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February 6, 2010

No. 9 Texas loses fourth in six games with KU up next

In a game Texas should have been able to dominate inside against incredibly inferior post players, Texas withstood 9 made 3-pointers in the first half by OU, the emotion of a crowd honoring Wayman Tisdale and still all but erased a 19-point deficit.

But when you miss anywhere between 8 and 17 layups (depending on who's play-by-play you look at; the official game play-by-play said 8, ESPN's said 17 and my count was 12) and go 10-of-27 from the free throw line (including a 4-of-13 FT performance from your best player - Damion James), you're just not a mentally tough basketball team right now.


UNABLE TO FINISH

To break down the rotations and substitutions today would be re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

We could argue if J'Covan Brown should have been in the game at the end instead of Jai Lucas, who missed an off-balance shot in the lane with 1:07 left to play and Texas down 75-68.

Or if Avery Bradley, UT's best player all day, should have gotten a single FG attempt in the final 10:42 of the game.

But the bottom line is, when the game is on the line, this Texas team doesn't have an identity - at least not on offense.

And, of course, the Horns can't make free throws.

Despite that first-half barrage by OU, Texas was within 10 points for much of the final 11:42 of this game.


ALMOST ANOTHER COMEBACK

Texas has now trailed at halftime in seven of its eight Big 12 games.
On Saturday, Texas was down 18 (48-30) at the break. But Texas had cut OU's biggest margin (19 points, 53-34 with 18:25 left to play) to six points (69-63) with 4:11 left.

UT was done in by missed FTs, missed layups and defensive lapses (including letting Willie Warren drive for a critical basket on a sprained right ankle with 1:57 left - Warren played only 16 minutes because of that injury.)

Gary Johnson, who had another strong effort with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and 10 rebounds, actually answered with a huge 3-point play after Warren's drive, cutting OU's lead to five, 73-68. But it would prove to be Texas' final points of the game with 1:36 left.


TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

Damion James (12 pts on 4-of-9 shooting with 9 rebounds), who got started way too late in this game (he was just 1-of-3 in the first half), missed a runner on the baseline and then Gary Johnson fouled OU's Steven Pledger, who grabbed the rebound. Pledger made 1 of 2 foul shots to put OU up 75-68.

Then, Lucas missed his runner, and Gary Johnson missed a layup put-back attempt. Pledger grabbed the rebound and got the ball to OU's Tommy Mason-Griffin, who was fouled by Damion James.

Mason-Griffin,
as he did all day, bailed out OU with 2 made free throws, putting OU up 77-68 with 54 ticks on the clock.


VIRTUALLY NO WILLIE WARREN, NO PROBLEM FOR OU

Mason-Griffin, whose tree-trunk strength gave Texas issues all game because he could lean with a jab step and get separation, finished with 24 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 5-of-7 from 3-point range.

Mason-Griffin, who hit four 3-pointers in the first half, hit only one 3 in the second half, and it came against tight defense from Avery Bradley.

OU hit only 1-of-8 3-pointers as a team in the second half after hitting 9-of-16 in the first half.

Dogus Balbay, a.k.a. The Turkish Prison, and Bradley took turns on Mason-Griffin and OU's Cade Davis (20 points on 6-of-16 shooting, including 4-of-11 from 3-point range).


BRADLEY COMES UP BIG FOR TEXAS

Give Avery Bradley an "A" for effort and heart (21 pts on 9-of-17 FG, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals and 2 turnovers).

Unfortunately, Bradley, UT's most aggressive player offensively throughout the game, had only one shot attempt in the final 10:42 of the game (a missed front end of a one-and-one FT attempt with 3:31 left).

Again, Texas really struggles to get the ball in the hands of its hot players and run some set offense to feature those players when a game is tight.

Johnson was good ... again.


DEX SHOWS SIGNS OF LIFE

Dexter Pittman (8 pts on 4-of-5 shooting with 13 rebounds) was aggressive and much more effective Saturday than he has been. He wasn't playing against anyone in the same zip code as Cole Aldrich of Kansas, but maybe Dex picked up enough mojo to give Aldrich all he wants on Monday.

But Texas couldn't find Dex consistently, and used almost none of its big man bench as Clint Chapman played 1 minute.

