Posted January 18th, 2009 by Mike
Filed under: Basketball, Feature

Texas bounced back from their road loss in Norman with a win in Lubbock over [tag]Texas Tech[/tag] on Saturday. The Longhorns did it with defense, which continues to be the strength of this team. Texas pressures the ball as well as any team in the country. When they cause turnovers or force bad shots, Texas has been able to create quick paced offense on the other end. However, the Achilles heel of this team continues to be half court offense.

Tech had been known as an offensive team this year. The Red Raiders had scored over 150 points in one game earlier in the year. But Texas held them to under 50 in a game that showed even if Texas is “underachieving”; the separation between them and the middle of the pack teams in the Big 12 is still there.

[tag]Justin Mason[/tag] and [tag]AJ Abrams[/tag] had good games after struggling for the last few weeks. Mason got back to what he does best, defense and rebounding. The junior guard is not going to wow anybody with his point guard ability and I think at this time in the season it is time to stop forcing a square peg into a round hole and just let him do what he does best. Mason may be the best rebounding guard Texas has had in recent memory. The responsibility for the point guard is to get back after miss shots to prevent easy fast break buckets for the opponent. This took away one of the best offensive rebounders for Texas, so they’ve made the adjustment to get Abrams back unless he shoots from the corner.

To help with the half court offense [tag]Dogus Balbay[/tag] is getting more and more time. Balbay is the best penetrator on the team. And with players like Abrams, [tag]Damion James[/tag], and [tag]Connor Atchley[/tag] having a guard who can drive and kick is invaluable. All three of their offenses have struggled this year because there is no player on the roster that has made their job easier.

The style Texas excels in is not going to allow for many blowouts. Even with the 20 point margin at the end of the Tech game, the Red Raiders kept it close for a while. Barnes’ squad is going to have to fight tooth and nail for everything they get, and because of that the Longhorns are going to lose a few to teams they shouldn’t. It will also make them a very dangerous and unpredictable team in March which in college basketball is all that really matters.

The question going forward is will the Texas defense be enough against the best teams in the country. The answer so far has been, sometimes. If another team’s offense is clicking like Notre Dame’s and Oklahoma’s, the Longhorns are going to struggle to create enough points to stay in it unless Abrams is on fire. If the Texas pressure gets to their opponent like UCLA and Michigan State, Texas is going to be right in it until the end.

Rick Barnes’ teams tend to get better and better as the year goes on. For the first time in years a Texas team appears to be treading water. History suggests the team will snap out of it and make a serious run in March, but at this point I’m not sure anybody knows what the answer is. The simple fact is the answer may not exist and will be up the Texas players to make something happen when the tournament starts. If this was football the season would be over for all intents and purposes. But in basketball Texas still has as much of chance as anybody. Yes, even Oklahoma.

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