No, seriously. It's hard to complain about a victory, especially a conference one, and especially (times two) a conference road game. But, this game just wasn't a fun one to watch. Combining the Buffaloes' slow-it-down strategy with extremely whistle-happy referrees is not a good combination; far too many fouls, far too many turnovers, far too little shots. Still, despite the incredibly poor quality of the game, we played really well. Great? Eh, probably not. But, definitely, really well.
We were able to speed it up a little bit, enough to get the Buffs out of their desired pace, and we played better when it wasn't keep-away. We shot amazingly well, knocking down most of our open shots. Colorado's general defensive strategy was to force us to make jump shots, as they didn't have near enough athleticism to match up with us and play straight-up. It didn't work out, though, as we knocked down shot-after-shot-after-shot.
Honestly, though, it is awfully hard to really pick a MVP for yesterday's game. No one played exceptionally well, while there were a couple of players who played really well. You have a leading scorer who shot 5-14, and you have a player with a double-double whose performance was ho-hum (yes, this is where we are with Cole Aldrich). You have a player who shot 6-7, but was in foul trouble the entire game and turned the ball over 4 times, and you have a guard who scored 11 points efficiently, but who only played 21 minutes. So, who you got? Who is your MVP?
Find out my answer, and more, after the jump...
- I'll give my MVP vote to Cole Aldrich. I've shied away all year from naming him an MVP, simply because his double-doubles seem so effortless. And, yesterday, you'd have thunk it would be, given the massive height-differential. However, Colorado's primary focus on D, besides conceding open threes following any semblance of ball movement, was to not let Cole Aldrich beat 'em. Whenever he touched the ball within ten feet of the bucket, he was instantly swarmed by two or three Buffaloes. Every. Single. Time. This led him to score all of his points either in transition or through defensive lapses, usually off of ridiculous thirty-foot passes from Sherron. Oh, and the free throw line, although he struggled there more than usual; was only 3-6. He could be big on Monday night, and likely will have to be for us to win.
- While Cole deserved it, I really wanted to give the MVP to Tyrel Reed. Dude probably played the best he's played all year, becoming more and more active in the offense with every passing game. Honestly, he was just slower to really adapt into the motion offense than Brady. It always seemed that he understood what he was supposed to do, just wasn't quite the facilitator, the ball-mover that Bill wanted out there. He was always a good shooter, and he shot very well yesterday, and even picked up a pair of rebounds. His defense looked much better yesterday, although it was against Colorado. And if you ain't guarding Cory Higgins, odds are you ain't gurading a Big 12-level guard. It's the cold, hard truth. We'll see how he plays on Monday night, but for now, I'm high on Tyrel. Of course, like Cole, he has shoot poorly from the free throw line as of late. After starting out the year incredibly efective, he has only made one of his last five, IIRC. Not good.
- Tyshawn Taylor's game was the definition of good-and-bad. He kept up the offensive confidence from Tuesday night, not shying away from taking open shots or, the big key, driving the lane when provided with the opportunity. This led to a fine offensive performance, shooting 6-7 and ending up with 14 points. Of course, this was coupled with four turnovers and foul trouble throughout the entire game, so it doesn't seem quite as positive. Still, the offensive side was great; if he keeps that up, that's the late-November-Tyshawn rearing his head again. That's all good. Just leave the silly turnovers and silly fouls in Boulder.
- Sherron. Not much to say, here. Decent play on the offensive end, but he missed plenty of shots, and wasn't completely immune from the turnover bug. The key to his play was the high assist numbers, and against the 1-3-1, he felt more-than-comfortable driving in and kicking out. This is important, as him driving-and-dishing is when we are at our best. It's when he drives and, no matter what, he holds on to the ball and flings up a shot off the glass that we get in trouble. He hasn't done that in a long while, though, and looks to have develeoped complete trust in the three other main guards; Reed, Taylor and Brady.
- Speak of the devil, what a weird, odd stat line from Brady Morningstar. Only two points, and an incredibly uncharacteristic 4 turnovers. Yikes. And yet, good ol' Brady finds a way to make it all up. 8 rebounds. Yep, that's right. The very next game after I called him out for not picking up a single board, he goes out and picks up 8 of them, and was our leader late in the second half until Cole picked up three garbage-time boards.
- You know what, I've kind of figured out the Morris twins. Marcus Morris is the one who makes the stupid mistakes. He is the one who tries the stupid behind-the-back passes, and the one who takes the stupid shots. But, he's also the one with all of the post moves, the one who knows how to score. In this sense, his line makes plenty of sense; 10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 turnovers. Markieff Morris, on the other hand, is the steady, rebounding presence. He is far more consistent, and besides his persistent need to pick up the stupidest fouls imaginable, is much more dependable than his twin. Which is why he was starting instead of Marcus; Bill Self loves, more than anything, consistency. Well, that and defense. But, seriously, that's what I've got.
- Finally, where the hell was Mario Little the second half? Like, for serious. He played fine in the first half, but didn't see a lick of PT in the second other than to start out the year. Same as Tuesday night, although against the Wildcats, he was incredibly productive. In this game, he was merely average, but still deserved more playing time. Particularly against an undersized unit in Colorado, I would have played him more. Nevertheless, who knows how Self will use him from this time forward.
Now that we have player-by-players out of the way, I want to address something. Free throw shooting. Yuck. We should have won by a lot more than just 17, but Colorado shot 19-23 from the free throw line; we shot 10-19. That is 9 points. Cory Higgins is out-of-this-world when it comes to the charity stripe, and I'm not expecting anyone to go out and make every single free throw they take. That's just ridiculous. But I do expect to have a couple of players who can consistently make 'em. I thought we had that in Tyrel and Sherron (and maybe Cole, when you got down to it), but Tyrel is in a major funk. And Cole had a bad day. Sherron knocked down his freebies, but that's it. The Morris twins and Tyshawn are all pretty bad. Just something to keep your eye on.
I want to get up a Big 12-general post up later tonight following the AFC Championship Game, and we'll have plenty of Texas A&M-related content tomorrow. Tomorrow night should be a huge game; if we win, it will allow us to keep up the pressure-free path to the NCAAs. A loss eliminates some of the leeway we have, and makes all of our road games inside the North precarious situations. So, let's just win and keep it pressure-free.