Chapman, Alexis Wangmene and Matt Hill are starting to disappear from the rotation. Hill hasn't played the last four games. Wangmene hasn't played the last two games, and Chapman has played 1 minute in the last four games.

Jordan Hamilton, who helped pull Texas out of an 11-point hole at Oklahoma State with 27 points on Monday, finished with 8 pts on 3-of-15 shooting (1-of-6 from 3-point range) with 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 turnovers.

J'Covan Brown had 3 points on 0-of-5 shooting (0-of-3 from 3-point range) with 1 rebound, 2 assists and zero turnovers.

When the game got down to six points, Barnes finally ran some isolation plays for Damion James and Gary Johnson. But Damion was 1-of-5 from the FT line in the final 5:54, including missing the front end of a one-and-one. Huge morale killers.


NEXT UP: No. 1 Kansas comes to town on Monday at 8 p.m. (ESPN) for what was supposed to be the battle for the Big 12 regular-season title.

But Kansas (22-1, 8-0 Big 12) has put serious distance on Texas (19-4, 5-3), which has lost 4-of-6 and now finds itself tied in Big 12 play with teams like Kansas State (6-3), Texas A&M (6-3) and Missouri (5-3).

Having lost the tiebreaker with K-State and with games still to play at A&M and Mizzou, UT must now worry about hanging onto a Top 4 seed in the Big 12 Tournament. Without one, UT will have to play a Wednesday, first-round game in Kansas City and have to win 4 games in 4 days instead of 3 games in 3 days.

Oh, heck, what am I talking about that stuff for. Texas just needs to worry about showing up Monday night.


Here are the post-game quotes from OU's web site:


Texas Head Coach Rick Barnes:

Opening comment: "I could start at a lot of places. I felt coming in that the energy level and their emotion level would be high today, which we've seen all year.

"We knew they had the ability to make a lot of shots from the perimeter. We didn't start the game defensively the way we really wanted to, but even with all that said, free throws and then them playing as good as they have all year.

"We make some free throws, and when you start missing free throws it puts so much pressure on you on the defensive end. I told the team at halftime that there was no doubt we were going to come back in the game. With all that said, we had chances in the second half and, again, the free throws hurt us.

"You give Oklahoma credit. They knocked down shots early. You have to give Tommy Mason-Griffin a lot of credit. He got loose, he let them get comfortable, he made a lot of shots and he created shots. Basically, he was responsible for a lot of their points. Again, you give him credit for it.

"I felt like defensively we could speed the game up and get a high-possession game. Then on the offensive end we were playing way too fast. Guys were coming down the floor and I don't think any us have any idea sometimes what somebody's going to do with the ball.

"We just don't settle in and play together and don't follow what we need to do in terms of our scouting report. You can't say that we are young anymore. Even the young guys. We can't do that."


On his team's free throw problems: "I mean 10-for-27. What else can I say? I mean 10-for-27. I have to truly believe that there's a junior high school team that could do better than that.

"You know what, I'm not so sure that there are not some other teams in lower level than that. Is it frustrating? It's frustrating because it has been the same in every game this year that we have lost."


Senior Forward Damion James

On UT's free throw woes: "Missed free throws. It was big. Me, personally, I work on them so much and to come out here and miss that amount of free throws is unacceptable.

"Being a leader of this team -- it's tough man. You know we let them get going early and it hurt. We have got a big turnaround coming up here on Monday. It's hard for me to let go but at the same time we have to because we play (Kansas) Monday."

On what the team is missing that it had earlier in the year: "I don't know, man. I wish I could tell you. We have to come together as a team and figure this thing out. When we made a run, we got a stop, and we might have taken a shot that wasn't acceptable.

"We didn't play as a team and it's tough. We work so hard and I don't think there is a team in the country that works as hard as we do. To come out here and do this is bad."


Freshman Guard Avery Bradley

On guarding Tommy Mason-Griffin: "He is a real good player. My coach wanted me to guard him and just play hard defense on him. I just took the challenge and wanted to step up and make plays for my team."

On what makes it difficult to defend Tommy Mason-Griffin: "Like I said, he is just a good all-around player. He is so quick and fast. He is a good player and so he is a hard player to guard."


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