Disclaimer: I don't plan on writing about the halftime ceremony or any of the rest of the plane crash anniversary stuff in this recap. It's not that I am ignoring it, or don't care.... please don't take it that way. It's just that I am not so great at expressing those things you call "feelings", and I am afraid that I won't do justice to the emotion we all have about the tragedy.
Well, we saw a well played first half from the Pokes, some incredible defense from the Longhorns, a team that was hitting open shots, another that couldn't buy a bucket, and the Cowboys are now saddled with their first home loss of the season. In games like this, against an opponent that is this good, you need your stars to play well, and you need a sneaky-good, or even breakout, game from a role player or two. In the end, OSU's key players couldn't come through when it mattered, and they didn't get any unexpected contributions from unlikely sources. Everyone pretty much played shot par, with a few guys (Keiton Page, Matt Pilgrim, maybe Jean-Paul Olukemi?) posting some triple bogeys (first golf analogy on CRFF?).
A few observations:
The Cowboy's Shooting
This observation is going to come off like I am drunk, or old, or John Madden (who is drunk and old)... but the Cowboys offense would be so much better if they could make shots. I know, I know... saying that a team would be better if they just scored more points isn't rocket surgery, but it is so, so true. I honestly don't remember a Cowboy team that missed so many manageable shots. This point obviously goes far beyond just tonight's game... I give a lot of credit for tonight's poor shooting percentages (32%, 9%, 64%) to the Longhorn defense. For the most part they locked the boys down, especially on the perimeter, but there were plenty of open opportunities that just didn't fall... and that has been the theme all season. When you can't hit anything from outside of 8 feet.... drives, post ups, cuts, or anything else inside just doesn't work as well. It isn't that the lack of shooting allowed Texas to suck their defense inside the arc (they didn't), but it did allow the Longhorns to send help D and trap the guards at will, with little worry of someone popping open for a three. You simply can't allow a team to never have to pay when they send help defenders every time the ball is rotated or goes inside.
Understanding the moment, and seizing it
As bad as this game looked, there were some moments in the 2nd half when the game was within reach. The Pokes pulled double-digit leads to within 7 once, and 9 a few times. They just couldn't get it any closer....something always prevented it from happening. Sometimes it was Texas seizing the moment, other times it was Oklahoma State shrinking from the moment. The most glaring example for me was with about 8 minutes left.....
The Cowboys were down 10 and playing with some momentum after a nice drive and score by Markel Brown. On the ensuing Longhorn possession, the Pokes played decent, not great, defense, and got Hamilton to miss a shot from three and Brown gets the rebound. It felt like a perfect time for the Pokes to bring it up and find Page for a three, or get JPO to the line, or something similar as GIA was poised to erupt. Well Brown pulled that rebound down in between two Longhorns and ended up kinda bracketed in by them and the baseline. Instead of pulling the ball down, gathering himself, and looking for an outlet pass (or even calling timeout if he couldn't get it out), Brown remained intent on keeping his dribble. He tried to take it out of the lane and it was easily swiped. The Longhorns kick it to Hamilton who drills an open three. A potential 6 point swing right there, and the Cowboys really didn't threaten much after that.
I realize that this is very anecdotal, but this kind of thing has been plaguing the Cowboys all season. No one on this team seems to be able to seize a moment. To be able to step up and say, "Hey fellas, we need something here, give me the ball and something good will happen". Even if nothing good really happens, you need someone (or preferably multiple someones) who seems like they understand what is needed. The Cowboys don't have that, and constantly allow manageable 7 point deficits to turn into 12 point holes.
The Cowboy's Defensive Recognition
This is kinda similar to the "seizing the moment" thing. Alright look, guys are going to get out of position, it happens, the problem that I see with the Cowboys is they have no idea how to recover. Jordan Hamilton has one of the smoothest outside shots you will ever see. You take one look at the guy and know that he was created to shoot threes. So why in Sutton's name would you leave him open so you can go and cover someone else? Two of Hamilton's four made triples came when one Cowboy was stuck guarding two Longhorns on the weak side and the defender inexplicably went to the other guy, leaving Hamilton wide open. We saw this in the Iowa State game as well when that Vanderbeeken guy was lighting it up, yet continually found himself open due to defensive switching mistakes.
I get it "Straw-man Cowboy Defender", the defensive mistake was already made when you got stuck as the only white jersey on that side of the court, but you have to be aware of who the biggest threat is, and not let that guy beat you. I know that J'Coven Brown and Cory Joseph can shoot as well, but they aren't Jordan Hamilton. You have to challenge those lesser players to beat you, not give the Longhorns best scorer open shots.
I don't know if you want to chalk it up to a low "basketball IQ", or being too rigid with defensive matchups, or what, but when stuck in those situations, I would rather see the entire team over-commit to the hot shooter and take the gamble of a role-player beating you.
Shock of the game
ESPN displaying some Kenpom metrics during the game. What the shit ESPN? Is your demo no longer first time viewers and my Grandmother? Kudos to you for that kenpom graphic ESPN.
Texas-7, Cowboys-3. Nice work on hitting that three early Ray Penn.
This wasn't a great performance, it really wasn't, but if I just watched the game without paying attention to the scoreboard I would have thought it was closer than 15 at the end. Texas didn't play that well, neither did OSU. If something as small as Keiton hitting a few of those threes that we have seen him make over and over would have worked out in our favor, that is a whole different game. I realize you can "what if" every game like that, but I really don't feel like this was an ass-whipping (although part of me feels like Barnes, a notoriously great guy, may have reigned it in a little in the end out of respect).
This was a game we all had marked down as an "L", and it was one. On to Lubbock.
.. and if you want to hear what the other side thinks, check out Burnt Orange Nation where I am sure they are Dogus-ing all over each other.