When it comes to discussing the surprising season that No. 25 Texas has enjoyed up to this point, the prevailing story is one of a team that made multiple additions by subtraction with talented players who had little desire to be a part of Rick Barnes’ program hitting the road. Is there truth in that? Yes, there is. Regardless of the walk of life, having people around who have no desire to be a part of that environment can drain the energy from the other members of a group.
But in evaluating these Longhorns, it’s time to have the conversations focus on the improvements that the players on the current roster have made. And in their 81-69 win over No. 6 Kansas on Saturday afternoon, returnees and newcomers alike displayed the progress they’ve made throughout the 2013-14 campaign.
Freshman guard Isaiah Taylor scored 23 points and junior forward Jonathan Holmes added 22 to go along with five rebounds to lead the way offensively for the Longhorns. As a team Texas shot 43% from the field and attempted 45 free throws (making 30), with their aggressive play before Kansas began giving fouls in the final three minutes factoring into that number.
This win wasn’t just about offensive production however, as Texas also got the job done on the glass (38-32 rebounding edge) and defensively. Demarcus Holland grabbed 11 rebounds, and centers Prince Ibeh and Cameron Ridley more than held their own against a deep front court led by star freshman Joel Embiid. They blocked three shots apiece (Holmes also finished with three blocks), with Ridley scoring nine points and grabbing ten rebounds.
Texas limited Kansas to 38% shooting, ending a stretch in which the Jayhawks shot 49% from the field or better in seven consecutive games. The last time Kansas shot worse than 49%? That would be in their home loss to No. 5 San Diego State, with the Aztecs possessing the athleticism and length needed to neutralize Andrew Wiggins and company in the paint. Texas had the ability to do the same, and on Saturday they did just that to great effect.
Texas is now one game out of first place in the Big 12, a spot few (if any) expected the Longhorns to be in before the season began. With the departures and last year’s disappointment, the general consensus was that this group would struggle and Barnes would be on the proverbial hot seat. But this season hasn’t worked out that way, and the biggest reason why is the fact that the remaining players have improved not only during the offseason but once the season began as well.
Can Texas win the Big 12? At this point anything’s possible, and for that Barnes and his players deserve all the credit.
Five-star point guard Trevon Duval is the most electrifying lead guard in the Class of 2017. The native of Delaware dominated the Under Armour circuit this spring and is currently regarded by many as a top-five player in the class by most recruiting services.
Now he’s down to 10 schools as his recruiting is starting to become more of a focus. The 6-foot-2 Duval is down to Arizona, Cal, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, St. John’s, Seton Hall, UCLA, USC and Villanova.
Things are still early in the process for Duval and it will be interesting to see if he schedules any official visits soon.
Ohio State has lost quite a few transfers and hasn’t had a lot go their way with regards to recent recruiting, but things could be changing after a good weekend.
The Class of 2018 is starting to look really good for the Buckeyes as they landed commitments from wings Darius Bazley and Justin Ahrens this weekend. The two in-state products are grassroots teammates together on King James and they give Ohio State three commitments in that class.
Bazley is considered a four-star prospect on Rivals while Ahrens checks in as a three-star. They join another Ohio native, guard Dane Goodwin, in the class as this could be the group that helps bring Ohio State back in regular Big Ten contention.
Butler picked up an important commitment on Monday as four-star forward Kyle Young committed to the Bulldogs.
A Class of 2017 stretch forward who can hit jumpers and has an improving skill set, the 6-foot-7 Young comes from Massillon, Ohio and he’s regarded as the No. 109 overall prospect.
Young was impressive in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer with King James as he averaged 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game as he shot 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.
This is a nice grab for Butler as Young is the type of versatile perimeter shooter that they like to utilize and he should be able to help a bit on the glass as well.
Young joins a class that includes guards Cooper Neese and Jerald Butler.
Earlier this summer, we told you the story of Collin Sexton, how the 6-foot-2 Georgia native went from being a mid-major recruit to a five-star prospect being courted by the likes of Kansas, Arizona, North Carolina and Villanova.
It’s because he’s a bucket-getter.
RELATED: Making A Five Star
He averaged 31 points in the Nike EYBL circuit, nine points better than Michael Porter, who finished second in the league in scoring. No one puts points on the board like he does, so it’s only fitting that he was the guy that made a shot from the balcony during ‘The Trip’, Nike’s effort to keep kids associated with their brand from Elite 24:
UCLA capped their three-game trip to Australia on Sunday night with a 94-91 win over the Brisbane Bullets, a game in which sophomore point guard Aaron Holiday finished with a team-high 17 points. Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton both added 16 points and freshman Ike Anigbogu finished with 13 points and 10 boards.
This win came just two days after the Bruins lost to Melbourne United, 89-84, when Hamilton — 18 points and five assists — and Holiday — 16 points — were both once again impressive. Alford also added 18 points in Friday’s loss.
It’s not surprising that the Bruins had some up and down performances abroad. Everyone does. It’s what happens when a team of college kids, with three freshmen playing key roles, heads to the other side of the world to square off against teams made up of professionals. Don’t go hanging the ‘Fire Steve Alford’ banners on anymore airplanes just yet.
There are, however, two interesting things to consider from this trip:
– Lonzo Ball, UCLA’s star freshman, was, at best, their fourth-best perimeter player. Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford and sophomore Aaron Holiday all played well and posted impressive numbers on the three-game trip. Ball? He didn’t shoot well. At all. In UCLA’s 47-point opening win, he was 3-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-3 from three, putting together was was by far his best shooting performance of the trip. In the three games, he shot a total of 25 percent (9-36) from the field and 19 percent (4-21) from three. He did average 5.0 assists and, in one game, notched 13 boards, but Ball’s ability to shoot will be something to keep an eye on.
– And then there’s this, from Bryce Alford:
UCLA needs to travel with more towels.