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February 9, 2010

Texas finds good news and bad news after loss to No. 1 KU


Rick Barnes appears ready to finally start turning the keys over to freshman guard J'Covan Brown.

Barnes all but said Brown would start on Saturday against Nebraska (3 p.m. CT, Hum Drum, Big 12 Network).

And Barnes finally admitted after Monday night's 80-68 loss to No. 1 Kansas that he can no longer have guards Justin Mason and Dogus Balbay on the floor together.

"We just can't, otherwise it's five on three," Barnes said.

After starting Mason and Balbay together the last 18 games, Barnes took Mason out as a starter against Kansas and replaced him with Gary Johnson. Never once in the game were Mason and Balbay on the floor together.


TIME TO GROW UP

Barnes said he was almost ready to give the start to J'Covan Brown against KU, even telling him in the shootaround before the game, "It's time."

Barnes has been tormented this season by the ebbs and flows of his two most talented freshmen from an offensive standpoint. Two steps forward and three steps back have been the walking pattern for Brown and Jordan Hamilton most of the season.

In the two games since Hamilton lit up Oklahoma State for 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting, he has gone 3-of-21 from the field (3-of-15 vs. Oklahoma; and 0-of-6 vs. KU).

And as good as J'Covan Brown was Monday night in the second half against KU (he scored 18 of his 28 points in the final 8:48), he had the biggest turnover of the game at the 3:16 mark.

Texas had just cut a 19-point Kansas lead to eight (64-56), when Brown was called for carrying the ball when UT had a chance to cut it to six points.

"It might have gotten real interesting right there," Barnes said. "As bad as we had played offensively in the game, it might have gotten real interesting if we could have cut it to six."

With as explosive as J'Covan Brown was over the final 9 minutes of Monday's game, I asked Rick Barnes why Brown didn't play a single second of the final 7 minutes of the OU game, when UT had cut OU's lead down to as few as 5 points.

Barnes said, "It was just my decision."

A bad decision. Of all the 5 losses UT has taken in the last 7 games, that OU loss was the worst. Texas was so far and away the better and more talented team and didn't even have its best players on the floor when victory was attainable.

Losing to Baylor at home runs a close second. But at least Baylor has some big-time wins this season. OU is a shell of a team.


A 22-0 RUN BY KANSAS

The low point of Monday night was an 11-minute stretch of the first half (from the 14:08 mark to the 3:12 mark) when Texas went without a point (a 22-0 Kansas run).

UT was up 14-8 when KU's run started. Texas found itself down 30-17 when Damion James (24 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range and 4-of-6 from the FT line with 10 rebounds) banked in a 3-pointer to finally give an overflow crowd of 16,734 something to cheer about.

Texas had the ball 16 times in that stretch, missed 14 shots and turned it over seven times. Several different lineups were on the floor during the stretch, including:

(1) J'Covan, Jordan, Dex, Damion and Gary;
(2) Clint Chapman, Jordan, Dex, Gary and Damion;
(3) Chapman, Dogus, Dex, Jordan and Damion;
(4) Dex, Jordan, J'Covan, Gary and Avery Bradley;
(5) Jai Lucas, Justin Mason, Avery, Gary and Damion


"We gave up 27 points off turnovers tonight," said Barnes, whose team turned it over 17 times with only six assists as a team. "In every one of our losses, that's been the most decisive stat.

"If our team can just understand assists to turnovers, that one stat, we're going to be a lot better off."


LOVING UP THE TEAM

Barnes told his team after the game the Longhorns are "this close" to being the team they want to be.

"We're going to get it fixed," Barnes said. "We knew all year that J'Covan was a guy we needed to be able to help run things. But he had to understand he couldn't be casual with the ball or I wasn't going to reward him.

"But we have to have him on the floor to create for the other guys. It's time."

Damion James agreed.

"J'Covan showed he can score the ball when we need it," James said. "We're going to need that from the point guard spot. He brings something that Dogus don't bring.

