Insider’s Practice Report: TexasPosted by dnspewak on March 7th, 2012
Danny Spewak is a Big 12 microsite writer and will provide wall-to-wall coverage from the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. You can follow him on Twitter @dspewak.
Unlike Iowa State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma, which ran loose, light-hearteded practices Wednesday morning, the Texas Longhorns looked like a team in desperation mode. Rick Barnes had no time for nonsense this afternoon, not with an NCAA Tournament at-large bid hanging in the balance this week. He screamed at Myck Kabongo several times for not finding the open man in the post (“He’s wide open! Find him!”) and got on walk-on Dean Melchionni for a mistake later in practice (“Shoot it! It’s not that hard!). For almost 40 minutes, the Longhorns scrimmaged with focus, intensity and a mission in mind: beat Iowa State and solidify its spot in the NCAA Tournament. “We’re taking it one game at a time this tournament. Tomorrow is the most important game of the season,” freshman Jonathan Holmes said after practice.
All practice, Barnes repeated over and over again that the team must take away the three-point shot. When J’Covan Brown politely mentioned that harassing shooters on the perimeter would leave defenders one-on-one, Barnes did not care. “You’re playing against the best three-point shooting team in the conference,” Barnes said. Royce White may be Iowa State‘s leading scorer and star this season, but Barnes and assistant Rob Lanier seemed more concerned about Scott Christopherson and his ability to burn their defense from beyond the arc. “Christopherson, we’re not giving him anything. Anything,” Barnes said during practice. In preparation for Christopherson, Lanier prepped his team on how to defend Iowa State’s dribble handoff. Sheldon McClellan stood in as Christopherson, and Lanier ran drills for about 10 minutes to make sure his players knew how to shut this down. He told his team to hedge hard on the handoff, making sure the help defender “had it under control” before he retreated to cover his own man.
Later in practice, Barnes’ guys ran full court and worked on defending the dribble handoff in a more realistic setting. Take a look at the video below, where McClellan receives a handoff and runs into a help defender.
The Longhorns kept the intensity up throughout practice in this full-court setting, working also on two offensive sets: “Slice” and “14.” Slice is all about ball reversal. First, the point man throws the ball to the wing and immediately retreats in the opposite direction. While the man on the wing has the ball, the forward sets a screen for the point guard, who then flies to the high post. That’s what the set is designed to do — get high-low action if at all possible. In 14, the ball needs to get to the elbow as a guard makes a backdoor cut. Then, the guard swings through the paint after getting a screen and flashes open at the top of the key.
Until the final buzzer signaled the end of Texas’ 40 minutes of practice time, the Longhorns worked and worked… and never stopped working. No team thus far during these practices periods has looked as focused as they did, and that’s a terrific sign for Barnes heading into Thursday.