The #25 Horns cruised to a 90-50 win over the Texas Southern Tigers in front of about five thousand die hard hoops fans. Those who did make it to the Erwin Center were treated an outstanding first half of basketball. Behind solid defense and timely outside shooting, the Horns raced to a 60-25 halftime lead. Kevin Durant, DJ Augustin, and AJ Abrams all scored in double figures before the break.
This one wasn't really about the outcome. Instead, the blowout allowed Coach Barnes to see the continued development of big man Dexter Pittman and also to experiment with various lineups. Pittman played a productive 11 minutes for the Horns scoring 10 points on 5/6 shooting and grabbing six rebounds. Big Dex was actively calling for the ball in the half court. He showed the soft touch we have all been waiting for on offense while clogging the lane nicely in our 2-3 zone on defense. His stamina remains a question, but the work ethic and the talent are already there. Coach Barnes will be looking for continued improvement from Pittman against the stiffer competition of Gonzaga and LSU in the next two weeks. Big Dex may very well develop into the offensive post presence this team desperately needs.
Kevin Durant continues to be spectacular. He is definitely the best freshman in college basketball and I'm not sure he isn't one of the five best players in college basketball. KD really let the game come to him tonight. He did force or rush a single shot. He scored going to the basket, from downtown four times, and sank all six of his free throws. Durant's shot looks almost effortless even from nearly 30 feet. Durant finished with team leading 22 points and seven rebounds in just 23 minutes of action.
AJ Abrams also had a hot hand early. Abrams scored 20 points on 8/17 shooting and was also credited with five steals. DJ Augustin continues to impress at the point. He scored 10 points, dished out six assists, and snagged four steals. DJ also had four turnovers but a couple were solid passes that were simply dropped (think TJ Ford to James Thomas).
Damion James showed lots of energy all game but still isn't getting the touches in the low post he needs. In 21 minutes, he scored just five points, four of which came on back to back dunks to start the second half. Damion played more on the wing and facing the basket in high school. His back to the basket game still needs work. James didn't help his scoring average by going an abysmal 1/6 from the line. He did contribute five rebounds though and his athleticism is undeniable. If he doesn't get frustrated, James could become a solid third scorer for the Horns.
As a team, the first half defense was extremely impressive. Texas Southern finished with 28 turnovers which Texas converted into 39 points. Unlike in previous games, the Horns got off to a fast start because of their defense. The Tigers turned the ball over at least five times in the opening four minutes and struggled to even put up shots in the first half. The second half was not as smooth as Barnes substituted more frequently with the game well in hand.
It's hard to tell where this team really is right now. Against inferior competition, we have absolutely dominated. But against Michigan State and St. John's in NYC, we struggled. Texas is better than both of those teams but didn't play to their potential in either game at the Garden. The Horns get two more chances on neutral courts this Saturday and then the following Sunday. Those two contests will give fans and the coaches a much better measuring stick as we approach conference play in January.
Next Game: vs. #21 Gonzaga Saturday 2 PM ESPN in Phoenix