March Madness: Texas Hangs On 85-81

At one point, I was working on a piece about how good Texas looked as they rolled to victory. Suddenly towards the end, not so much.

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Texas scored almost exactly as expected, but failed to cover either the Vegas spread or the projected total from KenPom.com (found in that link). Texas led almost the whole way and things looked to be going just as they should have most of the way, with their offense piercing the Oakland defense with ease and their defense stopping the Grizzlies just enough to keep the lead comfortable.

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Late in the second half, though, the Texas defense began to become a sieve, and the Grizzlies started to enforce their preferred fast-paced tempo upon the game. With just under a minute to go, a phantom foul on the Grizzlies and a made free throw gave Texas the six point lead, and a Reggie Hamilton three point attempt just barely managed to rim out, forcing the Grizzlies to go to fouls. Texas was able to make their free throws to squash the comeback attempt, but if that foul isn't called or the Hamilton three falls, it's a very different game. The same can also be said if Oakland's three pointers fell at their season rate of 38%, as opposed to the 24% they shot today, but some of that credit needs to go to Texas's stellar perimeter defense.

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It's one single game and no reason to panic, obviously, but it also was a concerning game. The same inability to play sound basketball in big games that pundits claim -- right or wrong -- that Rick Barnes teams suffer from showed up, and it won't be able to show up against Arizona -- much less Duke -- if the Longhorns want to go any further.

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In happier news, Tristan Thompson tied the Texas NCAA Tournament record with six blocks, and also altered a late Oakland shot that could have made it a game, and added 17 points and 10 rebounds in a fantastic performance. Jordan Hamilton had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and J'Covan put up a team high 21 points off the bench.

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Also, Oakland coach Greg Kampe made this face:

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Kampe

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Hat Tip to CougCenter. Click for animation.

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