Photo: Rick Bowmer – AP via Yahoo Sports
Give credit to Coach Floyd for letting his assistants do the work on this one and not micromanaging the game plan. They really put a solid plan together and worked like a charm. Assistant Coach Phil Johnson gets all the credit here as he picked apart the puzzle that was the key to beating Texas. While most of us thought that key was stopping Durant, coach Johnson found that shutting down the guards was the key in order to slow down the horns fast break tempo.
You can't stop a player like Durant, he did get his 30 points, but when you take away the foundation around him the buildings start to fall. By shutting down Agustin, either on the double team or by Gabe Pruitt pressing him early in order to eliminate his ability to accelerate to the basket, it forced Texas to use Durant a little too much and with the scrappy Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis on him it upset his rhythm just enough to have the desired effect. Hackett didn't even know he was going to start let alone be responsible for Durant until just before game time. Talk about responsibility, Whoa! But that's Hackett, this kid should be a senior in high school but he hit the books over the summer and qualified to enroll early in order to make the team. That's is something to proud of, for all the crap that we hear from the noisemakers from across town about academics and such there is never enough credit given for these types achievements and leaves me with the impression that they only care if it's bad news and if that's true then credibility just flew south for the winter. But I digress...
Doubling up on Durant opened the door for Taj Gibson to stay close to the basket in order to pick up a needed rebound or get the ball to one of his nearby teammates. The only Texas player to have any ability to score outside of Durant was Abrams with 20 points but that wasn't enough to stop the onslaught. Gibson was clearly the unknown factor. If SC's plan doesn't work that puts Gibson on a collision course with Durant and that could spell foul trouble, as you know he, Gibson, would have been aggressive in the paint. Durant is going to get those calls because of who he is that's just the way it is there are no two ways about it. But with Gibson free to roam under the basket because of SC stifling defense Gibson made a huge impact with those 14 rebounds and it enabled SC to get the ball to its shooters and they took advantage of it. When Gibson went to the bench after taking a an elbow to the face there must have been a collective raise in everyone's blood pressure as you knew he was the key to making it all work underneath.
For the life of me I cannot understand why Texas coach Rick Barnes didn't try to get the ball to Durant more when it became clear that his guards were not getting the job done. I know he was trying to mix things up but nothing was working. There is better analysis on the texas performance that can be found on BON both here and here, as usual Peter has some great analysis. I urge you to go over and check it out.
On to East Rutherford!