February 1, 2010

Rick Barnes says 'sometimes adversity is good'

No. 6 Texas (18-3, 4-2 Big 12) at Oklahoma State (16-5, 4-3)

Tonight, 8 p.m. CT, Gallagher-Iba Arena (13,611), Stillwater, Okla.

TV: ESPN (Brent Musberger, Bob Knight and Holly Rowe)

SERIES: Texas leads, 40-35. Last meeting: Oklahoma State 68-59 (Feb. 28, 2009; Stillwater).

Caught up with Rick Barnes today on the Big 12 Coaches Conference Call, so here is a HOOPS BREAKDOWN with Barnes on several hot topics. We will let this serve as our preview for tonight's game against the Cowboys, who have the Big 12's leading scorer in James Anderson (22.5 ppg).

Texas is 5-6 in Stillwater under Barnes. By the way, Kevin Durant will be at the game tonight.

1. Rick Barnes on J'Covan Brown, who had 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting (2-of-5 from 3-point range and 5-of-6 FT) with 4 assists and 1 turnover and 2 steals in the 80-77 overtime loss to Baylor.

"We felt all along he could be a guy who could do that for us," Barnes said. "But the biggest factor in getting there is by valuing the basketball.

"Right now, we don't respect it enough. We really don't. We turn it over in ways that we can't turn it over, which leads to easy baskets (for the other team). Our shot selection isn't as good as it needs to be.

"Where I was most pleased with J'Covan the other day was his attitude and his defensive effort. Again, offensively, we know he's a talented player. We know he'll get better there. But as a group, that's where we all have to get better together in valuing the ball."

2. Is Barnes concerned about his freshmen hitting the so-called "freshman wall?"

"J'Covan is different in some ways than any player we've coached," Barnes said. "I walked in yesterday and he was in the film room by himself, taking notes and watching tape. He does that after every game and takes his own notes.

"I think mentally he's not bogging down, and, physically, I don't think he's played up to the level he's capable of all year. But he did hit that level on Saturday. So I don't think there's reason to believe he can't keep that level up.

"Avery Bradley, on the other hand, has played at a very high level all year long, and so I do worry about him physically a little bit. That physical wear will take a little bit mentally. But it's our job to protect those guys. And every guy has to be treated differently, and that's our job as coaches to understand that."

3. The million-dollar question is about freshman Jordan Hamilton, who went 0-of-3 with a turnover in just 2 minutes of action against Baylor. Barnes was asked why Hamilton, the team's top 3-point shot-maker this season, played only 2 minutes.

"It's a matter of understanding what we need to get done offensively as a team," Barnes said. "We had a really, really bad stretch there. When Jordan came into the game, it wasn't a particularly good stretch.

"At this time of the year, you've got to make decisions, and I think Jordan is still learning a lot about this game. But I think his attitude is getting into a place it needs to be. Now, he's got a chance to really grow. If he'll embrace that part of it and understand the entire makeup of the team, he'll be everything he wants to be and more."

4. Dexter Pittman had 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting against Baylor but grabbed only 1 rebound in 29 minutes of action. Barnes said Pittman needs to do more dirty work.

"I think there are two areas with Dexter," Barnes said. "He's got to work on his rebounding and his defense. He's got to do those two things for us. We know he can score the basketball, and it's up to us to get him more involved that way. But the two areas he has to really get back to being a force with are rebounding the ball and defense.

"I think those are the two areas he has got to concentrate on for us. Regardless of what's happened up to this point, he has got to help us rebound the basketball and play defense. He has to get himself ready and into position to make plays around the basket and not get screened and get out and help us on screens."

5. Barnes said his team's offense is being killed by turnovers.

"If we play defense the way we are capable of, it does generate some offense for us," Barnes said. "People talk about how your defense can create offense. Sometimes, we don't talk enough about how your offense can kill your defense.

"That's where we are right now. Even in games we've won, our offense has made it a lot harder because of our inefficiencies on the offensive end."

6. Barnes was asked about why his team keeps missing shots around the rim. He did not admit that his team is playing out of fear and is as tight as an unwound rubber band. He had some other thoughts on the subject.

"I can't tell you the reasons why," Barnes said. "We can throw the word concentration or intensity around, but sometimes guys get the ball when they're not ready for it because leading up to that we've been so impatient with it sometimes offensively, taking shots.

"I can't answer that honestly. I'm just throwing words out. I just know our offense has to get better, and I think if we play together and move the ball, we'll get better shots and rebound the ball better.

"And the biggest thing is taking care of the ball. You're not going to win a lot of games turning the ball over 19 or 20 times. We lose a game last Saturday by turning it over so much, and for us to even be in that game at the end with how pathetic we were on offense is because of our effort and our defense.

"We've got to take that same effort and put it into being an offensive team."

7. I asked Barnes what his tolerance was for the mistakes he's willing to live with from his freshmen as he tries meld them with the veterans on this squad.

"Not just our freshmen but freshmen around the country, when they move up to this level, I don't think they ever think they do anything wrong," Barnes said.

"They have to go through a process where they say, 'You know what? Maybe I am turning the ball over, and I need to value the ball and realize if I don't change some things, I'm coming out of the game because one possession here or there is a huge difference.'

"And it's not like, 'If I miss a shot, the next time I get the ball I'm going to go prove I can make a shot.' That's what happens a lot. They let one mistake compound and lead to another and another. And then they get down, and you take them out.

"Sometimes they lose their confidence. Sometimes, they don't lose their confidence, but they have the feeling, 'Hey, you're not letting me do what I need to do.' So then you have to go through that process to where you get them to understand it's not about them. It's about the team and it's about understanding how it all comes together. We've had to go through that process."

8. Barnes feels like the mindset of his freshmen is improving.

"I feel good with where we are with that part of it," Barnes said. "Now, we've got to get the part where we're on the court and it all stays together.

"And it's not just our young guys. Our older guys have been just as guilty of thinking, 'I've got to do this, and I've got to do that.' And when the older guys do that, the younger guys are sitting there thinking, 'What's the difference?'"

9. Barnes said now is not the time to panic.

"It goes back to being the best team you can be," Barnes said. "I've said all year long, the goal of this team is that at the end of the year, we're the best team we can be, and if we are, I think good things will happen to us. We've got to worry about being the best we can be before we worry about anything else."

10. Here's the payoff. Barnes was asked where he thought his team would be at this time. Read carefully.

"I look at it that our job right now is to continue to build our team, and I'm not looking any further than the game tonight (against Oklahoma State)," Barnes said.

"I know we're here and hopefully we can win a basketball game. We have to grow and improve ourselves as a team. If we continue to do that, we'll be fine. I'm not looking at any stretch and thinking that's more critical.

"If I had that outlook, we would have seen North Carolina and Michigan State back-to-back as being critical, and we didn't think of that stretch as critical. We just need to keep growing and building, and we'll be where we need to be.

"I don't know where I thought we'd be at this time. What's our record? With our schedule and what we've had to play, I don't know if I knew. But sometimes when things are going really, really well, things get masked a little bit. And I don't think there's a problem every now and then with getting stung and having to endure a little adversity.

"All I know is I'd like to go through some of this right now as opposed to at the end, when you don't have time to fix it. We've been able to bring some things out that needed to be brought out amongst our team, and their attitude has been great. Again, we've got time to fix it and to improve.

"And even when we were rolling pretty well, I kept telling people, 'We aren't anywhere close to where we have to be.' Winning masks that stuff sometimes. But it didn't with me. I knew. Sometimes adversity is good. A little sting now and then helps you grow. So I'm OK with it."

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