It was over as quickly as it began. The #16 Longhorns (3-0) coasted passed Division II Arkansas-Monticello (0-3), 100-52, in front of 4,528 spectators on Sunday evening. No disrespected intended but UAM was the worst opponent Texas has faced this season and one of the worst I’ve seen in Austin in a long time. There are definitely some very good high school teams that would have given the Horns a bigger challenge. Given the inferiority of the opponent, it is hard to take too much away from this one, but here are a few points.
The defense appears to be much better this season than last. The Boll Weevils shot an abysmal 3-for-33 (9%) in the first half against mostly man-to-man defense from the Horns. The Texas pressure is also forcing turnovers at a higher rate this season. The Horns forced 20 turnovers for the game, most of them coming in the first half, and converted them into 30 points. Even without Kevin Durant, this Texas team will be better on the defensive end.
AJ Abrams continued his impressive shooting. Abrams scored a career high 30 points on 11-of-17 from the field, including 8-of-12 from behind the arc. His catch and release jumper is really a thing of beauty.
Connor Atchley also contributed a second solid performance. Although, he only played 19 minutes, Connor chipped in 11 points, three rebounds, two blocks, a steal, and an assist. And for the second straight game, Connor sank a gorgeous hook shot in the opening minutes of action. It is nice to be yelling for Connor and not at him.
With the game well in hand in the first half, Coach Barnes went to his bench players a lot. Alexis Wangmene, Clint Chapman, JD Lewis, Dexter Pittman, Harrison Smith, and even walk-on Ian Mooney all played more than 10 minutes. Wangmene again played solidly and is already showing a knack for rebounding well in traffic on both ends. Barnes pulled Chapman on and off the floor for the second game in a row after he made a few freshman mistakes. Chapman’s potential is evident, and with Gary Johnson and Matt Hill still sidelined, Barnes may not be able to wait till next year for Clint to contribute.
I was hoping to see Big Dex get a few minutes and he did. In the first half, the game was moving at one speed and Dexter was moving just a little bit slower. He bobbled or completely lost the first two or three entry passes and rebounds that came his way. In the second half, though, he settled down and showed strong hands and a soft touch. For the game, Pittman had six points, two rebounds, and two blocks. Just like last year, the pace of each game is going to determine how much we see Pittman. In the up and down contests, Wangmene, Chapman, and Atchley are much better options, but in the slower half-court games, Pittman should be a valuable contributor on both ends of the floor.
The Longhorns travel to Newark, NJ later this week for the Championship rounds of the Legends Classic and will face and then either West Virginia or #7 Tennessee on Saturday. The NMSU game will be televised by Versus. If the Horns win, the championship game will also be televised by Versus at 6 PM. It will be nice to see the Longhorns against some real opponents. Coach Barnes and fans alike should have a better grasp of where this team really is by Saturday night.