Coach Matt Cumro, former Longhorn grad assistant and moderator of
the Inside Texas Basketball Coaches Corner Forum, gives his in-depth
preview of Wednesday's Texas-Oklahoma State game in Austin, including opposing
player tendencies, strengths, weaknesses and keys to the game.
• Player tendencies
◦ #2 Fred Gulley – Gulley is a strong young point guard with solid quickness who averages 19 minutes per game on the season but has seen his playing time go up with the loss of Raymond Penn due to injury. Despite his inexperience, Gulley has done a nice job of taking care of the basketball this season. So far he averages 1.1 assists per game in his limited action and has an assist to turnover ratio of 1:1. Gulley is at his best using his strength and quickness to drive to the basket where he has really struggled to find the mark this season. On the year he is shooting only 23.2% from the floor and has yet to hit a 3pt shot going 0-15. Defensively Gulley does a decent job of defending the basketball but, like many freshmen, struggles to be in the proper positioning at all times away from the basketball. Texas needs to pressure the young point guard in hopes that he will commit a couple of turnovers and keep him out of the lane on the offensive end of the floor.
◦ #12 Keiton Page – Page is a solid young player who has proven to be an excellent shooter and a very tough player. Page has range out to about 24ft and he can shoot off the catch, coming off of screens, or in transition. He really likes coming off of downscreens in the Cowboys’ spread offens looking to hit a 3pt shot. At this stage in his career he is not very adept at putting the ball on the floor and making a play off the dribble for himself or his teammates. In fact, Page has only attempted 60 free throws on the season, hitting 88.3% of his attempts. When he does put the basketball on the floor he is best at using one or two dribbles and pulling up for a shot. Like most great right-handed shooters he is more likely to shoot a pull-up jumper when going left and is more comfortable taking the ball deeper when using his right hand. Page also employs an excellent shot fake, which helps him get into the lane against pressure. It will be key for the Longhorn defenders to always know where Page is on the floor so they're not giving him open looks from the perimeter. He has average lateral quickness which makes it difficult to free himself off the dribble against a quality defender and he is also a below average ball defender. Off the ball he is a very solid position defender. Look for the Longhorns to drive him at every opportunity, to find him in transition, and to show very little help off of Page in the half court.
◦ #23 James Anderson (pictured) – Anderson is the leading scorer in the Big 12 Conference this season, and ranks in the top five nationally, averaging 22.8 points per game. Against Texas earlier this season in Stillwater, he went off for 24 1st half points before Texas put Dogus Balbay on him in the 2nd half. Dogus held Anderson to four 2nd half points but with Balbay out for the rest of the season finding someone to control Anderson could be a very difficult task. Early in his career Anderson was a spot up shooter but he has since added a solid game off the dribble to his arsenal. On the season he has attempted 215 free throws (8.3 per game) and has knocked down 80.5% of those attempts, which ranks third in the conference. Anderson really likes to go left off the dribble but is capable of going either direction. He doesn't have a well-refined mid-range game and is susceptible to charging fouls. He uses the pick and roll and will attack the basket or look to pull up for a 3pt shot. Anderson will also shoot 3pt shots in transition or off the dribble in a one on one setting and the Cowboys will free him on occasion with baseline screens. With the Cowboys lack of size Anderson has also had to do his share of work on the boards for this Oklahoma State team and is averaging 6.1 rebounds per game. He is an especially dangerous offensive rebounder averaging 2.1 offensive boards per game on the season. Defensively Anderson will get into the passing lanes and gamble for steals but is overall a solid defender. Texas must force Anderson to his right, find him in transition, look to take charges on him when he drives, and keep him off the free throw line.
◦ #2 Obi Muonelo - Muonelo has really played a large role in the success Oklahoma State has had this season. He has a well-rounded game and can play both inside and outside for the Cowboys. On the season he is averaging 13.3 points per game and is shooting 44.4% from the field. Muonelo is capable of posting up but rarely goes down there because he is usually at a size disadvantage playing the power forward position with his 6'5 frame. Muonelo is also a solid player on the perimeter and despite being right handed he really prefers to go left when operating off the dribble where he can pull-up or get to the rim. Despite the fact that he averages 2 assists per game he has a tendency to get out of control on the drive which can lead to some turnovers and charging fouls. Muonelo is the 2nd leading 3pt shooter in the Big 12 Conference (45.2% on the season) but is not much of a catch and shoot threat coming off of screens. So far on the season Muonelo has attempted 135 3pt shots and 126 2pt shots, which is a testament to the coaches belief in hid ability to shoot the jumper and the overall balance in his game. Muonelo has also proven to be an excellent rebounder during his time in the Big 12. On the season he is using his strength to average 5.5 rebounds per game but only 1.3 on the offensive end where the Cowboy coaches would like to see him more active because of his strength and athletic ability. Defensively Muonelo plays solid post defense after the catch but sometimes loses focus and allows players to get post position. On the perimeter he does a nice job using his strength and athleticism to stay in front of the ball but can sometimes be caught out of position. Texas must keep him off the boards, limit him in transition, and prevent him from getting uncontested looks from 3pt range, especially in the half court.
