Freshman guard Myck Kabongo drove the length of the floor with the ball and glided to the rim for what looked like a sure two points, but Clint Chapman wasn’t taking any chances. The 6-feet-10-inch, 245-pound senior ran the 90 feet with Kabongo and slammed home an emphatic dunk — his favorite of the night, and he had a few to choose from — off the Kabongo miss to help push the lead before halftime.
“[My favorite dunk] was the one in transition where Myck [Kabongo] couldn’t hear me yelling at him for the trail pass, and I had the offensive rebound put-back,” Chapman said. “Because we laughed about it and he told me I needed to call his name. So in the second half, one of the exact same things happened, and I had another put-back.”
Conventional wisdom would say that as a team’s star goes, so too does the team. But J’Covan Brown is Texas’ star, and after Saturday’s matchup against Texas Tech, it seems as though the adage may not hold true. The real force behind the rest of Texas’ schedule? Chapman.
He had a career-high 20 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in Texas’ dismantling of the Red Raiders, numbers well above his season averages. When Chapman has scored double digits in conference play, Texas scoring margin against its opponents is +14 compared to just +1 in games where he scores less than ten points.
Chapman was on the receiving end of passes into the post that gave him easy looks at the bucket. It was the first time in a long time the Longhorns were able to work the ball inside as schemed. In the past, Texas head coach Rick Barnes publicly expressed frustration with his team’s inability to work within the flow of the offensive game plan. Chapman’s points came from working the offense as planned, which opened up easy baskets inside.
“A lot of my stuff came in the flow,” he said. “When it comes out of the offense, our guards make it so easy. You really don’t have to think about it, you just have to finish the ball.”
These types of performances have come too few and far in between for the Longhorns who are fighting to prove they’re tournament worthy. And while his numbers were worthy of praise, critics point out that this game came against the worst team in the Big 12. Against ranked opponents, Chapman’s numbers are timid. He’s putting up 7.4 points and five rebounds a game against ranked opponents.
As the Longhorns prepare for the “softer” part of their schedule, his presence will be instrumental in determining if Texas can right a ship that has been off course these last two weeks. Without Chapman as the viable post player Texas needs to keep its offense running, Texas is out of options at the position. His experience trumps Jonathan Holmes and Jaylen Bond, and he has outperformed Alexis Wangmene all year. Defensively, Chapman has played to his size and hasn’t been afraid to stand bigger men up and defend them one-on-one.
Going into a hostile environment for what could be the final Texas-Texas A&M basketball matchup in a long time tonight, Texas will need Chapman to be as big a force as he was against Tech. Last time out, Chapman notched 11 points and nine rebounds against the Aggies in a win at home. On the road, Chapman has had his struggles and in College Station for the last time, the noise will blow the roof off.
“Obviously through my experience it’s one of the toughest places to play in this league. It’s tough to explain unless you see it yourself,” Chapman said. “I’m the type of player that loves to play on the road and loves a good crowd on the road. What we want to do is end it with a win.”
If Chapman can contribute on the glass and in the paint as well as he did against Texas Tech, the Longhorns should have clear advantage. The Aggies don’t rebound or score the ball particularly well, but they are good defenders. So while they’ll have their hands full stopping Texas’ athletic guards, it will be the under-the-radar hero Chapman who could determine the outcome of this one-last bought.