Offense, calm nerves key to immediate success for Longhorns


Elisabeth Dillon

Freshman Sheldon McClellan is second on the team in scoring at 11.4 points a game. But in order for Texas to improve offensively others besides McClellan and J’Covan Brown need to up their offensive productivity.

Sameer Bhuchar

The learning curve for this Texas basketball team (12-5, 2-2 Big 12) is steep considering the light-years ahead the elite Big 12 teams are in terms of experience and size, and assistant coach Chris Ogden knows it.

“Offensively we haven’t been very good and it has cost us some games, we think,” Ogden said. “And its a lot of different factors. It’s no one player or no one person. When you’re young like this it takes a little longer.”

The Longhorns rank sixth in conference-play scoring and field goal percentage compared to a decent fourth ranked defense in Big 12 games. Aside from boasting the conference’s top overall scorer — J’Covan Brown and his 19 points a night — the team lacks a consistent secondary scoring threat.

Sheldon McClellan ranks 20th overall, but doesn’t crack the top 20 when only considering Big 12 play, which is important moving forward.

Doesn’t get any easier

Tonight Texas faces previously ranked Kansas State (12-4, 1-3 Big 12), a team that struggled to navigate through a brutal opening Big 12 schedule. But make no mistake, the Wildcats, especially at home, are a force to be reckoned with.

“You’re playing in a barn. And barns are loud,” Ogden said of Kansas State’s notoriously noisy Fred Bramlage Coliseum. “It is probably the loudest place to play in the Big 12.”

Kansas State is a much bigger team than the Longhorns, with highly skilled rebounders. The Wildcats pull down almost 40 boards a game, good for 18th best in the nation. If Texas can somehow manage to out-muscle Kansas State in this statistic, it could pull off the road upset. The Longhorns narrowly one-up the Wildcats in almost every other offensive statistic except assists.

Problems can be solved

Talk to any member of the team, and they’ll tell you the source of the problem is movement. Texas runs an offense that rotates the ball around the floor deliberately, which works to create spacing for the Longhorns and thus easy looks at the basket.

“We can control our effort, we can control our execution, but we can’t control making shots,” Ogden said. “We can control taking better shots.”

Keeping cool in hostile Manhattan tonight will be key for the Longhorns who employ six freshmen as pivotal role players. Freshman guard McLellan said the team can do this if it translates its successes from practices to games, a common problem with young squads.

“There is a lot of panic [on offense], not enough movement,” McClellan said. “We sometimes get away from what we do in practice. If we just do what coach [Rick Barnes] says to do, we’d be fine.”

Of course, if the matchup is tight, Ogden wants the ball in the team leader’s hands. When Texas cut into Missouri’s lead Saturday, he and the other coaches were frustrated when Brown wasn’t getting the ball towards the end.

“What we preached two days ago . . . was that not all these shots are bad shots, but it is about having the mentality of an extra pass to get a wide open shot,” Ogden said.

“And then it is about knowing, when we cut it to five [points], who is our guy,” Ogden added, referring to Brown, who had 34 points that night.

It is a process propping up a young team as it develops, but Brown will have to continue to provide the point output until the rest of the team fully realizes its potential.

Printed on Wednesday, January 18, 2012 as: Improvement in offense key for young team moving forward