What Texas had on Saturday was a confident team. A team confident its best player would play like the projected lottery pick he is. A team confident in its ability to make shots. A team confident in its defensive intensity. A team confident it could make the opponent have to play to its weaknesses.
Mohamed Bamba turned in a five-star game, going 25-and-15 with four blocks. He missed just three shots the entire game; one free throw (12-of-13) and two field goals (6-of-8). He didn’t do it alone, as he had help from Kerwin Roach, who continued his hot streak since returning from injury, and Dylan Osetkowski, whose 17-and-7 looked good in his new hairstyle.
Ole Miss was limited offensively to the work of Deandre Burnett, a knockdown shooter who led the Rebels with 21 points, and Dominik Olejniczak, a Polish 7-footer who scored 16 points – 12 more than his season average. Texas forced 10 turnovers against the Rebels and made every bucket for them difficult. Take away a very out-of-character performance by Dominik O, and the complexion of this game looks much more tilted to the Longhorns.
Shaka Smart made an emphasis earlier in the week about Bamba’s ability to seal defenders. He did that multiple times today, and because he could get the ball almost whenever he wanted, other players around him benefitted. Jase Febres had a career high 29 minutes and was 4-of-8 from deep, showing both confidence in himself and confidence from Shaka Smart.
Eric Davis played strong, and Matt Coleman didn’t do anything too much to Texas’ detriment, though he was only 1-of-7 shooting.
20:00 – 15:13 – Ole Miss was stifled pretty well early, but two quick threes from Deandre Burnett helped their offense get going a little bit. Really liked the defensive switching and effort from the Longhorns early. They communicated screens well but also gave Burnett too much room for a 41 percent three-point shooter. Bamba was active on the boards (three in five minutes) and Osetkowski attacked. 10-8 UT
15:13 – 11:41 – This game took an immediate turn when Bamba slowly made his way to the locker room with 12:13 left. Texas and Ole Miss traded buckets for the most part, but how Ole Miss got those buckets were a little eye-opening. OM’s Dominik Olejniczak started to feast in the paint against Osetkowski and Sims, going 4-of-4 in this segment. 18-18 (10-8 MISS)
11:41 – 7:46 – Luckily for the Longhorns, Babma came back in with 10:12 left, only a short absence. The Rebels had to work to get those buckets again, and Bamba made his presence felt. Unfortunately, one of the ways he made that known was with a flagrant one after tying up with Marcanvis Hymon. The Rebels made both free throws, and Texas tried to respond with a three but couldn’t. Texas responded, and Bamba himself responded on the boards, and Texas closed the segment with an opportunity for Osetkowski to complete and and-1.
Bamba spoke before the season about trying to bring a Harlem playground-like edge to this team because he saw in watching last year’s season the team needed it. When I originally heard that, I wondered if that would result in any free throws for the opposing team at some point. I can’t recall this happening another time this season. Bamba is an incredibly smart player and person. He knows his limits, and got caught one time in the heat of the moment, likely after being frustrated he was not on the floor for a short stretch. 27-25 UT (9-7 UT)
7:46 – 3:43 – Texas won this segment 11-5 thanks to some knockdown shooting from Febres and Roach as well as great effort from Osetkowski. After failing to complete the 1-and-1, Osetkowski came right back and forced a turnover, rewarding himself with a dunk. Ole Miss would score one of just two buckets in this four minutes stretch off a three from Breein Tyree. Then Roach drove the lane and laid it up and in. Osetkowski put himself in the right place at the right time to grab a Roach miss. Andy Kennedy had to call a timeout for the Rebels, and they responded with a deflating turnover. Then an even more deflating dunk for Osetkowski. Texas could have lost some composure especially after Bamba left and Olejniczak went on his hot streak, but Bamba’s return and subsequent strong play helped to make sure that didn’t happen. 38-30 UT (11-5 UT)
3:43 – 0:00 – Dominik O’s best half this season is what helped the Rebels stay in it at this point, along with 12 from Burnett. What kept Texas in control here? More Mo Bamba. Bamba hit a three and all four of his free throws for all of Texas’ seven points in this segment. Texas didn’t extend the lead, but they kept control of this game heading in to halftime.
The passing in this segment was some of the best the Horns have shown all year, but Texas’ ability to actually hit shots (48.5 percent from the field and 37.5 from three at the half) kept those passing lanes open. 45-36 UT (7-6 UT)
20:00 – 13:44 – This was one of the longest stretches of the season, running a touch over 6 minutes. Both teams only made three shots combined, but Bamba and Osetkowski added a pair of free throws to their respective buckets. Texas took some good shots during this stretch, but couldn’t get them to fall. There was one moment of trepidation from Eric Davis, as he had an open shot in the corner early in the shot clock, but passed it up to instead begin the offensive set.