"He brings the ability to shoot the ball and spread the floor for guys like me, Avery (Bradley), Dex (Pittman) and Gary (Johnson). We need that if we want to be the team we want to be."

J'Covan (28 pts on 9-of-19 shooting, including 2-of-3 from 3-pt range with 1 assist, 2 turnovers and 1 steal) said Barnes told him before the game, "Big players step up on big stages.

"Russ (Springmann) and Coach (Rodney) Terry came over and told me the same thing, that it's the time to do it, so just go out there and have fun."


DAMION: 'THIS IS THE WORST WE'RE GOING TO PLAY'

Damion James said after Monday's game that KU's 22-0 run "was unacceptable" and that "this is the worst we're going to play."

James was asked if he feels like he's been having to carry this team "by himself."

James said, "Never. We're doing this as a team. We're going through something right now that we'll work through. I'd rather go through it now than in March."

J'Covan Brown said he feels like Damion has been having to carry the team by himself.

"I've been watching film lately and Damo says he hasn't been doing it by himself, but I feel like he has because he's had to," J'Covan said.

"I have to step in and be the player I know I can be. Jordan (Hamilton) has to step up and be the player he can be. We all have to do our job and help Damo to get wins. From now on, that's what I'm doing."


NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP

There was a strong sense walking out of the Hum Drum, where Kansas hadn't won since 2002, that Texas had bottomed out and is ready to start climbing off the ocean floor.

Dexter Pittman (3 points on 1-of-5 shooting with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers and 4 blocks in 21 minutes) could be a beneficiary of J'Covan Brown replacing Mason in the starting lineup.

Barnes liked Pittman's defensive intensity against KU and Cole Aldrich (7 points on 2-of-10 shooting with 5 rebounds and 6 blocks). But Barnes said Pittman can't play 21 minutes and collect only 3 rebounds.

"Dexter has to do a better job of going to get rebounds," Barnes said.

Dogus Balbay, who played only 16 minutes for Texas against KU, set a nice tone against Sherron Collins, who was 3-of-13 from the field but was 8-of-8 from the FT line to finish with 15 points.

Kansas killed Texas on the boards 45-34 and rode Collins' speed to a sizable edge in fast-break points (16-2).

Marcus Morris (18 points) and Xavier Henry (15 points) led the way for the Jayhawks.

With Barnes now ready to end the boot-camp phase of the season, when he basically made his team play offense with 50-pound weight vests on (with Mason and Balbay in the lineup together), we'll see if the weight has been lifted.

And if J'Covan Brown is going into the starting lineup, replacing Mason here are a couple other substitution suggestions.


AVERY BRADLEY NEEDS REST

Bring Gary Johnson in off the bench with Jordan Hamilton about six minutes into the game. When you bring in Johnson, sub him for Avery Bradley.

Bradley is starting to look like D.J. Augustin to me when Augustin was a freshman. Augustin completely gave out physically in March that year.

When you bring in Jordan Hamilton, sub him for Dogus Balbay and see if he and J'Covan can get the team running again. Texas had just 2 fast-break points against Kansas. Pathetic for this team.

Also, don't give up on Matt Hill, who came into Monday night's game and played 3 productive minutes with a block and two great screens that led to an easy driving layup for Damion James and a missed driving layup by J'Covan Brown.


MADE FREE THROWS, MISSED LAYUPS

The good news for Texas Monday night was going 17 of 23 from the FT line (73.9 percent). J'Covan Brown was 8-of-9 from the foul line, yet another reason to have him on the floor late in games.

The bad news is Texas missed 11 more layups against KU and has missed 103 layups in the last 8 games, according to the official play-by-play records.

No doubt that it's time for Texas to loosen things up and start having fun - within reason, of course. At least Barnes sounds like he's ready to have this team go back on the offensive.

We've been calling for Barnes to free J'Covan Brown for several games. To quote Barnes, "It's time."


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