Horns hold off VCU, 71-67

Shaka Smart. (Will Gallagher/IT)
Shaka Smart. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Some quick thoughts after Texas held onto the 71-67 win in Shaka Smart’s homecoming in Richmond.

1. Upperclassman first 10 min, underclassmen second 10 min:

Texas controlled the first 10 minutes of the half jumping to a 23-11 lead after Andrew Jones hit his third three-pointer of the half. UT looked composed on the road and against a tough pressing team. During the second 10, things started to turn around. Texas looked rushed on offense and didn’t score anything outside of a free throw or a layup. The Longhorns struggled to get the ball inside, while VCU rushed the Horns on both ends of the floor. After that 23-11 mark, VCU won the rest of the half 21-17.

2. Mo Bamba has work to do

Bamba is a no-doubt NBA 1st rounder, but that doesn’t mean he can’t improve his game, specifically on the block. Bamba struggled to gain position at times on offense on the low block, getting forced farther and farther away from the basket. As that happens, his effectiveness goes down. It may be that Bamba doesn’t get to a weight/frame that allows him to be a dominant low block force at UT, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. For Texas to be at its best, he needs to be able to establish himself in the low block. Additionally, his low post defense needs to be smarter. When he fouls, he needs to foul. When he plays defense, he needs to play defense and not foul. It may sound tough to differentiate, but he needs to figure out how to most effectively use his massive wingspan, and he hasn’t quite done that yet… that dunk, though.

Andrew Jones drives against WVU (Will Gallagher/IT)
Andrew Jones drives against WVU (Will Gallagher/IT)

3. Mister Jones

Andrew Jones continues to be the most electric player on the team. He put up a career high 19 points tonight, 15 of them coming in the first half. His offensive performance in the first 20 allowed the Longhorns to jump to the lead they did, but he was quiet in the second half, only scoring four points. Jones left the game late in the second half due to what appeared to be an arm injury, so Texas needs for the news to be good regarding him. Still likely the best in the conference best in the open floor, and likely who you want to have the ball when you absolutely need a bucket. He’d be my choice.

4. Texas holds on… barely

Texas has a lead problem. Two near 20-point leads have evaporated on the Longhorns, and they were lucky to hold onto this one against a tough VCU team. 51% FG and 44% 3-pointers look good, but you can’t close games shooting 54.5% from the line, and yes, this is the third or fourth year in a row that has been written. Despite the late-game struggles, Texas still was able to figure out ways to put the ball in the basket with less than 2 minutes left, and Davis looked composed late at the line (3-of-4). A win is a win, but the problems are recurring.