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Horns Sluggish in 76-69 Defeat at Villanova

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The #21 Horns (13-5, 3-1) dropped their second straight game losing to Villanova (13-5, 2-3), 76-69. Nova secured the non-conference win that really boosts their tournament resume, while the Horns lost for the second time in five days.

Texas looked flat and played probably their worst game of the year on both ends of the floor. There was lots of talk before the game about how the Horns would respond after playing 55 minutes on Tuesday night, having travel difficulties getting back to Austin, and then having to travel across the country for this one. It is impossible to say if travel was the problem, but the Horns lacked energy and quickness for the full 40 minutes, save a three minute stretch as the game was getting close to out of hand.

Villanova Success
The Wildcats played without their star forward, Curtis Sumpter, who was out with a deep bone bruise but it didn't matter. Villanova punished the Horns with dribble penetration, timely free throw shooting, and rebounding on both ends. Nova was led by their outstanding freshman, Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds was the best player on the floor and finished with 26 points, five rebounds, and six assists. Reynolds had no trouble breaking down the Texas perimeter defense and getting into the lane. Reynolds was an impressive 12/13 from the line.

First Half
The first half was one of the ugliest of the year by both teams. The Wildcats led 26-23 at the break. Both teams shot under 35% from the floor, a combined 5/24 from three, and combined to turn the ball over 17 times.

The Horns has absolutely no movement on offense. For the first time in a long time, Texas stood around in the half court watching DJ Augustin try to create alone at the top of the key or Kevin Durant try to break down the Nova double team that was coming on just about every one of his touches. Texas settled far too often for long range jumpers and almost never attacked the rim. They shot just two free throws in the first half and were outrebounded.

Their defense wasn't much better. Reynolds broke down the perimeter defense time and time again. If Reynolds was able to finish better near the rim or if the other Wildcats were able to knock down outside jumpers, then Nova would have easily led by 10 or more. Kevin Durant single handedly kept the Horns in the game scoring 11 points and grabbing five rebounds in the first half.

Second Half
Both teams played better basketball in the second half. Nova continued to attack the basket and finished 27/34 (79%) from the free throw line. The Wildcats also killed the Horns on the glass (45-36 for the game) and looked quicker to the long rebounds off missed three pointers.

The only Horns who showed signs of life in the second half were DJ Augustin and AJ Abrams. Augustin finally started attacking the basket off the drive, drawing fouls, and getting to the line. His effectiveness was severly limited in the first half after he picked up two fouls just four minutes into the game. Augustin must be on the floor in order for the Horns to be effective in the half court. DJ scored a team high 25 points, had two rebounds, four assists, and just two turnovers. Abrams also heated up in the second half. AJ scored 19 points on 6/14 shooting (5/11 from three). Abrams continues to shoot exceptionally well off the catch but atrociously off the dribble.

Kevin Durant was completely taken out of the game in the second half. He added just one point to finish with 12 points for the game (his lowest total in a month). Justin Mason was routinely beaten off the dribble by Reynolds was largely ineffective at both ends. In maybe his worst game of the year, according to Barnes in post game comments, Mason contributed just six points and five rebounds in 34 minutes. Damion James scored just four points while grabbing ten rebounds in 30 minutes.

Bench Play
The Texas bench was awful. Matt Hill fouled out in just eight minutes of action, Connor Atchley failed to score a single point and grabbed just one rebound in 11 minutes, and JD Lewis contributed just the three free throws toward the end of the game.

Overall Thoughts
Our starting five was tired and flat, and our bench provided no help whatsoever. Villanova defended Durant as well as any team has all year and didn't let KD be the difference in this game. Overall, there is not much to like about our performance tonight. We played awful perimeter defense, didn't rebound the ball well, didn't shoot the ball well, didn't attack the basket (except for DJ), failed to get back a couple of times in transition, failed to get Durant touches in the second half, and turned the ball over ten times in the first half and 14 times for the game.

Moving Forward
It is gut check time for the Horns. They have now lost back to back road games and must play away again, in Lincoln on Wednesday night. The game with the Huskers is not a "must win" but it's pretty close. It is time for this team to stop learning lessons and building character while losing and start winning the close games. In order for that to happen, Texas must play better defense, dedicate themselves to rebounding, and demonstrate better shot selection in the half court.

Next Game: at Nebraska Wednesday 7 PM (Fox Sports)