Rick Barnes received strong individual performances from DJ Augustin, AJ Abrams, and Alexis Wangmene as the #16 Longhorns improved to 2-0 overall with a 73-42 victory over UC Davis.
Even though this was a gross mismatch in talent and athleticism, the Horns took a nice step forward this evening. The team defense was again impressive, especially in the second half, the guards consistently looked to feed the post players when they gained strong position on the low blocks, and the Horns were able to turn solid defense and turnovers into 18 easy fast break points. Overall, this was a much better performance than their first outing.
UC Davis hung with the Longhorns throughout the first half largely behind impressive three-point shooting. The Aggies shot 6-of-13 from behind the arc and only trailed by 35-29 at the break. Much like UT-San Antonio, UC Davis preferred to run time off the shot clock on most possessions. Unlike UTSA, the Aggies were running a Princeton-style motion offense that challenged the Texas defenders for the full 35 seconds. The Horns’ defense started slowly as UC Davis was able to get easy looks at the basket off backdoor cuts and off the ball screens early in the first half. As Texas got more comfortable and was more consistent finding both their man and the ball, the easy scoring opportunities seized.
After the first five minutes, Texas played outstanding man-to-man defense and forced UC Davis to take contested threes as the shot clock expired. Fortunately for the Aggies, a few of those threes fell in and UC Davis was able to stay close through the first period.
The second half was a different story, however. Coach Barnes smartly employed a 2-3 zone for most of the final twenty minutes, and the Aggie motion offense sputtered. The three-pointers stopped dropping, the Horns owned the defensive glass, and really did a nice job getting out in transition to blow the game open.
UC Davis scored just 13 points on 4-of-22 shooting in the second half, including just 1-of-15 from behind the arc. For the game, the Horns outscored the Aggies 18-2 in transition, 30-6 in the paint, and forced 16 turnovers while coughing the ball up just six times.
Without Gary Johnson, this is exactly the type of game plan you will see from the Longhorns this season: solid defense, control the glass as much as possible, and push the tempo off defensive stops and turnovers. While our young post players are skilled and will certainly improve throughout the season, Johnson is the only one with true back to basket low post skills. As long as he is sidelined, most of the Longhorn scoring will come from the backcourt, from transition opportunities, and from the post players off offensive rebounds.
DJ Augustin showed tonight why he is one of the two or three best point guards in the country. Augustin let the game come to him and played with patience and poise throughout. He pushed the ball when it was there, attacked off the drive in the half-court when needed, and passed the ball beautifully. Augustin finished with an unconventional double-double, 10 points and 11 assists.
Even though it was nice to see AJ Abrams hitting threes and runners, the second most impressive Horn was Alexis Wangmene. His wing span allows him to play much bigger than his listed height of 6-7. Alexis was extremely active on the glass on both ends of the floor. While he was credited with just four rebounds, he drew at least four fouls while attempting to grab other misses. Wangmene is still raw on the offensive end, but he established much better position on the low blocks in this game than he did in the season opener. Watching him develop this season is going to be fun. I really think he can be a 20 minute guy who can grab six boards and score six to eights points on putbacks alone.
AJ Abrams scored a game high 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and hit shots from everywhere on the floor. He knocked down three three-pointers, scored at least one layup off a nice feed from DJ, and shockingly hit a few runners and even some mid-range jumpers. Abrams said that he worked hard this off season on developing his ability to shoot and score over defenders from spots other than behind the arc, and tonight it showed. If he can force defenders to respect his drive as well as his jumper, he could have a fantastic season.
Connor Atchley was singled out after the game by Coach Barnes as having played well. To be honest, I thought the three guys above were more impressive, but it was nice to see Connor contribute. He scored 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and grabbed three rebounds. I thought he was a little slow on the defensive glass at times but, overall, pretty good. Damion James also played solidly even though he didn’t shoot the ball that well. James contributed nine points, 12 rebounds, two blocks, and a steal in 27 minutes of action. It will be important for his mid-range jumper to be a consistent piece of his offensive arsenal this season and I think it will be.
Justin Mason had two amazing blocks tonight but managed to look both explosive and out of control at different parts of the game. He rushed a couple of wide-open threes, not even drawing iron on one, and failed to finish two nice drives near the rim. However, he did have five rebounds, two steals, and ran the offense nicely in his few minutes at the point.
Against UT-San Antonio, Clint Chapman looked great; tonight he looked like a freshman. Barnes pulled him quickly in the first half after he lost his defender in the Aggies’ motion offense. After sitting for almost the entire second half, Barnes gave him another shot with about two minutes left in the game. After just twenty-two seconds on the floor, Barnes yanked him again as he looked completely lost on offense. The potential is there but so his is the youth.