The Horns improved to 7-2 with a 96-70 going away victory over Texas State (4-6). I predicted a fun game as both teams like to play up tempo and score in transition. This was -not- a fun game. Both teams combined to turn the ball over 54 times and commit 48 fouls. There was absolutely no flow to this one, with the whistle blowing on seemingly every possession.
The first half was especially difficult to watch. Texas came out lacking intensity. Maybe five days without a game hurt them. Maybe finals were on their minds. But for whatever reason, the Horns lacked focus. Texas struggled to find a rhythm against the full court man to man pressure of Texas State, and other than a couple dunks by Kevin Durant and Damion James, the execution of our half court offense was awful. We had more turnovers than assists for the first half and for the game. Kevin Durant and AJ Abrams both picked up two first half fouls, and neither was a factor in the first twenty minutes. Barnes also substituted liberally. Craig Winder and JD Lewis both entered the game before the break. Neither was terribly impressive.
The only bright spots of the first half were DJ Augustin and Jay Mason. Augustin followed up his best game of the year with another terrific performance. He consistently attacked the basket with the dribble, producing easy lay ups or earning foul shots. Mason was also active on both ends. He played much bigger than his size, grabbing rebounds on both ends and finishing near the rim over taller Texas State forwards.
Texas played much better in the second half, even though another twenty plus fouls were called. The Horns executed better in the half court and didn't let the pressure of Texas State bother their offensive sets nearly as much. The Longhorns also thoroughly dominated the glass in the second half which lead to easy baskets for the home team and only limited opportunities for the visitors. Texas even showed an interesting 3-2 zone with Durant in the middle at the top. His length makes even the easy perimeter pass difficult.
Durant and Abrams stayed out of foul trouble and were more effective. Last, Barnes got valuable energy and minutes from Dexter Pittman late in the contest. While he did pick up three fouls in just six minutes, the obvious fan favorite also scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds.
Keys to the Game: Evaluated
1. More than 20 Free Throw Attempts
The Horns made 35/48 (73%) for the game. Augustin's aggressiveness to the basket was rewarded. He sank 12/13. This key is meant to measure our overall aggressiveness to the basket and ideally aversion to jump shots. The 48 attempts marks the fourth highest total since 1960 by the Horns. A lot of attempts were earned not through moves to the basket but by poor defense by the Bobcats. Nonetheless, we easily passed this mark.
2. Rebounding Margin Even or Positive
The Horns easily outrebounded the smaller Bobcats 51-33. We also scored 19 second chance points to just 11 for Texas State. James snagged a team high 10 rebounds but has his hands on at least ten more.
3. Assist / Turnover Ratio 1.2 or Greater
Overall the game was sloppy and so were the Horns. Texas finished with 19 turnovers to just 12 assists. Texas must do better in both categories against better teams. James was very active but coughed the ball up five times. Durant never looked comfortable this afternoon and accounted for four Texas turnovers. Not even close on this one.
4. Field Goal % Defense Under 40%
For the game, Texas State shot 43% but the differential by half should be noted. The Bobcats shot an impressive 47% for the first half and were only down by seven points at the break. The Texas D stiffened in the second and held Texas State to just 37% shooting. Texas outscored Texas State 48-29 in the second.
5. Improved Post Play
This one we definitely achieved. The Horns didn't hoist three pointer after three pointer. Instead we attacked the rim and fed our post players. Damion James was solid again and for the second game in a row racked up a double-double (10 points and 10 boards). At center, Connor Atchley, Matt Hill, and Dexter Pittman combined for 22 points and 15 rebounds in 42 minutes of action. Texas fans should be smiling at this production.
For the quantitative measures, Texas only went 2/4 but secured the victory anyway.
Rick Barnes won his 400th game overall and 198th at Texas. While the game had no flow and neither Abrams nor Durant played that well, Texas still won easily. Coach Barnes has to be pleased with the continued excellent play of Augustin at the point, the bounce back game from Mason (18 points, 7 rebounds), the second straight active performance by James, and the cumulative production by Hill, Atchley, and Pittman at center.
Next Game: Wednesday Dec. 20th vs. Arkansas 8 PM CST (ESPN)