Prior to the season, head coach Rick Barnes didn’t promise his team would be pretty, he promised they would win games — he followed through on that prediction with Wednesday’s 21-point win over Lamar.
“Nothing about it was pretty,” Barnes said. “We’re better than that, we really are. It was sloppy. We knew we were sloppy with it.”
For the second straight game, Texas struggled early against a zone defense. And for the second straight game, a pesky but poor-shooting opponent kept up with the Longhorns for an entire half in the Erwin Center.
“They’re a hard cover man-to-man,” said Lamar head coach Steve Roccaforte. “I knew coming in we could not match up with them man-to-man, I knew that. I wanted to give our guys the best opportunity to win the game. That’s what we did, we put a game plan together to try to zone press them.”
Last Saturday versus Rice, a matchup zone defense made Texas shoot from the perimeter. Wednesday against Lamar, the Longhorns elected to move the ball inside and ended up turning it over 23 times as the Cardinals crowded the lanes and forced cross-court passes.
The problem wasn’t the zone, but rather the Longhorns’ offensive miscues and inability to beat the defense with ball movement.
“We wanted to flow more into our offense, which we didn’t do,” Barnes said. “We should’ve passed it from half-court ... We could’ve made the pass to the middle and passed out of that.”
Barnes blamed the offensive clumsiness on a week of practice focused on defense. On that side of things, Texas took care of business, holding Lamar to under 26 percent shooting from the field. But the most glaring features of the game were the Longhorns’ forced passes and balls bobbled out of bounds.
The team’s biggest offenders in that regard were Cory Joseph and Jai Lucas, who finished with five turnovers each.
“I feel that we didn’t execute the way we wanted to today,” Joseph said. “That’s why they caused a lot of turnovers.”
Texas made 15 assists for a turnover ratio of -8, the team’s worst of the season.
“The most concerning thing is, I think the guards had 18 of them,” Barnes said about turnovers against the Cardinals. “Some of them were, again, just over-dribbling.”
Coming into last night’s matchup, Lamar had not played zone defense all season. But after watching the Rice game, Roccaforte decided to employ the tactic to try and slow down the Texas offense. Turns out his decision worked.
“I got my degree from Lamar and I tried to use it going into this game,” he joked.
The Longhorns are hoping no one else catches on.