◦ #31 Matt Pilgrim – Pilgrim, a transfer from Kentucky, is a physical banger who will be expected to help control Dexter Pittman during his minutes on the court. On the season he averages 7.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in only 18 minutes per game. He is one of the top rebounders in the Big 12 Conference when it comes to rebounds per minute of action and is the 9th leading rebounder in the conference. Pilgrim really does an excellent job on the boards relying on positioning, timing, and instincts, as opposed to sheer athleticism to grab rebounds. He is also solid on the offensive boards as he averages right around 1.8 offensive rebounds per contest for the Cowboys. Offensively Pilgrim can drive right from the perimeter and when he does this he is not looking to pass the basketball but rather get all the way to the rim and finish. On the block he looks to use the dribble drop step, a jump hook, and he can shoot a turnaround jumper over his left shoulder on the block. Pilgrim's strength allows him to be able to establish good defensive positioning on the block and to push most post players one step off the block, out of their comfort zone. He is a decent athlete but is not a shot blocker so defensive positioning is a big key for him to excel. I expect Pilgrim to match-up with Pittman on various occasions when the Cowboys go with their man defense. I also expect that, even with Pilgrim in the game, the Cowboys will double team the post as they did in both their man and zone defense in the first meeting with the Longhorns on the season. Dexter and the other Texas post players must work hard for position against Pilgrim, use his strength to beat him on the offensive end, and keep him off the boards.
◦ #15 Nick Sidorakis – Sidorakis has earned more playing time since the injury to Penn took the young point guard out for the entire season. Sidorakis is not much of a threat offensively and averages only 1.7 points per game on the season. Furthermore he has only taken 27 shots (20 from 3pt range) in his 17 games of action. Sidorakis has very limited ball skills and is not looking to take anyone off the dribble. His job is to take care of the basketball, give the other Cowboy players a rest, hit open 3pt shots, and play tough defense. The young man is a tough, scrappy player and a good position defender although he can be beaten off the dribble. Texas must make sure that Sidorakis doesn't get any open looks from the perimeter as this is the only way I can see him hurting the Longhorns during this game.
◦ #33 Marshall Moses – Moses is a player that I really like and have a lot of respect for because of the attitude he brings to the court and the way he plays out of position for the good of the team. Despite being listed at 6'7 (and that's being very generous) Moses is able to average 9.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game (5th in the league) for this Oklahoma State team. He is very adept at using his body to create space and he is very physical down in the low post. Moses works very hard for the basketball and on the catch has a scoring mentality, sometimes to a fault. He doesn't kick the ball back out to the perimeter much once he catches it and has been known to force some difficult shots up at the basket or turn the ball over. On the catch he usually looks to dribble the ball on post moves and really likes to utilize the spin move down low. The vast majority of the time this lefty will look to turn to his right shoulder in the post where he can utilize his left handed jump hook. When he does anything to his left shoulder it's off a dribble drop step where he will take a couple of dribbles with his left hand and look to make a quick drop step while on the right block. When he catches on the perimeter (the Cowboys run a play where he catches at the right elbow for a clear out) Moses will look to drive the ball to his left. Moses is a terrific offensive rebounder, utilizing his quickness to work around less mobile big men to get easy 2nd chance opportunities. Defensively, because of his lack of size teams will attack him in the post and he has run into foul trouble this season, averaging 3.2 fouls per game and fouling out of four contests. However, Moses does a great job of using his leverage to get post players off the block. He does a decent job defending the pick and roll. Texas must keep Moses off the glass, the Horns must defend his right shoulder once he catches the ball in the low post and they must look to attack him inside and get him into early foul trouble.
