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.