KANSAS CITY, MO – Execution. The word has become common when talking about Texas basketball.
Or at least Rick Barnes and his players make it common.
No, I’m not talking about the death penalty, but the way the Longhorns’ carry out their game plan.
It is most often used like this:
Question: What do you have to do to beat (insert team name here)?
Answer: (Something along the lines) We need to execute.
Question: Why did (insert name here) play so well (or not so well) tonight?
Answer: (Something along the lines) He (or he didn’t) execute the game plan.
In other words: Texas wins because it does what it is supposed to do and they lose when they don’t.
Following Texas’ wins over Oklahoma and Texas A&M earlier in the week, some tense of the word execute was used eight times during each of the 5-10 minute postgame news conferences. Every time it was used referring to Texas’ strong performances.
After losing to Kansas 85-73 in the finals of the Big 12 Championship, it was used only four times – twice talking about the Jayhawks’ game plan working.
The word may not have been used as much because the Longhorns did not get much of a chance to execute. That’s because freshman Tristan Thompson, who is such a big part of Texas game plan on both offense and defense, was limited to playing only 21 minutes because of foul trouble after playing 38 last night.
“This team needs Tristan,” said forward Gary Johnson.
Thompson finished with 17 and a season-low two rebounds. Without him on the court, Kansas’ Marcus and Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson were able to control the paint on offense where they outscored the Longhorns 38-18.
“I put most of the blame on me in terms of results of this game, putting my teammates in that situation and getting in foul trouble,” Thompson said. “But you got to give credit to Kansas. They executed the game plan and it just didn’t go down for us today.”
Without Thompson, Kansas was able to grab offensive rebounds. They were able to attack the basket even when Thompson was in since he was not able to be as aggressive as he wanted. They were able to force Texas to take longer shots which at times led to a long rebound and quick transition points for Kansas.
“Foul trouble happens,” Barnes said. “But even with that we should be able to work through it.”
The Longhorns never got in much of a groove. And when they barely caught a spark, either a Texas foul or a Kansas 3-pointer turned the momentum.
“Just when you think things are going good, you get in a rhythm and then there’s a fall,” Johnson said.
The Longhorns will likely be a two or three seed when the NCAA Tournament bracket is released on Sunday.
Barnes knows his team is good. He said that he has a team that no one would want to play in the tournament.
“We can beat anybody,” Barnes said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”
There’s no doubt in my mind either. That is if they execute.