MCM's Note: I added Tim's post after the jump, so if you are looking for it, that's where it is now. Enjoy!
Halftime. Austin, Texas. Baylor Bears, 26. Texas Longhorns, 36.
What a poorly played half of basketball. Texas showed the sort of patience in the early minutes on offense that had me worried that they would be the latest in a line of teams to find ways to beat our once-feared-now-maligned zone defense. They went on 14-2 run after Baylor's initial 7-0 surge to start the game. Then, they promptly went into a funk on offense wherein they lost the patient poise or outside range to pull away from Baylor. And then...J'Covan Brown decided to start making 3's.
On offense, Baylor played it's worst half of the year. Given recent performances, this is saying something. Perry Jones III brought energy and #want, but couldn't channel it in a positive manner after an early dunk. Pierre Jackson seemed to be working at it, but his dribble-penetration was not resulting in easy baskets for him or open looks for his teammates. The only way Baylor was able to stick with the slumping UT offense was through a few timely 3's and making their free throws...
...And then, J'Covan Brown decided to start making 3's. Texas pushed the lead to 10 as Baylor continued it's trend of playing poorly around halftime.
Facing the possibility of losing the momentum of a great season, the doubt generated from such a poor performance on national TV, and the very real chance of losing out on a 3 seed, Baylor headed into half time knowing it needed to play better but unsure where that performance was going to come from...
Scott Drew and Perry Jones III get a lot of grief from us here at ODB, especially lately. Outsiders might confuse us as writers who don't actually like our coach and best player. This is simply in correct. We love Drew for his recruiting prowess, for setting a family like atmosphere in an environment that used to resemble nothing of the sort, and for being a good enough coach to have his elite talent perform well by WIn-Loss record. We love Perry Jones III because of his silky smooth moves, that he seems like a generally nice guy, and because he has the talent to be a Player of the Year. The problem is that both have been underachieving of late.
Scott Drew has not been able to adjust his defense to deal with good outside shooting performances or patients offenses that use lots of off-ball motion to get our defenders out of position. Moreover, it had been shown that if you could shut down PJ3, you shut down Baylor's half court offense. Pierre Jones III was at first playing too much of a finesse game and, after he brought more energy, was simply not converting on the chances that we knew he has the talent, ability and hours in the gym to say he should be making. It's not an exaggeration to say that, while other players have been disappointing lately as well, as the two most important cogs of this Baylor team they were the two most responsible for outcomes.
In the second half of the game tonight, we once again saw the team that has been missing for weeks now outside of a brief appearance at home against Iowa State. Pierre Jackson recovered from a dreadful first half shooting performance to spark some offense. Quincy Acy was a beast in every sense of the word, almost single-handedly wiling his team back into the game. PJIII found his spots and got his confidence back and Drew took the risk of continuing to play his guards who were in foul trouble alongside PJ3. Furthermore, Drew made another great move by deciding to switch offense/defense at an earlier point than most coaches would. This helped further energize the Baylor run that saw them down 8 points at the 11:43 mark and up 5 at the 2:43 mark.
In 9 minutes, Baylor righted their ship and got back on course for what should be a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament. Well done, gentlemen. Well done, indeed.
Tim Watkins' Take:
I will get this out of the way early. Baylor stole this game. The Bears were outclassed in every way in the first half. The Longhorns shot 50% compared to 28% for the Bears. The Bears had 9 turnovers to just 5 for the Longhorns. The Bears were +2 on rebounds, and +3 on free throws made, but outside of those two areas, Texas was better. And yet, they were only up 10.
The lead would get to 12 to start the 2nd half. But then, the change happened. The long awaited (and screamed for) man defense arose. A lot of people will say that is what won the Bears this game. I disagree, to some extent. Texas scored 36 points in each half, one against man and the other against zone. They had 5 turnovers in each half. They shot 13-26 in the first, and 12-26 in the second.
Every single defense metric was roughly the exact same. This game was not won on the switch to man. This game was won because the Bears made shots and stopped committing turnovers. They shot 15-30 in the 2nd half, making 6-9 from three. They only had two turnovers (both in the last two minutes). The offense woke up and won this game.
Tim's 5 Keys to the Game
1. Force players not named Brown to beat you - They took 52 shots from the field, and Brown shot the ball 14 times for 26.9% of their shots. That is pretty much his average, so not a bad job at all by the Bears. Brown had 18 points on those 14 shots, and did not make a basket from inside the 3-point arc. He was 6-14 overall, 6-9 from 3, and 0-1 from the charity stripe.
The Bears really stayed with him in the zone in the 1st half until late where he hit a few big shots to extend their lead to 10. He made four of his first five 3-point attempts, but after that was just 1-4 for the rest of the game. In the 2nd half, the Bears went to man and it was up to AJ Walton and Deuce Bello to stick with Brown. For the most part they did a really good job.
AJ fought hard through screens and stayed with him, while Bello really read the court better than I thought he could and went around the defense to cut off passing lanes. He did get caught once trailing after running right into a screen on an in-bounds play that could have setup a 4-point play, but outside of that, was excellent.
2. Stay even on the turnovers - The Bears were -4 in the first half and +3 in the second half to finish with 11 turnovers to just 10 by the Longhorns. Pretty even if you ask me. The Bears took care of the ball in the 2nd half and really played within themselves. Pierre had 4 turnovers in the game, which is okay for a player that dominates the ball so much.
The best player in this regard though was AJ Walton. He played a very good game with 5 assists and just 1 turnover. He got the ball inside very well, and executed the slip screen play with Acy to perfection several times late in the game.
3. Make some shots - 7-25 from the first half. So bad. So very bad. They missed dunks. They missed layups, put back, and wide open 3-pointers. However, in the 2nd half, we started running Brady Heslip off back screens and double screens. He hit some shots to get us going. Then we started slipping Acy off the screen towards the basket and he started finishing. Then Pierre Jackson started penetrating and finishing as well as finding open shooters.
The Bears finally started making shots shooting 50% in the half. They finished right at 40%, so I was a little short, but they did enough to make it work.
4. Get to the line - Boy did the Bears do that. The Bears shot 9 more free throws than the Longhorns, something I did not expect. They shot 29 overall and shot them very well, making 24 good for 82.8%. Anytime you can shoot that many free throws that well, you have to be happy. Pierre Jackson struggled mightily from the field for the first 30 minutes, but hit his free throws to provide some value. He ended up 12-12 for the game, icing it late with 4 big ones.
Quincy Acy hit 8-11 and finished several and-1 opportunities. The only other player to get to the line was Perry Jones III who was 4-6. I asked for 28, they gave us 29. Great job by the Bears.
5. Limit the 2nd chance points - The Longhorns got a total of 19 second chance points, but never did it snowball and just bury the Bears. I was actually surprised it was that many to be honest with you. They did not keep them under 10, but I thought they did better than allowing 19 points.
Player of the Game - Quincy Acy. That was the best game of his career. He and Brady Heslip carried the offense while the rest of the team was busy shooting under 15% at one point. Let me repeat that. FIFTEEN PERCENT! Quincy Acy scored 22 points on 7-10 shooting from the floor, 8-11 from the line, and had a career high 16 rebounds. He was possessed.