Longhorns hold off Oakland; next up Arizona
The fourth-seeded Longhorns advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with an 85-81 victory over the 13th-seeded Oakland Grizzlies, champions of the Summit League.
Texas' largest lead in this one was 17 in the second half (63-46 with 12:39 left to play) and UT led by 15 (78-63) with 4:04 left in the game. But a 12-2 run by the Golden Grizzlies cut Texas' lead to 5 - 80-75 - with 59 seconds left.
The Longhorns made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to hold on for the 85-81 win.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT UT'S WIN
1. Texas came out aggressive, confident and assertive offensively.
Seven players had 2 made FGs in the first 12 minutes of the game as the Longhorns hit 64.3 percent of their shots and led 31-19.
Gary Johnson, who had been awful shooting the ball the past five games (12 of 45, 27 percent), hit 4 of his first 5 shots.
Texas was hitting 59 percent of its shots at halftime, when the Longhorns led 46-38.
Jordan Hamilton, who said Thursday Johnson would hit the 15-foot jumper and was right, was aggressive and confident, hitting 8 of 17 shots and finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
2. Tristan Thompson stood up and imposed his will on Oakland's 6-11 Keith Benson.
Thompson finished with an insane 7 blocks. Texas' freshman big man had 17 points and 10 rebounds and made himself a lot of money Friday (if he chooses to turn pro).
Thompson did a little bit of everything and looked like the Thompson was dominating down low before getting into foul trouble against Kansas and playing only 21 minutes in the Big 12 Tournament final.
3. Texas made 21 of 26 free throws (80.8 percent) in one of their three best such showings of the year.
That was big time in a game that went from being a blowout to being a nail-biter.
Texas made 7 of 8 free throws in the final 2 minutes with four of those coming from J'Covan Brown and three from Cory Joseph.
4. The bench showed up.
Texas' bench outscored Oakland's 26-10 thanks to 21 from J'Covan Brown, who collected 12 of those points at the FT line (12 of 12).
Brown scored 21 points in just 24 minutes. When he's feeling it like that, it's a thing of beauty.
5. Rick Barnes had his boys in the right frame of mind.
That was a question coming into this tournament with all the talk about Texas being disrespected with a No. 4 seed and playing the early game (11:15 am CT) in a hostile environment (people in Oklahoma don't like Texas much).
Kudos to Barnes for having his boys ready to roll.
FIVE THINGS TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT IN THE WIN
1. Texas' lockdown defense wasn't quite on lockdown.
There were a few lapses during the game in which the Longhorns allowed a high-tempo offense like Oakland to find a groove, including a 7-0 run in which Cory Joseph and Gary Johnson were both out of position.
Then, there was the 9-2 run Oakland made in the final minutes to cut UT's lead to 5. Cory Joseph struggled to defend a red-hot Reggie Hamilton from Oakland, who had 15 of his 25 points in the second half.
Surprised we didn't see more of Dogus Balbay on Hamilton in the second half, because Balbay did a pretty good job on Hamilton in the first half.
Hamilton started to get hot in the final three minutes of the first half, when Balbay was on the bench and Joseph was guarding him.
Texas allowed Oakland to shoot 44 percent for the game, but maintained UT's stingy defense against the 3-point shot, holding the Grizzlies to just 24 percent shooting (7 of 29) from 3.
Cory Joseph did a really nice job on Oakland sniper Travis Bader, who was just 4-of-13, including 2-of-11 from 3.
2. Where's the killer instinct?
We've seen this pattern before from Texas (against Texas Tech, Baylor, Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas State). Grab an early lead and either hang on for the victory - or lose it all together.
It doesn't seem possible that Texas could be leading by 15 with 4 minutes left and somehow be in a nail biter at the end. The need to close out games will only get more crucial.
3. When J'Covan Brown is scoring 21 points in 24 minutes, don't you try to get him some more minutes?
Again, when Brown has it going, it's a thing of beauty. He makes his free throws. Why wouldn't he get more minutes than that? He also had 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 0 turnovers and a block. He was dialed in.
In a game where you go to the whip and play Gary Johnson 31 minutes; Tristan Thompson 38 minutes; Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph both 35 minutes, why wouldn't you get J'Covan some more floor time?
4. Speaking of Cory Joseph, he was just 3-of-10 from the floor.
Nothing to get alarmed about. But Joseph has made just 20 of 64 shots the last six games (31.3 percent).
5. With Texas next facing Arizona, look for Gary Johnson to get the first crack at trying to defend Wildcats' 6-8, 245-pound sophomore forward Derrick Williams, who had 22 points and 10 rebounds and a huge block to help seal a 77-75 victory over Memphis.
But Johnson will need help. Rick Barnes doesn't like to double-team players. But he'll need to double Williams. He's a beast.
UP NEXT: 5th-seeded Arizona on Sunday TBA Everything about Texas' second-round opponent - the Arizona Wildcats - feeds off of top NBA prospect Derrick Williams, who not only averages 19 points per game but hits 61 percent from 3-point range (36 of 59) and leads the Cats in blocks, steals and turnovers.
Williams has scored at least 20 points in each of his last four games. So if the defense can get to Williams, it will be a huge factor because Arizona doesn't have another player averaging double digits in scoring. At some point, Barnes will probably turn to Alexis Wangmene to come in off the bench and see how long Wangmene can defend Williams without getting into foul trouble.
Arizona shoots the ball really well from 3, averaging 39.9 percent shooting from distance. The Wildcats are allowing opponents to shoot 44 percent from the field. But, like Texas, Arizona is tough against the 3, limiting opponents to a stingy 29 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats are nine deep and don't have a single player averaging 30 minutes per game (not even Williams, who averages 29.9 mins per game). Outside of Williams, there is a lot of balanced scoring.
Zona didn't play a great non-conference schedule, but the Cats did play Kansas (a loss) and BYU (a loss) and lost in the Pac-10 to Washington (twice), UCLA, USC and Oregon State.
Barnes will probably have to double Williams and have great defensive rotations against the Wildcats to move on to the Sweet 16. But for the Longhorns, that's doable.