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Texas Falls to Pitt at MSG

The Longhorns lost to Pittsburgh, 68-66, in the finals of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden. Inside, get game thoughts, a look at offense and defense, a look at the numbers and individual player reports.
Overall Game Thoughts: PittsburghHats off to Pittsburgh for a game plan that totally accentuated their strengths and minimized Texas’s ability to push the tempo. They are a very poised and purposeful basketball team that will wear you down on the interior while forcing you to chase all over the court on defense. Well done by Coach Dixon and his staff.In Inside Texas’s game preview, we made the comment that if the game was in the 60s it favored Pittsburgh because of their offensive efficiency and that’s how it played out.Tough loss for the Longhorns, but a terrific showing nonetheless, particularly with their best perimeter defender at less than 100%.Offense: Texas showed much of the fatigue that one would expect playing its second game in 22 hours. Committing far too many turnovers and not utilizing proper spacing when the opportunities to move were there. Capitalizing on your opportunities is so important in tough games and Texas didn’t do as well as it should have. Much of the offensive movement and spacing that aided Texas to attack Illinois was missing as Texas was forced to rely on the creativity of Jordan Hamilton and J’Covan Brown in the half court. Cory Joseph simply has to emerge as more of a scoring threat as he refrained from even looking for his shot over the entire game (the wild, behind the back shot at the end, notwithstanding). The level that Texas is capable of playing at can only work when the defense has to cover the entire court. Having Dogus on the court causes problems with that already, and Cory can’t continue that trend.Those negatives aside, Texas did well to generate points in a variety of ways and executed well from the outside and at the free throw line. When Pitt went up ten midway through the second half, you got the feeling that Texas was going to wilt, but J’Covan and Jordan both came up with big plays to get the Longhorns back in it. Their intelligent offense will be evident in the film room and be a source of positivity/optimism for the team.Defense: Pitt set screens brilliantly all night. The Panthers ran Gibbs’s and Wannamaker’s defenders through endless screens in an attempt to create spacing for their floor leaders. While Texas played hard in pursuit, there were simply too many breakdowns as Gibbs and Brown were left open far too often. Dixon did a fantastic job of exploiting Dogus’s lack of explosiveness. Pitt is very well coached. Texas also wasn’t able to force the turnovers necessary to create transition opportunities. Pitt’s guards made solid decisions with the ball and didn’t force shots, limiting possessions and taking away the effectiveness of Thompson and Dogus in the open court.A Look at the Numbers:Pittsburgh shot 42.1% overall (24 – 57), 50.0% from three (7 – 14) and 54.2% on free throws (13 – 24)Texas shot 42.0% overall (21 – 50), 46.2% from three (6 – 13) and 69.2% on free throws (18 – 26).Texas won the rebounding battle 33 – 31, while Pitt won the assist battle 16 – 11, and the turnover battle 11 – 17.Player of the Game: Jordan HamiltonHe’s still capable of more but he’s playing at a ridiculously high level, offensively. His ability to create offense (through shots, in the midrange, in penetration and with his passing) gives Texas a chance every single time they hit the floor. Jordan really is a special talent and is a few pieces away (defensive integrity and more consistent decision making with the ball) from being an elite player in college basketball.The Endgame: Pittsburgh is a terrific team and Texas was right there to the end playing at Pittsburgh’s pace. That’s a huge statement about a team that wants games in the 80s. Texas will head back to Austin with six games to tune up before their two game jaunt through North Carolina and Michigan State.The Longhorns have reason to be pleased with their execution of solid play in NYC. This was definitely a showing to the NCAA that this Texas team has to be taken seriously. Anywhere and playing against any style. Individual Player ReportsDogus Balbay: Nice finish to start the game in transition. Just didn’t have the energy tonight. Played his guts out, but he’s just not there, physically. Even so, played with good poise with the ball on a night where it seemed like the turnovers were coming from every direction. Has to continue to be more vocal with teaching the spots on the secondary break. Nice couple of days for Dogus.J’Covan Brown: Credit to Coach Barnes in the way that he handled J’Covan in the first half because his offense kept Texas in the game. He brings a different dynamic to this team, offensively, because of his ability to make the defender work in all facets. Made a conscious effort to play smart defense on a night where Pittsburgh’s guards were the beneficiaries of some excellent screens from their post players. But…the garbage in the first half stops now. No excuse for it, whether it’s good intentioned or not. Simply can’t have it.Clint Chapman: DNPJordan Hamilton: His defense in the first half was his worst of the season. It’s one thing to be an average defender, but to be an effortless one is unacceptable. He’s talked about being a leader of the team, but he’s got to be about his actions and intensity. Offensively, a lot was asked of him this game because our screening was poor and the intensity just wasn’t there. Needs to catch the ball more at the elbow and look to drive into the lane as he’ll struggle against good teams when he drives baseline from the wing. Great job of catching the ball in flow in the second half. He’s such a smooth player when he can find space in the lane. His vision is very good but he still forces too often. 28 points on 16 shots is really good. Matt Hill: Good game by Matt. Our best screening post by far. Active in space on defense and while rebounding. Matchup against Pittsburgh was much more conducive for his skill set. Gary Johnson: Had a nice spurt to end the second half when otherwise Gary was a non factor both on offense and on the boards. Along with Jordan, must get better with his communication on the defensive end as he doesn’t call out screens or vocalize rebounding positioning. Seniors have to talk. That’s just a lack of focus and understanding of smart basketball. Has to hedge better as well.Cory Joseph: Terrific footwork into the elbow jumper. Excellent effort defense on Wannamaker all night (held him to 4 – 13 shooting). Inability to find his offense is going to limit what this team is capable of. He had spacing multiple times to rise for the perimeter shot and simply didn’t look to it. He’s way too good of a shooter to not take any shots from three in a game that needed spacing down low. Drop in competition level should really help Cory. The next six games will be huge for Joseph in preparation for UNC/MSU in mid December.Jai Lucas: Ineffective in his short minutes. Physically outmatched tonight. Probably the main reason to make him the forth guard off of the bench because J’Covan needs minutes to establish an offensive rhythm.Tristan Thompson: Showed great resilience and toughness against the waves of big men that Pittsburgh threw at him, but still must play within himself and look cross court when he feels the double team. Base struggled tonight against the weight and strength of Pittsburgh down low. Good learning experience for Tristan and another nice game as a help defender. Fantastic job on ball screen hedges, way ahead of schedule with his timing and angles in that department.Lexi Wangmene: Lexi moved well tonight but missed some opportunities to chase down loose balls and rebound out of position. He must rebound better. Everybody’s got to do their part and right now he’s not. It wouldn’t be as big of a deal if we had a Damion James who you can count on for 10+ a game but we don’t. Zero rebounds is a detriment to an otherwise heady, and physically capable player.