AUSTIN — After climbing all the way back from a 15-point deficit against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Texas dropped a heartbreaker in overtime to drop its fourth consecutive game in the Big 12, 65-53, at the Frank Erwin Center on Wednesday.
Texas did some things right (excellent individual defense on Forte and Nash. They also did some things wrong (19 turnovers leading to 18 points for the Cowboys).
But what matters most is that when Texas had a chance to win the game, they didn’t. Either in regulation or in overtime.
Seems about right, honestly.
The turnovers were as egregious as they were numerous. On four occasions, Texas’ guards literally handed the ball over to their defender which led to direct run outs and points for the Cowboys. They weren’t forced turnovers. They weren’t hounded and pressured. They simply dropped the ball into the hands of their OSU counterparts.
Those are the things that happen to teams that are expecting to lose.
As is the lack of offensive flow.
The offensive problems are really quite simple…
A) Texas wants to get the ball down low…except
they don’t have any players they can get the ball who can work their defender into a shot off a dribble down
they don’t have big men who are capable passers out of double/triple teams from the low block
so they have to…
B) Rely on spacing from their perimeter players…except
1. teams don’t have to play any of Holland, Taylor or Yancy as shooters
2. in fact, defenses clearly want Texas’ guards to shoot three pointers
3. but Texas’ guards are too timid (or too intimidated) to let it fly from deep
so that means…
Defenses don’t have to play against rotation and are allowed to play the pass in straight lines, which makes it far easier to help down off of post feeds, meaning Texas will struggle to get consistent offense even when they do get the ball down low.
Not much to say here. Texas got what they wanted on the defensive end and, while Forte and Nash combined for 31 points, it took them 32 shots to get it.
Unfortunately for Texas, OSU got a terrific game from Hickey to go along with some clutch shot making from Nash in overtime.
Texas lost this game because of their offensive ineptitude, not their defense.
A Look at the Numbers:
The Cowboys shot 38.5% (20-52) overall, 50% (5-10) from three, and 69% (20-29) from the line.
Texas shot 44.7% (21-47) overall, 50% (5-10) from three, and 72.7% (16-22) from the line.
Texas won the rebounding (35-29) and assist (8-7) battles while OSU had fewer turnovers (8-19).
Star of the Game: Isaiah Taylor
Demarcus Holland has a solid claim to this throne, but it was Taylor’s play over the last 15 minutes of the game that pulled the Longhorns back into the contest and gave them a chance to win.
Taylor (18 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 7 turnovers), unfortunately, also lands this spot because of what he didn’t do. The Longhorns were going to sink or swim with their star point guard. And, in the biggest of moments, Taylor simply didn’t convert. He missed the front end of a one-and-one in a tie game with 3.4 seconds to go in regulation. He airballed a deep two at the end of the shot clock with 80 seconds left in overtime. He missed a good look from three as the final buzzer sounded.
Without Taylor, Texas doesn’t even make it to overtime, but the Jeckyll and Hyde nature of Isaiah perfectly typifies what has ailed the Longhorns over their last eight games (six of them losses).
I said right after the Oklahoma loss that I didn’t know for sure what that game was, but I knew what it felt like…it felt like 2010. It felt like a team who came to the solemn realization that they didn’t have the collective skill set to offset their inherent weaknesses.
That’s what you’ve got here tonight, fellas.
You can’t find driving angles and passing lanes without perimeter shooting…you can’t have perimeter shooting without players rising and firing from three when open…you can’t have rising and firing when open without confidence and belief…you can’t have confidence and belief when you believe there is a better shot than a wide open look from beyond the arc.
Defenses at this level are designed to take away what you do well in the effort to make teams beat you with their weaknesses. And, if they’re good enough to do that, then you tip your cap and move along your way.
Well, Texas continues to play an offensive style of basketball that forces the issue into an area of the floor that accentuates what they don’t do in the first place…make teams pay for how hard they sag in man.
So you have a Horns team – which is dependent upon dribble penetration – dribbling into a sagging defense without shooters to kick out to.
Hence the 19 turnovers.
Hence spotting OSU a 15-point first half lead.
Hence not having enough playmaking in the tank to win the game.
Luckily for Texas, they now get to head to Manhattan, KS where they’ve had tons of good fortune in winning at KSU…or something like that.
Should be fun.
More from our Mike Blackwell:
Texas’ winter of discontent continued Tuesday night at the Erwin Center, where the Longhorns lost their fourth straight game, this time to Oklahoma State in overtime, 65-63.
The latest loss might’ve been the hardest to accept for Rick Barnes’ team, with victory within their grasp at the free throw line at the end of regulation. But with 3.2 seconds remaining, Isaiah Taylor – an 83 percent free throw shooter – missed a one-and-one attempt after Texas had rallied to tie the game at 56 following another slow start.
In overtime, the Longhorns again suffered heartbreak at the free throw line when UT’s Connor Lammert, with his team trailing 63-62 with 11.6 seconds left, canned just one of two free throws to tie the score. The Cowboys’ Phil Forte then promptly drove past Demarcus Holland, drawing a Texas foul by Cameron Ridley. Forte made both subsequent free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining, and Taylor’s last-second, 35-footer bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
“It was a heartbreaker,” said Barnes, who seemed almost upbeat after the game. “But I’m proud of these guys.”
Barnes’ positivity despite the wrenching nature of the loss probably was in part to what the Longhorns were missing Tuesday night. Guard Javan Felix missed the game entirely with concussion-related issues, and Jonathan Holmes was scoreless in the game after a head-butt sent him to the sidelines. Felix and Holmes were averaging 11 points apiece in conference play.
Still, a 35-24 first-half OSU advantage proved too much for Texas to overcome, despite holding the Cowboys to just 21 points in the second half.
“I really feel for our guys,” said Barnes, whose team faces Kansas State on the road Saturday. “They really showed me something in the second half, but the start of the game was inexcusable. I thought Demarcus was terrific.”
Holland scored 14 points, but his primary “terrific-ness” came on the defensive end of the court, where he hounded Forte into three of 13 shooting from the field. Taylor – his primary backcourt mate in this Felix-less game – led the team in scoring with 18 points, but the Longhorns struggled on the interior.
“We got good guard play, but didn’t get anything inside,” Barnes said. “I am definitely proud of our guards, but in this league, if everybody doesn’t play well…”
The Longhorns trailed at one point by 15 points in the first half, and found themselves down by 12 points in the second half before climbing back into the game. While Taylor made just 6 of 15 points, Holland was five of six from the field and made all four of his three-point attempts, finishing with 14 points. Those two – along with guard Kendal Yancy, logged major minutes in Felix’s absence: Taylor, Holland and Yancy played 43, 42 and 37 minutes respectively.
The Cowboys’ Le’Bryan Nash led his team in scoring with 17 points, Anthony Hickey Jr. scored 15 and Forte scored a hard-earned 14 points. The Cowboys moved to 15-7 overall and 5-5 in the Big 12, while the Longhorns fell to 14-8 and 3-6 in league play. Taylor scored 18 for Texas, and Ridley added 12.
“Maybe this will help us,” Barnes surmised. “And hopefully it’ll make us stronger. It has to make us stronger, we don’t have a choice.”