No. 12 Men's Basketball finds the lesson in losing
Jan. 8, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Texas Men's Basketball team is concerned with getting a little better, every day. That desire demands that weaknesses be turned into strengths.
The No. 12 Longhorns and eighth-ranked Connecticut battled through an overtime thriller on Saturday at a sold-out Frank Erwin Center, and the Huskies' 82-81 victory now provides UT with a microscope and motivation.
UConn outrebounded the Longhorns by 10, and that separation came on the offensive glass -- the Huskies brought down 23 offensive rebounds.
The positive from this loss, however, comes in how the Longhorns responded to it. Just minutes after the final buzzer, they were already analyzing how to tighten up their rebounding missteps.
"The guards have to come down and help out the big guys," said Jordan Hamilton, who led the Longhorns with 20 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season.
UT wrapped up nonconference play with a 12-3 record and boasts victories against ranked Illinois and Michigan State, along with an impressive win against North Carolina in Greensboro. Losses to Pittsburgh and now to UConn, a program that has advanced to at least the Elite Eight four times since 2002, could ultimately be just as valuable to the Longhorns down the stretch.
"We've got a chance to get so much better," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "We've got a group of guys who care. Defensively, we've done some good things, but we've also got to finish possessions."
Barnes called Saturday's raucous home atmosphere the loudest the Longhorns have played in all season, and initially, the Longhorns were caught up in the emotion of the building. They opened just 3-of-11 from the field, but some trademark Gary Johnson hustle helped pull UT to a 31-22 lead with 3:26 to play.
UConn's Kemba Walker, who entered the game as the nation's leading scorer (26.1 ppg), didn't earn his first bucket until the 2:32 mark of the first half. He ended with a game-high 22 points on 8-of-27 shooting, and scored the winning basket on a pull-up with five seconds to play in the extra period.
"We played really hard. We could have done a better job, but overall, we played hard," UT senior point guard Dogus Balbay said. "It came down to offensive rebounds."
Balbay's acknowledgement was echoed by the team, and in this, the Longhorns showed their character and pride. Freshman center Tristan Thompson blamed himself for the rebounding difficulties.
"I didn't do a great job boxing out or using my athleticism to go get the rebound," Thompson said.
But Hamilton wouldn't let Thompson get away with that. Hamilton said that rebounding is a team responsibility.
This is why Barnes is confident in his Longhorns, overtime loss or not.
"We've learned from every game, and as long as we keep growing, I think we can be really good," Barnes said. "We're not there yet. But I do - I think we can be a really good basketball team."