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Preview: Texas Looks for Tenth Straight

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The #4/#5 Texas Longhorns (9-0) are back in action at the Erwin Center at 5 PM this afternoon. After playing three games in seven days, the Horns had this entire week off to complete finals and rest. The Horns will be looking to run their win streak to double digits as they take on the Texas State Bobcats (5-3) in what should be a fast-paced and exciting game.

The game will again be televised in Texas only on Fox Sports Southwest (also on ESPN Full Court) and broadcast on 98.1 FM KVET and 1300 AM The Zone.

Series History
Texas has dominated the series with Texas State (formerly Southwest Texas State) throughout the years. The Horns hold a 36-5 series lead over the Bobcats. Texas State has lost the last 18 straight to Texas and hasn’t defeated the Longhorns since 1937. In their meeting last December, the Horns easily won, 96-70, behind 24 points from DJ Augustin and 18 points from Justin Mason.  

Southland Conference
This will mark the second meeting of the year with a Southland conference opponent (UT-San Antonio was the first). While the Southland is obviously not a major conference, some members have claimed impressive wins this season: Sam Houston State over Texas Tech, Stephen F. Austin over Oklahoma, and UT-Arlington over North Texas.

Texas State is picked to finish at the bottom of the Southland’s western division despite returning four starters for last year’s squad that went 9-20, 4-12. The Bobcats are lead by 6-7 junior guard Brandon Bush. Bush is averaging 15 points and nearly seven rebounds per contest, leading the team in both categories. He is not a great three-point shooter and prefers to work closer to the basket. At 6-7 Bush will be challenge for Justin Mason or Damion James.

Starting at point guard will be 6-0 junior Corey Jefferson. Jefferson is averaging a team-high 4.1 assist per game and enters the contest with an impressive 1.83 assist to turnover ration. The biggest challenge for the Horns in the paint will be 6-10 freshman center Ty Gough. Despite receiving just 15 minutes per games, Gough averages over seven points and five rebounds. Starting at shooting guard will likely be 6-3 senior Brandon Thomas, a Pflugerville High School product. Thomas prefers to attack the basket to get his points and, surprisingly, hasn’t attempted a three-pointer all season.

Ken Pomeroy
The advanced metrics stats for Texas State show a very average offensive team and a terrible defensive one. The Bobcats rank 225th in adjusted offensive efficiency and just 313th in adjusted defensive efficiency. On offense, Texas State does shoot the three well and has protected the ball effectively so far this season. However, the don’t shoot well from inside the arc, aren’t grabbing many offensive rebounds, don’t get to the free throw line often, and are getting their shots blocked on an alarming 11% of their possessions. The defensive side is even worse. The Bobcats are decent at defending the three-pointer but awful in nearly every other category. Texas should have no trouble scoring in this one.

The one stat that does jump off the page for Texas State is their tempo. According to Pomeroy’s stats, Texas State plays at the fastest tempo in the country. What does that mean? Well, unlike in the UT-San Antonio game when the Roadrunners basically played ball control basketball in an attempt to keep the score close, the Bobcats will likely push the action and take quick shots. This does not bode well for an ‘IH 35 surprise.’

Keys to the Game:
(1) Protect the Ball: There is a significant mismatch in talent in this one. The only thing that could keep the game close is turnovers. Thankfully, Texas is turning the ball over on only 14% of their possessions, tops in the nation. With Augustin at the point, this is no surprise and should continue regardless of the pace of play.

(2) Get the Young Posts Playing Time: Dexter Pittman played his best game as a Longhorn in Houston. If the pace of this one is as expected, it may be difficult for Big Dex to replicate that performance today. However, I’d like to see Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene stay involved in an up-and-down contest. I’ll say it again, the development of these three players will be a huge factor in how far this team goes in March.

(3) Be Sharp for 40 Min: With finals just over and games with Oral Roberts, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and St. Mary’s around the corner, this is an easy one to overlook. This afternoon’s game marks the end of a three game stretch against less than stellar competition (North Texas, Rice, and Texas State). In both of the previous two, Texas has dominated the first half but let their opponents sneak closer early in the second half before finally putting them away. I’d really like to see a complete game today.

Ken Pomeroy’s ratings predict a 116-67 victory. While that would be nice, I’d settle for a 30 point victory and domination from start to finish. Preview article on the evolution of new BON favorite, Connor Atchley.