ATB: Longhorn Defense Stifles Another Big 12 OpponentPosted by rtmsf on February 1st, 2011
The Lede. Only a couple of good games were on tonight’s docket, but the bigger story of this evening is that in just a few minutes from the time of this writing, we pass over into the month of February. You remember that one, right? It comes immediately prior to March, otherwise known as the month we all salivate over the rest of the year. You don’t need us to tell you why the year’s shortest month is so important, but suffice it to say that there’s no longer any time for excuses. We’ve played two months of a non-conference season and another month of action within the family — it’s time to show what you’ve got this season, or simply play out the string. Shall we?
Your Watercooler Moment. Those Longhorns Are Kinda Good. Is it possible that this year’s Texas team is every bit as surprising in a good way as last year’s #1-turned-first round loser was in a bad way? Rick Barnes’ Longhorns are sure playing like it, and what’s remarkable about their current streak is that they’re simply dominating the Big 12 right now. Nobody they’ve played in conference action has yet been able to find a weakness in the sticky man-to-man defense to where they can get open looks to score. And we mean… nobody — after tonight’s 69-49 win over rival Texas A&M (and the game wasn’t that close), Texas has defeated seven Big 12 opponents by an average of 18.7 points while holding its opponents to a paltry 53.4 PPG. As exhibited by the Aggies in tonight’s 24% shooting first half (and 31% for the game), the looks simply are not available from anywhere on the court — so long as UT can merely hit 40% of its own shots, they’re going to be in position to win every game they play the rest of the season. Given the way the Horns are locking up teams defensively and with their two toughest road trips already behind them (@ TAMU, @ Kansas), they have an excellent shot at running the table in the Big 12 at 16-0. Their toughest two remaining games are at Nebraska and Colorado, both of whom have shown promise interspersed with difficulties. It amazes us to think about gunner Jordan Hamilton as a defensive stopper, but he appears to have bought into the ethos and completely shut down TAMU’s Khris Middleton tonight (0 pts on 0-9 FG). We’ve noticed the emergence of a definite swagger creeping into the UT players in much the same way that some other great defensive teams of the past have (we’re thinking of 2002-03 Kentucky, as one comparison) — they dare you to score on them, and most of the time, you cannot. It seems that the only way to legitimately have a shot to break down the Longhorn defense is off the bounce of an elite guard — someone like Ashton Gibbs (24 pts vs. Texas) or Kemba Walker (22 pts) who has the ability to get shots off under duress and in transition. Otherwise, good luck finding those points — Texas A&M, with more shots blocked tonight (9) than assists (7) will attest to that.
RTC Live. Rob Dauster covered tonight’s game in Washington, DC, and submitted this report.
Georgetown 62, Louisville 59. Louisville may not have a star, as Rick Pitino has had a penchant for saying this season, but one this that is becoming clear is that Peyton Siva might be the most important player on the team. What Louisville likes to do if they cannot get an open look early in the shot clock is to run a high ball-screen with Siva. The Cardinals spread the floor with shooters and look to either get Siva in a one-on-one situation with a big man at the top of the key or hit Terrence Jennings on a roll to the rim with a defender on his back. It worked against UConn and West Virginia, particularly down the stretch, but Georgetown’s Julian Vaughn is terrific at defending the play. Siva is quick, but on just one occasion was he able to score off of it in the second half, drawing a foul on Vaughn with less a minute left. With Georgetown’s resurgence in the Big East now at five straight wins, you are going to hear a lot about Chris Wright and Austin Freeman returning to form. And, yes, they deserve credit for their great play. Wright was terrific tonight just 48 hours after Freeman carried the Hoyas to a win over Villanova. But what no one is going to be talking about is the switch that John Thompson, III, made in the starting lineup. Nate Lubick has been starting for the Hoyas over Hollis Thompson. This gives Georgetown more size to start the game while allowing them an offensive sparkplug off the bench when Thompson enters. Ohio State does something similar with Dallas Lauderdale and Aaron Craft, and it appears to be working for both teams.
Tweet of the Night. Fake Gimel is back with a timely rip on Bob Knight as commentator. Is it too much to ask for one of the greatest coaches ever to do a little homework on the teams he’s calling?