Last night was already the second time this season that No. 8 Texas faced another top-ten team. While the then-No. 7 Longhorns lost to then-No. 8 Notre Dame in Maui a couple weeks ago, Texas came out of its showdown against No. 9 UCLA with a win.
AJ Abrams' shooting efficiency was the difference between the two games. Against the Irish, Abrams shot 8-27, including 5-17 from downtown. Last night, he went 9-18, hitting 5-9 from three en route to 31 points.
What's most impressive about Abrams' shooting is his quick release. At only 5'11", he is often guarded by taller defenders. But getting rid of the ball quickly—whether off the dribble or after catching a pass—can negate one's height disadvantage, and that's exactly what Abrams does.
Abrams has certainly shown the ability to create his own shot, as he did several times against the Bruins, but I think he'd be most effective coming off screens. But since last year's star point guard DJ Augustin left for the NBA, coach Rick Barnes often needs Abrams to run the point, making him the distributor of the rock, not the recipient.
The Abrams dilemma is similar to what Davidson is experiencing with its shooting star, Stephen Curry, now that point guard Jason Richards has graduated.
Two Hands are Better than One
You hear it more in little league baseball than in youth basketball: Use two hands!
But while baseball coaches are constantly reminding youngsters to secure the ball in their glove with both hands, it's important for basketball players to use two hands when necessary as well.
Case in point: UCLA's Jrue Holiday. The freshman was one of the top recruits in the country, and having seen him in person a couple times this season, I know he has the chance to be a real star. But I've also noticed that he often tries to attack the rim with one hand instead of grabbing the ball with both hands and taking it strong to the hoop.
In last night's game, it cost Holiday at least a couple baskets, as he was blocked by a Texas player because he exposed the ball. There's no harm in stuffing it with one hand on a breakaway dunk, but to extend the ball away from your body while soaring for a lay-up or slam is flashy and careless.
Ben Howland is one of the best coaches in the country, so I'm sure he'll point this out to his young star. It's just one of the many aspects of Holiday's game he needs to improve if he wants to take his play to the next level.
Racking up the Frequent Flyer Miles
This doesn't relate to the Texas-UCLA game, but I thought I'd mention it anyway: Referee Steve Welmer seems to work every game. This can be said of a few officials, but, at least from what I've seen, Welmer stands out the most.
I swear there would be times in college where I'd return to my dorm room after seeing Welmer at the Michigan game, flip on ESPN, and see him working some Big 12 game. Of course this is an exaggeration, but it's not that far from the truth.
When I flipped on the Virginia-Minnesota game on Tuesday, I saw Welmer jogging up and down the court in Minneapolis. The next night, I was tuned into the North Carolina-Michigan State game and sure enough, there was Welmer, working the floor at Ford Field in Detroit. Then, last night, I spotted Welmer in Norman for the USC-Oklahoma game. Three games in three nights—pretty impressive.
However, that's only the half of it. After doing some Internet research, I came across a website, StatSheet.com, that includes information about college basketball refs. Looking at Welmer's page, I noticed he also worked a game in Kansas on Monday, games in Austin and Houston on Sunday and Saturday, and two games in Florida on consecutive nights, Friday and Thursday. That's eight consecutive days.
This must have been a piece of cake for Welmer, though, since looking back even further, I noticed he worked 12 consecutive days earlier in November. Unbelievable.
I guess my impression—that Welmer worked every game—wasn't that far off.