It’s not breaking news that Texas is a very good defensive team, but five weeks away from Selection Sunday it’s worth recording exactly how good the Longhorns are at preventing points. Even though LaceDarius Dunn was somewhat effective over the final ten minutes of the game, Baylor was held to a dismal 0.843 points per possession in Texas’ 69-60 victory Saturday, the Bears’ worst offensive game of the season.
This was the sixth time in ten conference games that Texas held an opponent to its worst offensive output of the season. Technically, I’d call it seven because they’ve played Oklahoma twice and did all they could do against the Sooners – Oklahoma’s two worst offensive games were against Texas.
It’s striking that for having the nation’s best defense, Texas doesn’t block a ton of shots or force many turnovers. Yes, they blocked four of Baylor’s first six attempts, but they only had four more the rest of the way. Tristan Thompson is the only guy you’d classify as an actual shot-blocker, and that’s stretching it – he barely ranks in the nation’s top 100 in block percentage. The Longhorns as a team rank 66th in the nation.
Their inability to force turnovers might be a little surprising since Texas is playing an aggressive man-to-man defense this season. The Horns rank outside the nation’s top 200 in turnover percentage and next-to-last in the Big 12 considering only conference play. Equally unique is that Texas leads the Big 12 in fewest three-point attempts allowed and fewest free-throw attempts allowed. Opponents must do most of their scoring two at a time. Indeed, Dunn’s best work on Saturday came either posting up or driving to the basket as opposed to his usual work from beyond the arc.
The Longhorns’ secret is nothing exciting. They force missed shots (opponents make less than 40 percent of their twos and just under 28 percent of their threes) and they do a good job of rebounding those misses. Rick Barnes is blessed with a bevy of elite on-ball defenders, and thus the blocked shots that normally result from help-defense aren’t necessary. Instead, the bigs are able to get position for rebounds of shots that are often heavily-challenged. It’s a formula that has been consistent and effective. It sure doesn’t look like this is a fluke.