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#12 Horns Roll over Tech

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Game Recap: Texas dominated Texas Tech. Again. The #12 Texas Longhorns improved to 16-3 overall and 3-1 in Big XII play as they defeated the Red Raiders handily, 73-47. Strong defense and control of the glass allowed Coach Barnes to run his record  at Texas to 19-2 against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are 0-10 in Austin over the last decade. It seems like Coach Barnes’ admiration for the General brings out the best in him as well as in the Longhorn players.

This one started as slowly as any game the Horns have played all year. It was 3-2 Texas at the first tv timeout and 6-6 at the second. Neither team could find the basket and both teams appeared to be moving in slow motion. Over the first ten minutes, it appeared this one would be an uneventful race to 40 points, but it was unclear if either team could achieve that mark.

You can look at the 28-16 halftime lead by Texas in one of two ways: one, awful offense or two, fantastic defense. Actually, it was a little bit of both. Texas struggled to score from the opening tip but didn’t help themselves as Connor Atchley and AJ Abrams both spent most of the first half on the bench with two fouls each. The Horns also could not dial it in from long range. Texas was a terrible 0-for-8 from behind the arc over the first twenty. Without the three-pointer falling and without any chance of scoring in transition, the Texas offense did not look very good. The Horns did, however, attempt to pound the ball inside to Clint Chapman, Gary Johnson, and Connor Atchley, as all three were matched against much smaller defenders.

As ugly as the offense appeared early in the game, the defense was equally beautiful. Tech was held to just 24% shooting and 2-of-9 from being the arc in the first half. Justin Mason did a great job taking away the offensive game of Martin Zeno and the Horns, as a whole, were impressive against the Tech motion offense.

The offenses of both teams picked up in the second half as Texas pulled away from the Red Raiders behind the hot outside shooting of Abrams. The outcome was never in doubt after the break as the Horns cruised to a 26 point home victory.

The outcome was: Impressive. It is easy to say that Tech doesn’t have but one scary offensive player, Zeno, and that they were undersized and could not compete athletically with the Horns. All of those statements are true, but Tech does have Bobby Knight, runs a difficult to defend motion offense, and just destroyed Texas A&M last week. While I didn’t expect this one to be another two-point conference win, it was more an impressive than even I anticipated.

The first half defense by the Horns was one of their best performances of the season. They rotated well in man and zone defenses, got hands up on perimeter shooters, and didn’t allow second looks off offensive boards. We’ve said for weeks that this team must improve defensively and develop some semblance of low post game on offense to be an elite team. Tonight, they were as strong in those two areas as they’ve been all season.

The Offensive MVP was: DJ Augustin.. We should probably just stop giving this award. Last year a legitimate question was who is the best player on the floor not named Kevin Durant. This year that same question can be asked after every contest with DJ’s name inserted for Kevin’s. Augustin was fantastic once again. He played in control and took what the defense was giving him. When Tech collapsed multiple defenders into the lane, DJ resorted to his mid-range fade-away jumper. To put it mildly, his fade-away is a thing of beauty. For the game, Augustin was 7-of-14 from the field and 4-of-4 from the line for 19 points. He also had five assists and three rebounds in 38 minutes. If there is a better point guard in the country, I’d love to see him play.

The Defensive MVP was: Whole Team. Rick Barnes noted that Tech’s motion offense was one of the most difficult to defend in the entire country. With the athletes they currently have, that may have a touch of hyperbole. Nonetheless, Tech is fundamentally sound and runs an offense designed to get players open looks which they wouldn’t be able to create off the dribble. Texas really did a nice job, especially in the first half. The Horns rarely fell for the pump fakes and switched nicely when they played man. When the Horns went zone, the Tech offense stalled even more. DJ and Mason played long at the top of the 2-3 zone and forced Tech to start their offense higher than they would have liked. I was also impressive with the middle of the 2-3 zone. Connor, Dexter Pittman, and Clint Chapman all did a nice job defending both the high post and the basket. They didn’t get beat over the top and did a very effective job on the defensive glass. Texas forced 15 turnovers, had 10 steals, and scored 14 points off turnovers. Well done all around.

The Freshman Evaluation tonight was: B. The freshman get their first passing grade in weeks. After Connor picked up his second foul, Barnes inserted Chap and Wingman for extended minutes. Both shows signs that things might be clicking. Wingman was credited with just three boards in his six minutes but seemed to be more active than that. Chap also scored two points and grabbed a board in his 11 minutes of action. Again, those numbers aren’t eye-popping but he played solidly on defense and really showed that his game is progressing.

I think Barnes is a little harder on Gary Johnson than he is on either of the other two freshmen. Johnson is still getting yanked quickly after not rotating on defense quickly enough or not setting up properly for baseline screens on offense. His game is coming, though, just not as quickly as we thought it would. Johnson has five points and seven boards in 19 minutes of action.  

Three Things: (1) AJ found his stroke in the 2nd half. Abrams scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half. After forcing a couple of shots in the first half and picking up two fouls, AJ had to wait a long time to get back on the court. Just like in the Colorado game, Abrams helped Texas take control of this one with his three-pointers early in the second half. Abrams was 3-of-5 from behind the arc and 2-of-2 from the line in the final twenty minutes. His hot shooting helped the Horns shoot 57.7% from the floor and score 45 second half points.

(2) Dexter was comfortable in this one. Sexy Dex played 10 minutes, his highest total since the Wisconsin game, and delivered seven points and five rebounds as well as a block, a steal, and an assist. Dex also almost caused a stoppage in play with a one-handed slam off a niffy pass from DJ that nearly brought down the basket. Will we see more of Dex? It will have to do with the pace of play and the size of the opposing teams’ big men. Most games will not fit Dex’s style well, but some will, including the Horns’ next game on Wednesday night at College Station.

(3) The Schedule Ramps up from Here. Texas has now won three straight and sit near the top of the conference standing. In order to stay there, the level of play on both ends will have to improve even more. None of the three teams Texas has just defeated, Colorado, Ok. State, or Tech, will make the NCAA tournament. The next three games all come against teams that are likely to be in the tournament or at least in the discussion on Selection Sunday. Texas travels to A&M on Wednesday, hosts a 4-1 Baylor team on Saturday, and then travels to Oklahoma the following Wednesday. Going 2-1 over the next three will keep Texas on pace for 12-4 in the conference.

Box Score

NEXT GAME: Away vs. Texas A&M – Wednesday 1/30 8:00 p.m. ESPN2