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December 7, 2013

Texas leaves Temple with dramatic OT win

Texas' game at Temple included a little bit of everything. It included the Longhorns (8-1) playing maybe their best half of basketball all season in the first half; it included the Longhorns playing one of their worst halves of basketball all season in the second half; and it included Javan Felix, who struggled about as much as he could struggle down the stretch of regulation, drilling the three-pointer with under 10 seconds left to beat Temple (4-4) 81-80 in overtime. Let's dive in:

1) Sure, Temple isn't Duke. However, the Longhorns again showed resiliency, and this time it was at their first true road environment of the year. Considering how terrible Texas played for stretches, especially on offense, in the second half and the foul trouble it dealt with, managing to somehow find a way to pull out a win shows something about this team's character.

Heck, it says a lot about Felix that his two straight turnovers and two missed jumpers down the stretch in regulation nearly buried his team, and he was the guy that stepped up to not just take the game-winning shot, but drill it.

2) Prince Ibeh played just 16 minutes, mostly because he was one of the Texas players in foul trouble, but he saved his best minutes for the most important part of the game. The 6-11 sophomore turned into a shot-blocking machine in overtime with three blocks during the period, and played brilliantly despite playing with four fouls. On one instance, Ibeh closed out on Temple's best guard shooter (Dalton Pepper) and blocked his shot too.

He finished with 11 points, six rebounds, and four blocks. Ibeh's evolution as a player continues to show, and he's becoming more comfortable on the offensive end as well as he not only scored but found open players on a couple of occasions on passes out of the post too.

3) In the first half, Isaiah Taylor was the best player on the floor and couldn't be stopped. He scored 15 points, his only points of the game, with nifty finishes at the rim and even pulled up in transition to bury his first three-pointer of the season. It was Taylor at his best.

However, once he picked up his third foul early and hardly played in the second half, his confidence lacked when he came back and Texas struggled without him. It's probably not just a coincidence that the speed of the game in the first half was about as fast as it could be and then in the second half Temple was really able to slow it down.

Basically, Taylor is a freshman, and one that has shown he can be great at times, but still a freshman at other times. He's still figuring things out. He was as good as he can be in the first half, and then was a different guy after the third foul. Fortunately for Texas, he seemed to pick up his confidence and began attacking in overtime when Texas needed it most.

4) Felix mentioned a couple of things to me last week:

a) He's still not 100 percent after the hip procedure but said he was getting close; and
b) he wants the ball in late-game situations.

Felix talked about playing with a free mind and "getting lost in the game" without worrying about his health. I think today you saw a guy that was thinking way, way too much on the floor. He led the team with five turnovers, missed open shots he normally makes at a higher rate, and just looked off.

"But then you go and totally redeem yourself!"

Felix's leaner from the three-point line in regulation nearly won it, and then the sophomore did win it by confidently pulling up and drilling a three-pointer after a lane violation by the Temple shooter negated a made free throw.

5) Texas shot just over 51 percent in the first half, and 24.7 in the second half. Why? Because Temple went to zone, Texas became more timid, Texas stopped getting chances to attack in transition and stopped attacking from the wings, and Temple extended its zone way out to take away the high-post option.

The Longhorns stopped doing what got them their huge lead in the second half. Although they got good looks early in the second half, once they didn't fall you could visibly see the confidence and aggressiveness slip away as they became more and more stagnant each possession, just passing it around the perimeter the same way nearly every time.

6) Despite Cameron Ridley and Jon Holmes fouling out, and Ibeh having four fouls for most of the second half, the Longhorns were plus-10 on the offensive glass and plus-11 overall. At the end of the game, five Texas players had at least six rebounds.

7) Free throws… yikes, again. The odd thing is that Texas wasn't as bad as Temple was at the line, and the biggest part of the free-throw shooting was the lane violation in overtime committed by Temple.

The biggest contributor to Texas shooting 21-of-35 at the free-throw line was Demarcus Holland, who shot 5-of-12 from the stripe. Holland didn't play nearly as bad as his shooting (0-for-9 from the floor) indicates. He got to the rim multiple times, took good, open looks, and saw multiple shots go in and out. His defense was very effective - Holland basically shut down Will Cummings in the second half - and he tied a team-lead with eight boards.

8) Damarcus Croaker and Kendal Yancy earned more minutes after their performances today. Rick Barnes will be pleased with Croaker's effort defensively, and outside of one bad pass, Croaker created well on offense. Yancy continues to attack the rim from his wing spot, play solid defensively, and he had one of the highlights of the game when he beat a guard off the bounce and delivered an emphatic, one-hand sledgehammer of a dunk in the first half.

They still have points when they show their freshmen still figuring things out, but I think Barnes and the Texas staff will be pleased with what they saw. Meanwhile, Martez Walker played just five minutes and hasn't gotten up to speed as quickly as Croaker and Yancy.

9) Texas struggled to get the ball into the paint, especially against the zone, to the big men, but Ridley still found a way to score 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting with no turnovers.

10) At one point in the first half, the Longhorns led by 16 with a little over eight minutes left before halftime. So this obviously would have been a very, very tough loss to swallow. And Texas obviously shouldn't have let Temple back into the game the way it did. But as Texas shows it still needs to improve and become a lot more consistent, it also showed it is improving and can flash as a really good basketball team in lengthy stretches of the game.

Texas will feed off of this result.

Texas NEWS


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