Texas cruised 90-55 over Louisiana-Monroe in front of 7,296 fans on Saturday afternoon at the Erwin Center. It is tough to even think about basketball right now, but let's try. The Horns improved to 5-0 and will likely remain near the top of all polls on Monday after dispensing of West Virginia and Iowa earlier in the week. Unlike in those games, Texas played solidly from the opening tip in this one.
Texas was once again led by strong performances from Lamarcus Aldridge and PJ Tucker. Aldridge secured his fifth straight double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Tucker added 19 points on a 9/9 shooting game and four rebounds. The Horns played this game without starting power forward Brad Buckman (hip) and without backup swingman Dion Dowell (ankle). Mike Williams got the start at power forward and delivered. A steadily improving Williams had 12 points and seven rebounds with five coming on the offensive glass. Also impressive was backup point guard AJ Abrams. AJ played 20 minutes at the point guard position scoring 10 points and dishing out five assists.
Coach Barnes chose to play staring point guard Daniel Gibson and Abrams at the same time more this game than in previous ones. Gibson switched to shooting guard and AJ ran the point. Barnes made two significant comments about the move after the game. He said that he was somewhat surprised with how far along Abrams was this early in the season. Barnes also noted that Gibson is not comfortable yet playing the shooting guard position. Gibson has played only point guard since he arrived on campus last year. The combination of Abrams and Gibson was a success. Both have the ability to push the ball after defensive rebounds, distribute to our stellar frontcourt, and knock down the open jump shot when the defense collapses. As many readers have already noted, look for the two to play more minutes together with Abrams eventually cracking the starting lineup. Kenton Paulino will be a valuable backup guard who can hit the open three pointer and provide help at either guard position.
Texas dominated the smaller, yet very quick Indians the entire game, and the stats reflect our complete performance. Texas shot 50% from the floor to Louisiana-Monroe's 40%. The Horns outrebounded the Indians 41-28. Texas forced 24 turnovers while committing only 12 themselves. Texas dominated points off turnovers 29-12 and points in the paint 42-22.
Unlike the games earlier this week, Texas played well for both halves. They forced turnover after turnover in the first half to take a 43-29 lead into halftime. The only thing Texas didn't do well in the first half was hit the 3 pointer (4/17). The Horns came out after halftime executing as well as they have all season. I was especially impressed with our patience and execution in the half court. The guards were not forcing entry passes to Aldridge or Williams. They were patient and scored with ease against both the man to man and the 2-3 zone of the Indians.
Obviously, Louisiana-Monroe is not a top 25 team. However, they were quick and athletic. Texas didn't take them lightly and played hard for the full 40 minutes. Next game is Tuesday night at home vs. UT Pan American.