◦ #32 Roger Franklin – A former high school teammate of Texas freshman Shawn Williams, Franklin is a classic tweener, lacking the height to be a banger down low at the power forward position and lacking the necessary ball skills and shooting touch to excel on the perimeter. However, with the lack of size on this Cowboy team he is often put in a position where he is playing power forward so he is able to use his quickness on occasion to beat bigger defenders off the dribble. He makes up for his lack of ball skills by bringing fire, a great work ethic, and an unselfish attitude to the floor every night. Franklin has proven to be a high energy player for this Oklahoma State team, averaging 3.1 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in only 11 minutes of action. Franklin has range out to 17ft and when he is attacking these bigger defenders he wants to use his right hand to get to the rim as he doesn't possess much of a pull-up game. In fact, on the season Roberts has an assist to turnover ration of 0.5:1, (only 6 assists and 11 turnovers) showing that his ball skills need to be developed and that he is not much of a threat to create for himself or others off penetration. Because of this Franklin really struggles against smaller, quicker defenders on the perimeter. In this even he goes down into the post where he will use his physical style of play to attack. Franklin does shoot a high percentage from the field, because of his excellent shot selection, but I see him struggling against the Texas defense on the perimeter. In order for him to be effective in this game he must be able to rebound the ball well and prove to be a solid defender on Damion and Gary, both in the post and on the perimeter.
◦ Team Defense
▪ This is a very well-coached Oklahoma State team that gives its opponents a variety of looks throughout the course of the game. On the season the Cowboys are 6th in the Big 12 in points allowed per game, holding their opponents to 41% from the floor. They will run a 2-3 zone, a 1-3-1 trapping zone, and they will run man defense as well. Expect to see them start man to man against the Longhorns and switch quickly to zone which they ran for the majority of the game in their upset victory at Kansas State. They had success with their zone against Texas in the previous meeting this year until Jordan Hamilton got hot at the end of the 1st half and stayed hot during the entire 2nd half. When they run their man defense they will “Ice” the pick and roll (not let the ball handler get to the screen and force them opposite) and they will apply good pressure to the basketball with their small lineup. Expect them to trap the post every time Dexter Pittman catches the ball on the block when they're in man and in their zone defense. They will also look to switch some perimeter screens. The Cowboys pack their zone in a little bit more than most teams and are less likely to be driven on. They are a team that will give up good perimeter looks, as witnessed by the fact that they rank 11th in the Big 12 Conference at defending the 3pt shot, allowing opponents to hit 36.1% of their shots behind the arc. They defend the high post reasonably well and have even rebounded well out of the zone lately, which is very difficult to do. The Longhorns need to play from inside out, getting the ball into the paint via penetration or post entry. On kickouts the perimeter players need to step up and hit some shots to soften the zone.
◦ Transition Game
▪ The smaller Cowboys will look to push the tempo on makes and misses, hoping to use their speed and quickness to beat the opponents up the floor. Gulley shows very good speed with the ball at the point guard position and they have two very athletic wings in Muonelo and Anderson who run the floor and look to get easy transition baskets. Oklahoma State will look to shoot 3pt shots in transition, especially Page and Muonelo, so the Longhorn defenders must find shooters when they are getting back in defensive transition. The Longhorns must look to take care of the basketball to limit the number of points the Cowboys score off turnovers, slow the basketball with pressure from Avery Bradley, and find Anderson, Muonelo, and Page on the break.
◦ Half Court Offense
▪ Although I really like this Oklahoma State team, the Cowboys struggle to score at times in their half-court offense due to their lack of a consistent low post scoring threat and questionable outside shooting. The Cowboys employ a 4 Out / 1 In system with Pilgrim or Moses playing on the inside. Since both players lack much range and are somewhat undersized, they utilize their quickness and will run them into ballscreens in order to keep the floor spread for their perimeter players to get to the basket. One of their most utilized sets is where they will set a wing pick and roll and slide up the shooter from the corner to the wing. They will look to attack the basket off penetration or kick back to the shooter who replaced the ball handler on the wing. On this kick back Pilgrim or Moses will buttonhook in the post and look to get the ball on the seal. The defenders off the basketball must make sure that they are in proper help defensive position to stop the pass to the roller. Good pick and roll defense on the wings will be an essential factor to stopping this Cowboys team. In addition, with the injury to Dogus Balbay and the expected insertion of J'Covan Brown into the starting lineup, don't be surprised if the Longhorns come out and play more zone defense this game. This will allow them to utilize their most talented offensive players, some of whom struggle on the defensive end of the floor at times.
