For those of who missed it, the #19 Horns took care of Chicago State 92-66 on Friday night to advance to the semifinals of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic. The youth and talent of the Horns were on full display at the Erwin Center. While the victory was never in doubt, the young Longhorns struggled to stop dribble penetration, failed to control the defensive glass, and committed eight second half turnovers after coughing up the ball just once in the first twenty minutes.
First, the talent. Kevin Durant secured his first double-double of his two game college career with 21 points and 13 rebounds. All but one of his boards came on the defensive end. As mentioned previously, it will be crucial for Durant to help out on the defensive glass from his wing spot. For the second straight game, Durant was solid defensively as well blocking five shots and grabbing a steal.
AJ Abrams didn't let early foul trouble cool his red hot jump shot. Abrams scored a career high 28 points. He nailed six straight threes in the first half before heading to the bench after picking up his second foul. Neither the rest nor the halftime break could stop him. In the second half, he hit two more from long range and finished 8/11 from three and 9/13 from the floor. The quickness of his release is truly amazing.
The other offensive starts were Damion James and DJ Augustin. James finished with 14 points (including 6/7 from the line), six rebounds, and two blocks. Damion might be most athletic big man I have ever seen at Texas. He again showed the ability to put the ball on the floor as well as post up his man.
Augustin looks more like a second or third year player than a true freshman. He always has his head up and distributes the ball well in both the half court and in transition. Even against smaller and possibly quicker guards, he was able to consistently beat his man off the dribble and finish near the rim. Augustin finished with a solid 13 points and nine assists to just three turnovers.
The youth. This team is not committed to defense or rebounding yet. In the first half, Chicago State was able to beat our perimeter defense with ease. Our big men tried to rotate, but it was usually too late. Either their guards got all the way to the rim or one of their forwards was left open for the easy lay up or tip in. Twice Chicago State slammed home missed jump shots. Chicago State shot over 50% as a team in the first half and outrebounded the Horns for most of the game. For the game, Chicago State was +12 in points in the paint and +6 in second chance points. Most of that damage came in the first half.
Give Coach Barnes credit for switching to a 2-3 zone in the second half. The zone slowed the tempo and limited dribble penetration. Rebounding from a zone defense is always more difficult than out of man-to-man but Texas controlled the defensive glass much better after the break. The Horns limited Chicago State to just 27% from the floor in the second half.
Chicago State was a very quick and athletic opponent. They exposed some of the Horns' weaknesses very clearly. The talent is obviously there. But Texas must become play better defense, they must limit second chance opportunities, and they must take care of the basketball. With Abrams, Durant, James, and Augustin, this Texas team is not going to have trouble scoring. The overall success of this season will be dictated by their growth on defense. The three pointers and dunks are exciting but watch the defense to determine how good this team really is.
Next Game: vs. Michigan State in NYC Thursday 8:00 PM CST (ESPN2)