On December 28, Texas’ season took a dramatic turn for the worse when it announced that center Cameron Ridley fractured his left foot during practice and would be out indefinitely. In the team’s first 11 games, Ridley had finally realized the potential that had made him a top-10 recruit in the 2012 recruiting class. The senior was putting together the best year of his career, averaging 12.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. What’s more, it seemed like the Longhorns were also turning a corner. After three early season losses, they had won six in a row that included an 84-82 thriller over North Carolina. In Shaka Smart’s first season, Texas appeared to be building a resume fit for an NCAA Tournament team. And then Ridley was injured.
One day after the announcement, UConn picked apart a Texas defense playing without its best shot-blocker (Ridley owned a 13.9 percent block rate, third-best nationally). The Huskies made 15 of their 22 shots at the rim en route to handing the Longhorns their first of two more defeats. Not having to deal with the big man’s 3.4 blocks per game clearly made a difference. With Ridley in the lineup, opponents shot just 40 percent inside the three-point arc. In the three games since, with Prince Ibeh playing in a starting role and no clear backup, Texas’ opponents are attempting 6.3 percent more field goals from two-point range, according to data compiled from sports-reference.com. They are also converting those attempts at a much higher rate, making 51.4 percent of those two-pointers. Without Ridley’s looming presence in the paint, opponents have been able to find and convert easy attempts against a Texas defense no longer able to field a semi-permanent rim protector. Read the rest of this entry »