“We came up short. You have to give them credit, they made the plays, they looked like they had been in the position before to win close basketball games. We were nervous and unsure of ourselves; that is why we came up short.”…Coach Cross after the UT game on utamavs.com
I’ll leave the basketball experts and sports writers to dissect this game further, but last night watching it on TV as our 12 point lead slowly eroded during a UT run late in the game…I wasn’t thinking “this is a big upset that might get away” but “wow, how much better defense we’re playing and how fearless our guys are in getting boards and attacking the rim. This is fun to watch.”
Last night’s game at Texas reminded me a lot at times of how we played against OU at CPC last year, or the really good 30 minutes or so we played at Memphis–paying no attention to all the titles and prestige attached to those programs…this was Maverick basketball as we know it can be. As we’ve seen it over the years. Where effort and will and passion can overcome size and arguably more overall skill across the depth of their roster. Last night, that almost happened.
But as tends to occur when a mid-major faces an elite program on the road, the elite teams find a way to win and last night UTA probably learned a few things about how to win when pressure really increases. This team hasn’t really been tested much this year. Last year’s team had a lot of experience in those situations, winning key games toward the end of the season and especially in the conference tourney…and I think this team took a big step toward gaining that experience last night.
The future of UTA greatness was shown on TV before a regional audience and probably some stunned Longhorn fans too. Do I think the Longhorns can play that sleepy on transition defense, make a fifth of their shots from outside, miss almost half their free throws and expect to win a Big 12 title? No. But even Texas on so-so night on their home floor is a tougher team to beat than 2/3 of the NCAA programs.
So, was last night the upset that got away, or another big step of a relatively new team learning how to win? I say learning how to win. Even at 2-6, the rapid improvement we’ve seen says the glass is still half-full, rather than half empty. If we play defense like we did last night and learn how to finish games, the Sun Belt title is within reach.
Next up: Tuesday vs. DBU.
The Shorthorn game story