The No. 5 Texas Longhorns continued their 2021-22 men’s basketball season with an 86-74 loss against No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday night. Here are three takeaways from the game.
The Texas Chemistry Has A LONG way to go
Texas head coach Chris Beard has built a reputation for putting the pieces together when it comes to transfers. He did it with players like Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens, who were big pieces of Texas Tech’s run to the 2019 national championship game.
Well, Beard has never had quite THIS many transfers. He has seven at Texas, and most of them played meaningful minutes last season at other schools. Some led their former teams in scoring, like Marcus Carr and Timmy Allen. Plus, Beard inherited three key holdovers from last year’s Big 12 Tournament champions — guards Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey and Jase Febres.
The entire roster has more than 20,000 minutes of college basketball between them. That’s NBA level experience.
If Beard was looking at this game as a measuring stick for his team, he learned that they have a LONG way to go in order to contend — not just for a Big 12 title, but for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
The Longhorns’ offense lacked coherence for most of the game. Some of that was Gonzaga’s defense. Some of it was the “experienced inexperience” Beard talked about at Big 12 Media Day. Beard’s message was he has a lot of experience, but they’ve never played together. Meanwhile, Drew Timme ran over the Texas defense, especially inside (we’ll get to that in a minute). And the frontcourt is where Texas had the most turnover and needs the most help.
Texas is talented, and it’s likely that Beard and the Longhorns will figure it out. But this was a reminder that you just can’t throw players together and expect immediate success, even when all of them are high-level performers. It takes time. And, fortunately, Texas has time before Big 12 play begins in January.
The 3-Point Problem
I’ve covered the Big 12 for four years now, and one thing that I’ve always noticed is how streaky and inconsistent Texas can be from the 3-point line, and how it has a habit of defining their success or failure on a given night. Saturday night, the Longhorns started 1-of-10 from the 3-point line as they fell behind by 20 points at the break. Texas ended up shooting a fairly respectable 37.5 percent from the arc, but their horrible start to the game contributed to leaving them virtually no chance to come back in the second half. In fact, Texas never cut the lead to single digits.
Texas has to find two or three consistent options from the arc. You’d like one of those options to be Febres, who has consistently been Texas’ best 3-point shooter the past couple of years (even though he, at times, is streaky). Who the other two might be is anyone’s guess at the moment, though Marcus Carr (1-for-5 on Saturday) and Courtney Ramey (0-for-1) feel like the primary candidates.
Drew Timme is a GROWN man
Some questioned whether Drew Timme should come back to Gonzaga after he declared for the NBA Draft. Well, there’s no question he’s headed to the league next year, if his performance against Texas was any indication. By halftime, he had 22 points, was 9-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-6 from the 3-point line. By the end of the game, he had a career-high 37 points and had shot 15-of-19 from the floor. What must have been most disconcerting to Texas was how Timme bent its defense to his will. He was almost impossible to defend with one player, and even when Texas tried to double him, Timme either slipped out of the double team or passed to a teammate. Timme taught them a lesson — Texas must have great interior defense to be successful this season. Texas has the tools to be a good interior defensive team, and Timme gave them 40 minutes’ worth of tape to use to improve upon.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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