One of the best plays of the game came during this segment, and involved Osetkowski holding the ball on the perimeter. The three other guards moved out, and Bamba gained position on the defensive player. Dylan O fired a strike right to Bamba, who had successfully sealed off his man (a point of emphasis from Smart earlier in the week). Bamba finished one of the prettiest plays of the day with a strong two-handed dunk. 55-45 UT (10-9 UT)
13:44 – 11:17 – Short segment here with a timeout to extend it a little longer. However, where Davis early showed some restraint in transition, he let it fly and hit nothing but net. Both he and Shaka Smart exploded with emotion, and Texas was playing some of its best basketball of the year at that point. 60-47 UT (5-2 UT)
11:17 – 7:56 – A lot of traded buckets again, but Febres three coming out of the timeout by design shows how much both his confidence and Smart’s confidence in him has grown throughout the season. Bamba had a great sequence where he gave a no-look dish to a corner shooter, grabbed the ensuing rebound, and moved his way under the basket for a strong dunk that the Erwin Center crowd loved. The next time down the floor, he attempted a three but was fouled. He hit all three free throws. OM wasn’t able to make any dent in the lead, and Ole Miss had one of their forwards, Justas Furmanavicius, foul out during this stretch. 71-56 UT (11-9 UT)
7:56 – 3:24 – Bamba stayed on the bench after the previous TVTO, but quickly came back into the game after a break to get back to work on the thinly manned Rebel frontcourt. It became even thinner when Bruce Stevens, another post player, was disqualified with his fifth foul. Bamba made his presence felt on defense again with another block of 7-footer Dominik O, and continued to play a lottery caliber game. An even scoring segment, but it was easy to see the remaining air being taken out of the Ole Miss sails. 79-64 UT (8-8)
3:24 – 0:00 – The story of this game was told when Davis hit a three over a Rebel defender with 18 seconds left. The Rebel defender looked up, saw it go in, and just looked down and moped back to the offensive end. That kind of game for the Rebels. 85-72 (8-6 MISS)
Texas won 7 segments. Ole Miss won 2. One tie.
Shaka Smart quotes
On trying to be the more aggressive team: I thought the guys did a good job of that. They, Mississippi, came in with a level of physicality and aggressiveness, especially against Mo but I think against all of our guys, and we needed to obviously stand up to that. Our guys did a nice job. I heard Dylan mention earlier talking about less dribbling and more passing. That’s one of the ways to stand up to the other team. Be efficient and execute on offense. I thought our guys did a good job of that.
On if defensive pressure helped them be that team: It’s a way to be aggressive. I didn’t think we had great aggressiveness on defense at times in the first half. We went to the press. It forced a few turnovers, but more importantly it was able to disrupt some of their offensive flow of what they try to do. You saw in the second half that they can really get going when they get flowing on offense. They can really make shots and attack.
On Bamba and Osetkowski’s physicality compared to what he wants: Dylan’s more physical than Mo. I’d give Dylan an eight. I’d give Mo a six, but Mo’s come a long way. The first five, eight games of the year he was like a two. He’s come a long way. He needs to continue to understand if he can be lower and get his hips into guys on post-ups and on seals, that would be to his advantage.
On creating a win streak: We talked a lot about that. Our guys have done a nice job responding when we had a tough game. That’s a big point of emphasis for us culturally. But at the same time, when you win you don’t want to be any less motivated than you were after a loss. We talked quite a bit about that the last couple of days. Our guys, I thought, approached practice really, really well. They came in here early, did shoot around, and there was an energy. Our guys met this morning on their own. I don’t know exactly what was said, but they came down to the court for shoot around at 9 a.m. with a good aggressiveness about them.
On continuing to attack with a lead: We did. I said three things. Number one, continue trying to attack in transition and get a great shot early. Number two, execute what we’re trying to do. The details are even more important late. Number three, don’t pass up a good or great shot. They were mostly in zone down the stretch but I thought our guys did a pretty good job of that.
