The Texas Longhorns have not won a game since losing Cameron Ridley to injury.
With an average of 12.7 PPG and 10 RPG, Ridley has recorded five double-doubles through eleven games this season (and had been just a few rebounds away from notching three more double-doubles). His paint presence has been key to the Longhorns success and it’s the reason why they were on a six-game win streak before losing the center to injury.
Since Ridley has been out, the Longhorns have played two games and lost them both. The first was against UConn (71-66) and the second was against Texas Tech (82-74), their first conference opponent of the season.
Though both games have been close, the absence of Cameron Ridley has been a huge issue for the team. He was known for patrolling the paint on offense and defense. By creating space for guards or catching lobs, he was a reliable option to dish the ball to and he was a threat to any opponent wanting to drive the ball on the defensive side of the court.
Ridley had arguably been the Horns’ best player until his injury and the other big men on the team have not been able to match his production.
Prince Ibeh is great on defense, which is why he is in the top ten on the all-time Texas block list. At 6’11, Ibeh is great at contesting shots and guarding the paint but his offense isn’t as great and that has been a problem.
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Connor Lammert (5.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG) and Shaquille Cleare (2.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG) have stepped up and have played a few more minutes than normal but they simply are not as effective on the defensive end. Cleare transferred to Austin last April and has not seen heavy minutes this season while Lammert is a more natural power forward.
The Texas Longhorns have been out out-rebounded in total rebounds and defensive rebounds in both games without Ridley. If that continues to happen, they are going to give up more second-chance points and lose out on many possessions where they are unable to come down with a board.
But it’s not all doom and gloom…
Even though the forward and center play has not been as flashy, the Horns have been doing good things, too. One bright spot has been guard Isaiah Taylor, who has been one of the best players in Austin over the past three years. Ridley was a great leader for the team and his injury has opened up an even greater opportunity for Taylor, who has been playing well all year (after nearly entering the NBA Draft during the offseason). He has responded with a couple of nice games, most notably dropping 35 points and six assists on Texas Tech.
Though the Texas Longhorns have a great rotation of big men, they cannot match the dominant play that Cameron Ridley had been dishing out in the weeks before his injury. Figuring out how to effectively replace him on both ends of the court is going to be the key to staying competitive in the Big 12, and with Shaka Smart coaching, anything is possible.