March 12, 2011

Barnes says team will be formidable in NCAAs after loss to KU

Upon further review of Kansas' 85-73 victory over Texas in the Big 12 Tournament final, it's probably amazing that Texas was within 8 points of the Jayhawks with 4:24 left considering the following:

--Tristan Thompson, a dominant force in the Big 12 Tournament for two games, played 11 minutes because of foul trouble and finished with (7 points and 2 rebounds).


--Gary Johnson was essentially a no-show on the offensive end (1-of-9 FG).

--With Texas' best interior players getting schooled by Kansas' Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff were both 6-of-9 from the field), KU outrebounded Texas 38-30 and outscored UT in the paint 38-18.

--Even at the end of the game, Texas was doing inexplicable things like having Tristan Thompson leaving his man to double others when he was guarding one of the Morris twins or Thomas Robinson. (Thompson's man scored twice in these situations in the final four minutes.)

No need to rehash or overthink this one after those facts.

ANY POINT IN SECOND-GUESSING? We could argue J'Covan Brown should have gotten more time on the floor (he played 22 minutes and scored 17 points), considering his success against KU the last two meetings. (Brown scored 23 points in 29 minutes in Lawrence in January and scored 28 points in 32 minutes in last year's meeting).

Brown didn't enter the game until Texas was down 12 with 10:56 left in the first half.

TEXAS AMBUSHED IN THE FIRST HALF: But this game was lost in the first half when Texas looked lost on offense, gave up transition buckets seemingly by the dozen to Tyshawn Taylor (20 points), and when Thompson and Gary Johnson seemed totally overmatched by KU's highly-skilled, brutally physical frontcourt.

It took Jordan Hamilton 7 minutes to realize he could drive by Brady Morningstar.

When KU took a 16-point lead with 4:14 left in the first half (39-23), during a timeout, according to ESPN's Holly Rowe, Rick Barnes told his players, "I can't believe you guys are not responding!"

For the umpteenth time this season we had to listen to Bobby Knight rip Barnes for Texas' poor spacing on the offensive end of the floor. And after watching Bill Self's team make Texas guard the Jayhawks from sideline to sideline you saw his point.

THE IMPROBABLE COMEBACK: But there was Texas, scrapping and clawing back into the game with Jai Lucas and Matt Hill on the floor in the second half. The moment of truth came when Texas ripped off a 9-2 run to cut KU's lead to 60-52 with 8:48 left.

Then Tyshawn Taylor drilled a 3. J'Covan Brown answered with a 3, and then KU took it to another gear with yet another 3 by Tyrel Reed.

Jai Lucas missed a floater in the lane. KU got the board, raced down the floor only to have Marcus Morris miss a drive and have brother Markieff Morris grab the miss and throw it down for a put-back jam.

Then J'Covan turned the ball over. Matt Hill fouled Markieff and J'Covan limped off the floor with an ankle injury. KU was back up 13.

But then Hamilton hit a 3. Markieff Morris picked up his 4th foul. (Gary Johnson missed yet another shot.) And then J'Covan hit another 3, and Texas was back in it ? down only 71-63 with 4:24 left.

The drama subsided, however, when Cory Joseph and Hamilton combined to miss Texas' last four 3-point attempts. (Three by Hamilton.)

And for the fourth time, Kansas had beaten Texas in a Big 12 Tournament final.

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: "Congratulations to Kansas," Rick Barnes said. "They came out and really, really a terrific first half they put on us. But obviously from where we sit we're disappointed we didn't play up to our ability. And, again, you have to give them credit for that.

"We just got down and kept trying to work our way back into it, and every time we gave ourselves a chance, we either took a quick shot or made a poor decision, or we went down and made a poor decision on the defensive end and gave them either a pretty good look from the perimeter or an offensive rebound."

Tristan Thompson took a lot of the blame for Saturday's loss because of his limited playing time/foul trouble.

"It's very frustrating, especially putting my team in that situation," Thompson said. "I put most of the blame on me in terms of results of this game, putting my teammates in this kind of situation and getting in foul trouble. But you gotta give credit to Kansas. They executed the game plan and it just didn't go down for us today."

Jordan Hamilton was asked about Gary Johnson's shooting woes.

"Shots weren't falling," Hamilton said. "The Morris twins did a good job of contesting shots down there, and we didn't get a lot of second chances because Tristan was on the bench, and it was tough because all those guys are big and they rebound."

The last time Texas met Kansas - a 74-63 win in Lawrence on Jan. 22 - Thompson had 12 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocks.

"It was tough," Hamilton said. "Because I know last game he (Thompson) did a great job on the Morris twins. And this time the Morris twins, I think they did pretty good.

"Tyshawn Taylor did a good job, and it was hard for us because usually when Tyshawn Taylor gets into the lane like that Tristan would usually block those shots. Instead he was getting easy layups."

Barnes was asked if being within 8 points of Kansas with 4 minutes left despite all his team's woes was something he could sell to his players heading into next week's NCAA Tournament.

"We're a good team," Barnes said. "We can beat anybody. There's no doubt in my mind. We'll be a team that no one wants to play. We're capable on any given night to beat anybody."

UP NEXT: ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Texas as a No. 2 seed in the New Orleans regional with Notre Dame as the No. 1 seed.

Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has Texas as a No. 2 seed in the New Orleans regional with Pitt as the No. 1 seed.

At this point, Texas would probably be better off with Pitt as the No. 1 seed in its regional. Pitt has great guard play. Texas can defend guards. But Pitt has been a little leaky down the stretch, and UT would have the revenge factor.

Either way, we're talking about an Elite Eight game.

Both Lunardi and Palm have Texas starting out in Tulsa next Friday.

If any of that plays out, it would be a pretty good path for Texas - even without going through San Antonio.

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