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November 29, 2013

Texas edges UTA 72-69

It wasn't pretty for the Longhorns, but they'll take the win.

The Longhorns (6-1) flirted with disaster all game long as they let a bad UT Arlington (2-6) team hang around, but made just enough plays down the stretch, most notably Demarcus Holland, to pull out a 72-69 win.

1) Holland was the best player on the floor. The sophomore scored a career high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting (including 2-of-4 from deep), grabbed a career-high 11 rebounds, and provided the play of the game late. In an iso situation on defense with his team down 69-68, Holland ripped the defender, sprinted down the floor, and threw it down with two hands to give Texas the 70-69 lead with 39.3 seconds left. On the very next possession, Holland also grabbed the rebound after a UTA miss.

Without Jonathan Holmes (death in the family), Holland stepped up when his team needed desperately needed it. He had a couple of turnovers and shaky decisions in transition early, but he was a force with the game on the line to cap off a tremendous game.

"He's just everything you want in a player," Rick Barnes said about Holland. "He's become the leader of the team; talking like you want a leader to talk."

Holland also said after the game before tip-off he was thinking about rebounding more than anything else. Tells you what kind of player he is.

2) File this one under "things I didn't think I'd write" category: Cameron Ridley led the Longhorns with 37 minutes played. And the big fella also had 10 points (2-of-4 shooting and 6-of-11 from the line), 11 rebounds, six blocks, and tied a team lead with two assists.

Despite the fact that Texas got away from feeding him the ball early and neglected him way too much when the Mavericks went zone, Ridley continued to work, dominate the glass, and was constant presence near the rim on defense. Texas must get the sophomore the ball more, but credit him for not letting that bother him and for continuing to constantly work on both ends.

Rick Barnes mentioned after the game that he felt his team may have tried to force it to Ridley a little too much instead of moving the ball around the perimeter, but I really didn't see the Longhorns make a conscious effort to get him involved in the second half.

Oh and when I asked Ridley after the game if he realized he played 37 minutes, he mentioned that they were just talking about that before walking in with a huge smile on his face. You can tell he's a much more confident guy and that he realizes the hard work to change his body has made a difference.

"What's really impressive when you think about it is that he really hasn't played 37 minutes, but with Jon (Holmes) not here, we were down five fouls," said Barnes. "He did a great job early establishing himself. He's gotten himself into better condition. [He] and I were up in the gym after everyone had just left working on his rhythm with his free throw, and I think the reason he missed those two at the end were because he played a lot of minutes."

3) Until Texas proves it can consistently attack a zone defense from the wings and knock down deep jumpers, expect it to see more zone as the year progress. Like DePaul did until Texas figured out to attack with penetration and get touches to the high post, UT Arlington sagged a lot in a zone and basically packed the paint with five guys at some point.

The Longhorns have to find a way to get Ridley the ball against zone defenses, and he has proven to be able to pass out of double teams fairly well. Also, Texas is really making things more difficult on offense when Prince Ibeh and Ridley are on the floor together - it basically means those two are there for offensive rebounds if the guards miss.

4) Connor Lammert was very quiet tonight… too quiet. It didn't help that UT Arlington clogged the high post on defense to take away his ability there, but outside of two very clutch free throws down the stretch, the sophomore didn't do much all night.

You could say the same about Javan Felix. Coming off the bench, Felix looked way out of sync on offense, forced a couple of bad shots, and had just two points, one assist, no rebounds, and two steals in 26 minutes.

Not only can Texas not afford for Lammert to perform like that, but it won't be anyone decent if both of those players play like that on the same night.

5) The Texas perimeter defense has to get better. Some of the three-pointers the Mavericks made were contested and from the parking lot. Seriously. It was like Chris Mullin in NBA Jam at times for a couple of those guys, but there were also defensive breakdowns when Texas didn't chase defenders off the perimeter.

6) After getting beat on the glass bad in the first half (minus-10), Texas finished just minus-one after a much better performance because of effort in the second half.

Isaiah Taylor mentioned that he felt like the Mavericks may have brought better effort and toughness in the first half and that can't happen.

When asked about Barnes' message to them at the half:

"That we have to put in more effort and play harder than the other team and this first half UTA might have played harder than us and put in more effort than us," responded Taylor. "We just had to get back to our M.O. of playing hard and giving a lot of effort. That's what we did in the second half and we came out with the win."

7) The Longhorns just missed a school-record in blocks. Texas combined to swat 12 shots as a team (one off the school-record 13) and 11 of those came from Ridley and Prince Ibeh.

By the way, Ibeh has quietly become an improved offensive player. He fights for position better with more of an understanding how to use his body, and when he gets the ball, he makes a quick move right at the bucket. Last year, it wasn't even a given that he was going to catch a pass and dunk it when he was wide open. Now, he's getting the ball confidently and trying to aggressively dunk over people.

Ibeh also made two huge free throws down the stretch.

8) Just nine turnovers for the Longhorns, and Isaiah Taylor didn't commit a single one in 31 minutes. He also racked up five steals, including a huge one down the stretch when he hustled back in transition with under a minute left to intercept a bad pass.

9) Overall, this was not a great performance by any stretch for the Longhorns. The offense became stagnant in the half-court against the zone, a couple of key players were non-factors, and the effort and intensity was sluggish in the first half. But Texas will take the win. If this kind of letdown happened/happens against Vanderbilt, the outcome will be a different story.

10) Thoughts and prayers with Holmes and his family. The junior's grandmother passed away last week, and he played with a heavy heart during that second game against DePaul. Barnes said tonight that he'll be back with the team on Monday, and he also mentioned that this group is very, very close already. He's already mentioned now multiple times that he "loves" coaching this group, which was something I don't think was ever mentioned last year.

Texas NEWS


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