With February set to be tougher, who should be Texas’ best clutch scoring threat?
Texas hosts Kansas State on Tuesday as the 23rd-ranked Horns keep grinding
There will come a day when Texas needs someone to take — and more importantly, make — some big, big shots. That sounds obvious. But with these Longhorns, who should that be?
Who on this team should be viewed as a primary go-to scorer after timeouts?
With the game on the line?
To win a championship?
Texas needed one or two big baskets in the last five minutes against Oklahoma State. The Horns went 1-for-7. And coach Chris Beard’s squad could’ve used some extra offensive oomph against Iowa State, when the Horns went 3-for-9 in the last five minutes.
Texas has made 10 of 31 shots (31.3%) in the last five minutes of five Big 12 games. Sometimes, it helps to play suffocating defense. Oklahoma missed seven of its last eight shots, and Kansas State missed its last four.
Two Big 12 losses can be chalked up to excessive turnovers. But No. 23 Texas (13-4, 3-2 Big 12) couldn’t get critical buckets in close games when they needed them most in those two losses, too.
“If you're going to try to win a championship, be a Final four contender, you have to have several options,” Beard said Monday.
Typically, the conversation starts with the point guard. Senior Marcus Carr certainly looked the part last Saturday in Ames, Iowa. He spent the closing segments of the game being his most aggressive self, attacking the rim and drawing fouls or dishing to Timmy Allen for a layup.
With 109 career games on his ledger, Carr is an obvious candidate as the go-to offensive playmaker. He’s the team leader with 8.9 shot attempts per game.
“With the team that we have, you see different guys on different nights getting hot,” Carr said. “At certain points, I'm the point guard. I believe that at the end of games and in big moments, I think I've done it throughout my career. I want to bring that here.”
Carr pointed out that leadership could come in the form of getting the ball to others in key moments. “But I recognize that a lot of the poise and everything like that falls on my shoulders,” he said.
Maybe it means getting the ball to Courtney Ramey more in clutch situations. Ramey has the highest 3-point shooting percentage (.381) among the Texas guards.
Perhaps it means feeding Andrew Jones. He’s shooting 34.2% from 3-point range and has shown real flashes at times.
Or, Texas could just run the offense through Allen or Tre Mitchell, two experienced bigs with a keen sense of ball movement. As Beard said, “you got to be able to envision” going through the paint to get points.
Dylan Disu was a rebounding machine last season at Vanderbilt, and Christian Bishop carried Creighton. But neither Disu nor Bishop have had major scoring opportunities in do-or-die situations at UT.
“It has to come in different fashions,” Beard said. “But I understand the question. I mean, I you want five aggressive guys out there. You want guys being aggressive in your role.”
Let’s flip it around. Who is Texas’ best lockdown defender?
“Do we have an All-Big 12 defensive player on this team right now?” Beard asked. “Yet to be determined.”
Texas doesn’t have much more time to figure all this out. The schedule gets dramatically harder in February.
The Horns host the Wildcats (9-7, 1-4) on Tuesday and the Cowboys on Saturday. By then, Texas will be done with its two games against Kansas State and Oklahoma State.
On Jan. 29, Texas hosts No. 24 Tennessee in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Then comes a serious meat-grinder.
Texas has yet to play any of its two regular-season games against No. 5 Baylor, No. 7 Kansas, No. 18 Texas Tech or TCU. The Horns must still make road trips to Norman, Okla., and Morgantown, W. Va.
Playing that kind of schedule without having a true sense of who’s the go-to scorer and the No. 1 defender sure sounds intimidating.
“It’s the journey,” Beard said. “It’s January. They don’t hand the title out in January.”