PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Shaka Smart took a big gulp of water in his mouth and let it sit there for a moment before swallowing. His face no less disappointed after the drink than it was before.
He looked down at the box score placed in front of him on his press conference table. Eleven 3-pointers allowed in the first half. Fourteen for the game.
“They got us into rotation, flying around,” UT head coach Shaka Smart said. “They made some extra passes, shot faked.
“We just didn’t do a good job of getting shooters.”
The onslaught started started with an Aubrey Dawkins 3 just 47 seconds into the game, and ended as Caris LeVert knocked home a pull-up long-range jumper seconds before the buzzer sounded. After a strong defensive performance a night before against Washington, the same urgency wasn’t there as the Longhorns lost, 78-72 in the fifth place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis at Imperial Arena.
A Texas team that has been hot-and-cold on defense all week long could not stop the machine that was Michigan’s shooting.
“We just didn’t have a good enough sense of urgency, getting stops, especially in the first half,” Texas guard Javan Felix said. “We did a good job of putting some stops together in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.”
Smart walked down his bench, clapping with force as his team’s defense started to get those second-half stops. The diamond press defense was working and a 13-point Michigan lead was whittling down. Isaiah Taylor finished an and-one layup in front of the rim, and converted on the free throw to cut the lead to one.
But Caris LeVert connected on two straight buckets. Then Zak Irvin hit a dagger 3-pointer to make the lead eight. Eric Davis Jr. hit a layup just before the buzzer, but all it changed was the final score. Not the game. Not the poor defense, not the somber look of the head coach who was already walking to shake hands with UM head coach John Beilein before the clock hit zero.
“We’re going to take what people give us,” Beilein said. “And when you’re that big at the four and the five position, we’ll stretch people…If we can get some open looks…we’re going to take them.”
Smart said his team’s 8-of-19 performance from the free throw line was a secondary reason why his team lost. He literally spelled out the Michigan’s shooting percentages. Fifty-eight percent from the field. Fifty-six percent from 3. Michigan’s 14 long balls were two shy tying a program record.
When asked if it would be nice to settle into its schedule after traveling to play games in China and now the Bahamas, Smart said that it was. But it wasn’t everything.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re on Mars,” Smart said. “You’ve got to make a decision as a basketball team that the things that go into winning are more important to you than they are to your opponent.”
Texas finishes the tournament 1-2, with a win over Washington and losses to Texas A&M and the Wolverines. It next hosts UT-Arlington on Tuesday.