Basketball

Hoops preview: Saint Francis

Myles Turner. (Will Gallagher/IT)
Myles Turner. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Hoops Preview: Saint Francis (PA)
Date: Tuesday, November 25
Time: 7:00 Central
Television: LHN
Location: UT

Opponent Strengths:

After a successful (if unfortunate – read: Taylor, Isaiah) trip to New York City, the Texas Longhorn basketball team returns to the friendly confines of the Erwin Center to face the Saint Francis University Red Flash (the one 90 miles out of Pittsburgh, not the one in Brooklyn).

Guided by head coach, and former Red Flash standout, Rob Krimmel, SFU was a middle of the pack team last year in the NEC finishing with a 10-21 (7-9) record. This year, they have begun the year with losses @Cincinnati and @American before a home win over Maryland Eastern Shore.

They’re not so good, but there are some things that could function to make this a relatively close game for awhile.

The Red Flash look to be led by 6’6” senior wing Earl Brown (10.7 pts, 6.3 rebs, 1.7 asts). While Brown’s numbers are down a bit from a solid junior season, he’s a strong, athletic player with great finishing ability in the lane and a knack for getting to the foul line. He’s not a dynamic playmaker as a ball handler or passer, but he’s the best SFU has and (barring foul trouble) he’ll likely be the Red Flash player with the ball in his hands a majority of the time.

Pace. Saint Francis plays a methodical, slow tempo game. They try to maximize possessions with ball movement (partly because they don’t have a dynamic/high level point guard) and late clock shots from the perimeter. To that end, at least in comparison to how fast they play, the Red Flash shoot a lot of threes. To this point in the season, 46% of their field goal attempts have come from the perimeter. This will be a good game to test Texas’ resolve and discipline as a defense as SFU will attempt to go deep in the clock to get open looks from three after poor rotation from the Longhorns.

Opponent Weakness:

Scoring. The Red Flash aren’t dead last in NCAA D1 for scoring average…they’re second to last. Their tempo is slow, yes, but they are weak on scorers both as shooters and in playmaking for themselves. With the way Texas has defended this year, it’s entirely possibly that SFU ends up in the 30s.

Interior play. Saint Francis doesn’t really have any. Their starting “center” is 6’7” forward Ronnie Drinnon who averages 4.3 pts and 5.0 rebs per game. The rest of the Red Flash’s normal rotation includes a guard heavy lineup. Again, SFU will look to play keepaway with their ball movement and three point shooting, but Texas should smash Saint Francis in this game both in terms of points in the paint and in rebounding on both ends.

Texas Keys: Offense

Execution/Efficiency. Texas wants to run, SFU wants to play slow. Oftentimes, the slow team’s wishes win out. Now, Texas’ talent advantage may well prove too capable to slow down for the Red Flash, but it’s nevertheless going to be a situation where the Longhorns will get deep into some clocks as SFU looks to slow pace and walk the ball up the floor whenever possible. Texas’ ball movement and offensive efficiency has been pretty average this year despite their win/loss record. The Longhorns need to stick with the game plan of finding interior touches on each possession to take advantage of their significant advantage on the interior and convert at a high rate against an overmatched SFU team.

Javan and Kendal. They weren’t Taylor, but Felix and Yancy did an admirable job against Cal in point guarding the Longhorns to a win on Friday against the Bears. This will be a bit of a different test as both players should have the freedom and ability to control the ball against the Red Flash. The focus needs to be on figuring out both players’ strengths and weaknesses as playmakers and allowing them both to be dynamic in their ability to facilitate off the bounce. This will be an important game for Yancy to get some long minutes at the point in preparation for the game at UConn on Sunday.

Texas Keys: Defense

Stay solid. It’s not that the game is in doubt, but this will be a terrific teaching game as the offense will mirror what long, difficult defensive possessions look like once the team gets into Big 12 play. Texas needs to play the full shot clock as a defense and find the comfort zone between rotational over and over-help so as to not give open angles for kickouts/skips/swings into open three pointers.

Croaker and Barnett. This could have been written in the offensive keys as well, but both Damarcus and Jordan need to have solid games if they are going to have any chance at breaking into the rotation against quality teams as the non-conference schedule continues. Things to watch for…Croaker’s ability to fight through screens and get his feet into proper position when defending the ball (he has a tendency to overextend his defensive stance which makes him susceptible to getting beat if the ball handler can turn the corner)…Barnett’s ability to play with size and explosion as a rebound chaser after the shot (his on ball defense has been surprisingly good so far, but he needs to be better at finding the ball after the shot goes up to utilize his physical gifts and be more than just a defensive body considering his frame and time he’ll spend at the three).

The Endgame

This one shouldn’t be all that close. Maybe SFU hits some early threes and Texas is sloppy for a bit (as has been tradition the last few contests), but that won’t last.

This should be a contest where we (hopefully) see a lot of Yancy, Croaker, Barnett and Turner. Barnes needs to let the young guys play through some stuff and find a comfort zone as being an eight-man rotation against the better teams the Longhorns play will be unfortunate considering the talent on the bench on this squad.

Prediction: Texas 68 – Saint Francis 41

Projected Starting Lineup

Felix
Holland
Holmes
Lammert
Ridley

GAMEDAY QUICK FACTS

• TELEVISION: The game will be televised nationally by Longhorn Network. Lowell Galindo (pxp), Reid Gettys (analyst) and Jane Slater (reporter) will call the action.

• RADIO: The Longhorn Sports Network and KVET (FM 98.1/1300AM Sportsradio the Zone) broadcast every UT game on the statewide network. Craig Way (pxp) and Eddie Oran (analyst) will call the action. Check www.TexasSports.com for a listing of affiliates carrying the game.

• SERIES: First meeting

• DEFENSE WINS: Texas limited Cal to 31.3% FG shooting (20-of-64) in Friday’s win. The Horns have held their first four opponents to an average of 53.8 ppg on a combined 29.5% FG shooting (72-of-295). UT has held each of its first four opponents to below 60 points AND 32% FG shooting.

• HOLMES OFF TO SOLID START: Senior Jonathan Holmes claimed 2K Classic MVP honors, averaging 20.0 ppg and 9.0 rpg in UT’s two wins in New York City. Holmes leads the team in scoring (16.0 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg) while converting 21-of-32 (.656) FG, including 8-of-13 (.615) from three-point range, and 14-of-18 (.778) FT.

• BLOCK PARTY: Through the first four games, Texas has recorded 29 blocked shots (7.3 bpg). The Horns had 10 rejections in Friday’s win against Cal.

• CLEANING THE GLASS: Texas sports a +12.3 rebound margin (46.0-33.8) through the first four games this year and has outrebounded its opponent in all four contests. UT has posted double-digit rebound margins in three of its first four games this season. The Horns posted a +19 (51-32) rebound margin against NDSU (Nov. 14), a +19 (47-28) margin against Alcorn State (Nov. 16) and a +10 (46-36) margin against Cal (Nov. 21).