He nailed a wide open three off of a find from Roach against rotation. Later, he took advantage of a mismatch when OSU’s big (Solomon) switched onto him off of a pick and roll for a left handed scoop layup. Then, with Texas up seven, Davis hit a pull up three in Evan’s face to, effectively, seal the Longhorns’ win

There were nice adjustments from the coaching staff, positive efforts from multiple players and even some shaky free throw shooting at the end (it can’t be all positive, right?).

And every Texas fan will take it.

Defense:

Two things stand out.

First, Texas coaxed Jawun Evans into five turnovers, marking the second straight game Evans had that many giveaways (both losses).

That the Horns (specifically Roach) were able to keep Evans from establishing a comfort level in their halfcourt sets put an emphasis on the rest of the Cowboys from a playmaking standpoint, which was a win for Texas.

The other was that Texas was NOT going to let Phil Forte beat them from deep.

Now, this is not the same Phil Forte from his pre-injury time, but Texas has lost games to lesser OSU teams because of letting a shooter get hot and burn them.

The coaching staff clearly wanted to make the Cowboys win with playmaking and creating off the dribble (two things Forte struggles with). The senior from Flower Mound ended the game 2-12 from the field (including 0-5 from inside the arc) and the Longhorns got what they wanted in forcing OSU to manufacture other ways to beat them than by open outside shooting.

A Look at the Numbers:

Tevin Mack. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Tevin Mack. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Oklahoma State shot 42.6% (26-61) overall, 32% (8-25) from three, and 82.6% (19-23) from the line.

Texas shot 43.9% (25-57) overall, 36.8% (7-19) from three, and 75.8% (25-33) from the line.

Texas won the rebounding battle (37-32) while OSU had more assists (12-11) and both teams had 11 turnovers.

Star of the Game: Tevin Mack

It’s tempting to highlight Davis and Roach for their big-time performances on both ends of the floor, but tonight belongs to Mack (27 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block).

Tevin, like Eric, is a player that exudes his passion for the game. Depending on the day, that can go either way from positive to negative, but when he’s able to attack in space like he could tonight, he’s a difficult player to stop because he is deadly from the perimeter, has nice touch on mid range pull ups/floaters and is crafty around the rim despite his lack of explosiveness.

His game was aided in a big way by OSU’s willingness to play up and down at a fast pace, but he still had to finish against pressure and help at the rim.

And finish he did.

Excellent game for Tevin.

The Endgame:

The results are up and down, but Texas fans need to focus on the progress.

I, myself allowed the loss against Kent State to get me down and look away from how Texas’ players are getting better because it’s easy to do and mounting losses are frustrating.

But don’t lose sight of the fact that this is one of the youngest teams in college basketball that has a bright future with some talented newcomers on the horizon.

I loved how Texas’ ball handlers were looking for the big men on dives in the pick and roll.

I loved how Roach and Jones stayed patient in their work against ball pressure.

I loved how Davis actually hit the big shots that he took tonight and the hope that brings for the future.

I loved how multiple players looked to pump up the crowd and build energy in the atmosphere.

I loved that they won.

Now they head to Ames on Saturday for another tough game at Iowa State.

I’ll be there…will you?…no?…that’s cool…it should be a fun time anyway.