Breaking Down the Texas Longhorns' First Loss of 2010

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Breaking Down the Texas Longhorns' First Loss of 2010

Texas' stay at No. 1 was brief.

Fresh off the heels of an emotional overtime victory over rival Texas A&M, the top-ranked Longhorns were ripe for an upset in a Big Monday game in Manhattan, Kan., against the ninth-ranked Wildcats of Kansas State.

Plagued by turnovers and continued struggles from the charity stripe, the Longhorns were unable to hold off a game Wildcats squad in front of an electric KSU crowd, falling 71-62.

Texas stars Damion James and Dexter Pittman were non-factors, while Kansas State's duo of Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels came up big in the program's third win over a top-ranked team.

Much credit should be given to the tremendous defensive effort by the Wildcats, as they forced 18 uncharacteristic Texas turnovers and kept Damion James from exploding (James was 3-of-12 for nine points), but many of the Longhorns' problems were simply a carry over from Saturday's contest against the Aggies, only this time they got bitten.

 

Free-Throw Shooting

9-of-22.

You read that correctly.

9-of-22.

Texas shot a pathetic 40 percent from the line, and somehow only lost by nine. If the Longhorns had made a little more than half of their free throws, we could be talking about a different game.

The Longhorns have been the worst free throw shooting team in the Big 12, at just over 60 percent on the season. They had to know that sooner or later a close game was going to come down to converting free-throws. 

Obviously that didn't happen on this night, but it needs to start happening if Texas wants to make a deep run in March.

 

Turnovers

As mentioned above, Texas turned the ball over 18 times, a number that is far too high if you want to have any chance of winning on the road (or just winning in general).

The K-State defense did a great job of forcing Texas miscues, but too many Texas possessions were rushed and the players never seemed to be on the same page.

There were some miscommunication between freshmen J'Covan Brown and Avery Bradley on several occasions, some of which can be blamed on the fact that this was the first true road test they have faced in their young careers, but the fact remains, they are still inexperienced despite their many talents.

 

Easy Shots Missed

If you were to take a snapshot of the last 15 seconds of the A&M game, you'd notice that it resembled the entire Kansas State contest. 

At the end of Saturday's game, Avery Bradley stole a pass and was driving down the court for an easy, game-winning layup. He failed to convert, and both Alexis Wangmene and Damion James missed on the putbacks.

The Longhorns as a whole were not able to take advantage of easy looks at the basket all night long.

Shooting just 36 percent from the floor, Texas was unable to come up with some key baskets that could have given them some much-needed momentum.

Gary Johnson, one of the best sixth men in the nation, missed on some easy attempts around the rim.  Even Damion James, the heart and soul of this Texas team, missed at point-blank range on a few shots at the rim.

What was worse was that the Longhorns insisted upon throwing up bad shots instead of continuing to look for the easy ones.  Jordan Hamilton was a constant offender in this category, throwing up fade-aways instead of attacking the basket.

 

Paint Defense and Rebounding

Much like Saturday's game, the Longhorns struggled defending the paint against the aggressive front line of Kansas State.

Apart from the 20 points the Wildcats scored from the line, a whopping majority of K-State's offense came under the basket.

The killer combo of Kelly and Samuels (20 and 17 points, respectively) were able to dominate, while Texas' big man Dexter Pittman spent large chunks of the game on the sideline with foul trouble.

The Wildcats weren't particularly good shooting (38 percent), but they made up for it with 14 offensive rebounds and the numerous second-chance points they scored on the worn-down Texas defense.

If there was a loose rebound, chances are it ended up in the hands of a guy in a white jersey. The Wildcats out-hustled Texas throughout the game, even when the shots weren't falling for the home team.

 

2-3 Zone

The Aggies played a lot of zone in Saturday's contest, and it was the first time all season the Longhorns had seen it in copious amounts.

Fortunately for Texas, Damion James was able to eventually shoot the Aggies out of it late in the second half. However, with the shots not falling for the Longhorns on Monday night, the Wildcats were able to sit back in the zone and defend against the dribble-drive penetration by the Texas guards.

Unable to get the ball down low for much of the game, the Longhorns were forced to play on the perimeter, and with the shots not falling, all the Texas guards could do was throw up bad shots.

The zone also played a major role in the turnover issues Texas suffered from.  There were too many ill-advised passes into the paint area that were easily picked off by K-State defenders, leading to easy baskets in transition.

The Texas offense revolves around getting the ball down low to Pittman and the other Texas big men and being able to kick it back out for open looks from other spots on the floor, but the lack of paint presence clearly disrupted any offensive flow the Longhorns were trying to create.

With two of the next three games at home, the Longhorns have a chance to correct some of the kinks in their game plan.

Drawing up an offensive strategy to combat the zones they are likely to see from here on out should be high on the list, along with taking care of the basketball and developing better consistency on the offensive side of the ball.

Texas will head back out on the road next Saturday against No. 20 Connecticut.

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