The No. 2 Texas Longhorns improved to 12-0 on the season with another blowout victory. The win, 95-63 over Gardner-Webb, was the Longhorns twelfth straight double digit win and sixth of 30 or more points. That said, this was the most forgettable win of the season.
The Bulldogs were overmatched from the opening tip and this game was never close. However, I doubt Rick Barnes is very happy with his team's overall performance. The Longhorns committed a season-high 19 turnovers, didn't execute well in the half-court, and allowed Gardner-Webb to shoot 50% (12-of-24) from behind the arc. Texas looked like a team that knew victory was theirs before the game began and executed more like what you see in a pick-up game than in a major college basketball game.
I am not going to read too much into this one, though. With school out, the holidays, and a week off between games, a little sloppiness was to be expected. And, there were a bunch of good aspects as well. Texas created 27 turnovers with an incredibly disruptive full-court trapping defense. Those turnovers included an eye-popping 19 steals.
Next, Texas was outstanding from the free throw stripe, 76% (16-of-21). Especially impressive were Damion James (8-of-8) and Gary Johnson (7-of-8). Johnson has been solid all year, but DaMo's perfect night is something to point toward.
Last, as BZ mentioned, Jai Lucas found his rhythm this afternoon with his best performance of his short season. Lucas scored a team-high 15 points, on 5-of-7 from three, in just 15 minutes of action. He showed a keen ability to read the defense in high pick-and-roll sets. As the Gardner-Webb defenders went underneath the screen, he set his feet and knocked down the jumper. While I still have doubts about his abilities on the other end of the court, tonight's performance was solid.
A few other minor points after the jump:
Dogus Balbay is playing basketball like a shutdown corner plays football. He is single handedly taking away a part of each opponent's offense. In the prior two games, Larry Drew of North Carolina and Kalin Lucas of Michigan State probably wished they hadn't suited up against Balbay and the ‘Horns. He was that dominant again tonight against much less skilled opponents.
Avery Bradley played like a freshman tonight. His head appeared to be getting in the way of his natural abilities. He was forcing passes that weren't there, shooting flat jumpers, and not finishing easy ones around the rim. No worries, though. He is immensely talented and will bounce back quickly.
If you liked what you saw from Justin Mason tonight, credit Rick Barnes. If you don't like what you saw from Justin Mason tonight, blame Rick Barnes. It sounded like BZ was in the credit camp with his quick thoughts below. I'm leaning more to the other side. First off, I'm not sure why Mason is still in the starting lineup. Second, I have no idea why Mason and Balbay are ever allowed to be on the floor at the same time. Barnes is apparently trying to get Mason to be more aggressive on offense and worked hard on this in practice. I guess this is fine if that is the end goal. My method is much easier, though-sit Mason and start one of the other two freshmen. Both J'Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton have higher ceilings as players than Mason and both need the minutes to get there. Don't get me wrong; I love Mase. He is a four year starter, a tremendous leader, a loyal Longhorn, and a gutty defender. However, given the individual talent on this team, to me, Justin is an 8-10 minute defensive specialist and an off the court role model for the freshmen. Why are we asking him to find his jumper now?
Damion James is a double-double machine. Tonight, 14 points and 13 boards in just 23 minutes earned him is 43rd career double-double. With play like this, he should be the favorite for Big XII Player of the Year and in consideration for first team All America.
Something wasn't right with Jordan Hamilton. I thought Barnes mentioned that he was suffering from an ankle injury. If anyone else heard that too in his post-game comments, please chime in. Jordan only played 11 minutes with just a couple coming in the second half.
NEXT GAME: Saturday, 1/2 vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 3:30 pm Fox Sports Southwest