On Bamba’s shooting performance: I think some people that have been questioning Mo, talking about Mo’s threes, I think there’s some people that maybe owe Mo an apology. It’s early. If you look at our last eight, ten games he’s shooting probably close to 40 percent or in the high 30s. He’s a good shooter. One of the things that’s hard as a coach, and the best shooter I ever coached we dealt with this for two years with him, is you would see a guy make shot after shot after shot in practice. Then it wouldn’t quite carry over to the game. Now that guy I’m talking about is in the NBA making shots. You knew it was just a matter of time. So with Mo, he’s not quite that good of a shooter but he knocks them down routinely in practice. It’s never gotten to the point where I told him don’t shoot threes. We’ve said “hey, you don’t want 50 percent of your attempts to come from behind the arc.” He’s done a better and better job rebounding, getting to the foul line, and he’s wide open on those shots. It’s not like they’re contested.
On if that gameplan was Smart going back to what he knew as a coach with defensive pressure: We wanted to be aggressive. The press helped us be aggressive. It got our guys extending the floor and trying to get their hands on the basketball. Ole Miss is a team, if you let them play in the rhythm of what they want to do, they’re very, very difficult to guard and their guys shoot the ball with no conscience. We wanted to try and take that away. The press was a big part of that.
(Continued): We just went with what we thought would be effective in this game. It’s different depending on who you’re playing against, and you also have to have an awareness of what your guys’ energy is. The same gameplan might not be as good if their energy is not quite the same. I like playing that way. I like extending the floor. I like running. I like scoring 85 points like we did today. I don’t like scoring 60 points, but I thought our guys played with a good freedom about them that we obviously need to take with us on the road and we need to carry over to Big 12 games.
On Jase Febres’ confidence: I’ve been on Jase because he’s such a great kid and a laid-back guy. I’ve been on him about “you’ve got to be more assertive and more aggressive on the court.” You’ve got to demonstrate to all those around you that you have a passion for this game and you really want to be good. He put in a couple of really good deposits in practice which helped him come into this game with an aggressive mindset. Every time he shoots I think it’s going in. He’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever seen. Obviously he’s got a ways to go with his shooting percentage in the game, but today for him to make four is not surprising to me, especially with the way they were playing zone, we knew we were able to get some open looks.
On Roach making a point to get the ball to Bamba and on him being unselfish: I told the guys after the game that if we were willing to use it to our advantage, we do have a big advantage and that is our guys like each other. They genuinely get along really well. They like playing with each other. Now you have to press that advantage. You have to do what you’re saying. You have to focus on “how can I get this guy a shot? How can I make my teammate better on the floor?” You said it, (Roach) is playing with a lot of confidence. It looks like his hand is feeling better, which is good. We just want to keep him attacking and aggressive. While he does that, making the right read. Do I shoot? Do I pass? He had a nice balance of that today.
On Osetkowski: He was in the DO zone today. That’s what I call it with him. He has a zone, when he gets in it, he’s really, really good and he’s got a great look on his face and an aggressiveness about him. When he gets underneath that zone, he’s hesitant. He’s tentative. He’s unsure. When he gets above that zone, he’s a little bit too cool. Today, he was right there where he needed to be. When he plays that way, he’s such a key for our team because he’s a conduit for us offensively and defensively he’s very versatile.
On Osetkowski’s hair: I love Dylan doing what he loves to do. Forget what anyone else wants him to do. Be you, man. If someone’s got a problem with that, forget ‘em. Because that’s how we want him to play. I’ve told him all the time in the past, even going back to last year when he was redshirting, for him to reach his ultimate goal as a player which is the next level, you’re going to have to be a little crazy. You’ve got to be a little wild and nutty, which is good. He has that in him. I thought if he comes with that hairstyle, fine. Whatever gets him in that mentality.
On if the team can play like that 10 more nights: It’s also relative to what the opponent does. They can dictate to you, too. If Mo plays with that type of aggressiveness and assertiveness, if Dylan plays in the DO zone, if (Roach) has that type of confidence, Matt – it was a C+ game for Matt but he’s getting better, if we can make 10 threes then yeah. Here’s what happens in any game, particularly Big 12 games; sometime between the start and the end of the game the team that ends up winning takes the will of the team that ends up losing. They take away their spirit, their will and they just don’t have it anymore. A lot of time that takes like 39+ minutes. Especially when you go on the road, you’ve got a lot of things that teams are trying to do against you and the crowd and all that. We just have to assert our will over these games. With some of our younger guys, we just have to learn there’s no other way.
On College Gameday coming to Austin next week: It’s exciting for our program. It’s exciting for anyone that follows our team and for our guys. Obviously, Trae Young has something to do with that too. He’s the most exciting player in college basketball right now. Beyond that, all of our focus is on trying to go on the road and earn a tough win at Texas Tech because I believe their undefeated at home and very, very hard to beat.