A quick start it was not, but in the end, it was a win. #15 Texas recovered from a very slow first half and pulled away from UT-San Antonio behind stronger defense and sharper shooting in the second half to win the season opener, 58-37.
For those of you outside the Texas area that missed the game live or on television, be thankful. The 5,713 of us who made it inside the Erwin Center had to endure one of slowest and most boring first halves possible. UT San Antonio tried to shorten the game by holding the ball to the end of the shot clock on every single offensive possession. And it wasn’t that they were running a crisp motion offense with lots of back cuts and screens that constantly put pressure on the Texas defense. UTSA was content to dribble around the perimeter and generally pass the ball between a couple of players who were at least thirty feet from the basket. Boring.
UTSA’s strategy did work, though, as the Longhorns led just 22-19 at half. Texas struggled in just about every facet of the game in the first half. They shot just 8-of-23 (35%), were outrebounded, and had trouble holding onto the basketball in the halfcourt. AJ Abrams was 0-for-5 in the first half and looked even more off than that. The halfcourt offense looked lost and relied totally on penetration from DJ Augustin. Thankfully Augustin was able to get to the rim a few times and knocked down two timely three-point shots. Without DJ, the Horns would have had trouble scoring even double digits in the first half.
However, the Horns looked much better in the second half on both ends of the floor. Texas held UTSA scoreless for about five minutes to extend a 28-25 lead to 41-25 with about nine minutes left in the game and never looked back. Texas really did a nice job pressuring the basketball in the halfcourt and, for at least most of the second half, did a better job on the glass. There was one painful series when UTSA gathered back to back to back offensive rebounds and held the ball for at least two minutes.
On offense, the Horns were led by Justin Mason’s aggressiveness and Abrams’ rediscovered shooting touch. Mason scored 10 points in the second period and 12 overall and provided the Horns with a much needed burst of offensive energy. I believe Abrams scored all 11 of his points in the second half on 3-of-5 shooting.
Other individual efforts. Damion James grabbed nine boards and scored six points on just 3-of-6 shooting. James was aggressive early but was largely overlooked in the second half as the three Texas guards took most of the shots. This team will be much more dangerous as James becomes more involved in the offense. Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene both contributed solid minutes off the bench. Chapman added four points and four rebounds in 17 minutes of action while Wangmeme was credited with three points and single rebound. Both freshmen looked comfortable in the game but must do a better job grabbing loose rebounds, especially on second and third jump opportunities.
Connor Atchley started and played 23 minutes. He had three points and four rebounds but was never really a factor in the guard driven game. JD Lewis, Dexter Pittman, and Ian Mooney also received a few minutes each with no mentionable moments. Matt Hill (foot) and Gary Johnson (heart) did not play.
Overall, it was exciting to see the Longhorns back in action and a win is a win. I was impressed with Abrams’ lightning quick release, Mason’s aggressiveness, and DJ’s headiness, but the Horns will have to do a better job on the glass and make more of an effort to get the forwards and centers involved in the offense to beat better teams. Gary Johnson would help a lot, too. For now, we’ll take it.