◦ Perimeter Shooting
▪ While Oklahoma State shoots a lot of 3pt shots (2nd most in the conference behind Oklahoma) they have not knocked down perimeter shots at a high percentage this season. On the year the Cowboys are shooting 35% from 3pt range, ranking them 11th in the Big 12 Conference. Only one of the players in their rotation, Muonelo, is shooting higher than 36.5% from 3pt range on the season. However, their willingness to shoot the deep shot is vital to their offensive system for two reasons. First, they have quality shooters out there that the defense must respect and second, due to their lack of size they need to keep the floor spread by showing the willingness and ability to knock down these shots. By being a threat from beyond the arc they are setting up situations where they can attack the baskets by beating closeouts and getting into the lane. This creates draw and kick situations for their teammates, which either gives them open looks or another opportunity to attack closeouts. Expect more of the same against Texas as the Longhorns must do a solid job defending the ball in this game to prevent their ability to get into the lane and kick the ball out to open shooters. Plus, when Texas is in the 2-3 zone it is going to be vital to know where these shooters are and to closeout effectively on them to limit their penetration.
• Texas Keys:
◦ Ball Defense
▪ As stated above, Oklahoma State has a small, quick team and is very adept at attacking defenses off the dribble to either get to the rim or to kick out to open 3pt shooters. The Texas defenders must stay in front of the basketball and stop dribble penetration as the Cowboys will often employ a lineup of three people that are capable of knocking down three point shots. This means containing the Cowboys off of the pick and roll as well, especially Anderson. Since Anderson is so good at going to his left I would like to see the Horns “Ice” the pick and roll when Anderson has the ball on the right wing, making him beat the defense by going to his right. Texas must do a better job of getting helpside defenders in position to help on the roller (Moses or Pilgrim), without getting too far away from the player they are currently covering. Avery Bradley is a key because of his ability to pressure the basketball and the Horns cannot afford to get him into foul trouble. With the loss of Dogus, Texas really doesn't have anyone else that can apply the type of pressure to ball handlers that he can. The more minutes Bradley plays the better I feel about the Horns’ chances of stopping the Cowboys off the bounce. At the same time, Texas must stop dribble penetration when in zone defense as well. The Horns absolutely cannot allow the Cowboys to collapse the zone and kick out to open shooters from beyond the arc.
▪ Texas has a distinct size advantage in this match-up. On the season the Longhorns are +5.1 in rebounding margin while the Cowboys are just +2.3. In addition, Oklahoma State ranks 10th in the Big 12 in offensive rebounds per game, where Texas ranks 2nd. However, there have been times this season where Texas has not rebounded the ball all that well, which I believe is just a lack of focus and effort. This Cowboys team is very scrappy and actually out-rebounded Kansas State in the big win in Manhattan, 44-37, plus they stayed within three rebounds of Baylor on Saturday which is one of the premier rebounding teams in the country. Coming into this game the Longhorns have been inconsistent on the boards but really destroyed Texas Tech on the glass this past Saturday. The Horns must bring their A game on the boards from here on out if the hope to have any chance to make a run in March.
◦ Defending Anderson
▪ Anderson will be a tough match-up for this Longhorn team as he has the size, skill, and ability to be a shooting guard in the NBA next season, yet he plays either the power forward or small forward position for this Cowboy team. When Texas goes small the Horns have the option of putting Avery Bradley (6'3) on the 6'6 Anderson. This could lead to post-up opportunities making it very difficult for the Longhorns to defend him. The other option is to put a bigger defender on Anderson such as Damion James or Gary Johnson, both of whom really struggled defending him in the last game. Neither Damion nor Gary has been very successful at defending players who use screens very well (both ballscreens and off ball screens on the baseline) in the past so it's likely that Anderson could really get going from the perimeter if Texas matched up in this way. Because of this I really don't see Texas playing with its big lineup a lot in this game and I really don't see the Horns playing as much man as they have in the past. When Texas goes zone the Horns must know where Anderson is at all times and contest every shot. Most importantly they must limit his penetration vs. man or zone as he really excels at getting to the free throw line. A big key to defending Anderson is keeping him off of the line, a place he gets right around 8 times per game (hitting 80.5%). If Texas can find him in transition, force him to his right, and contest all of his looks then the Horns should be able to control him.
Also see: Coaches Corner post-game coverage (Thoughts, Player Reports, Defensive Breakdown Chart after every game)