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Rice Owls at No. 7 Texas Longhorns

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Easily lost in all the BCS madness has been the 4-1 start by the No. 7 Texas Longhorns basketball team. If you don't want to sit by the television all day constantly hitting refresh to see if the Harris poll has been released, then head to the Drum for the 2 pm tip with Rice (2-3). The game will be televised by Fox Sports Southwest in Texas and on the ESPN Full Court package outside the state of Texas.

The Owls dropped their last game to Lamar, 61-53, and arrive in Austin without much of a chance at pulling the upset. So, instead of breaking down Rice, I offer some areas that each Texas player can work on. After all, this is the final home game before No. 11 UCLA comes to Austin on Thursday.

Justin Mason: Take care of the ball and be a playmaker on offense. In the final two games in Maui, Mase had 12 assists to just five turnovers, while also attacking the basket on offense. Justin is never going to be a true point guard but outings like his last two will significantly help fill the void left by DJ Augustin.

Continue reading for the the rest of the Longhorns...

 

AJ Abrams: Take quality shots. Against Notre Dame, AJ jacked and jacked repeatedly. He literally shot the Longhorns out of the game with his 8-of-27 performance. To his credit, though, just a game later, Abrams settled down as he went 4-of-11 from the floor. I know that AJ has the green light and is one of the best shooters to ever play at Texas; however, when Abrams forces his jumper bad things happen.

Damion James: Attack the basket. DaMo was at his worst in Maui when he settled for contested, outside jump shots and at his best when he attacked the basket off the bounce and in transition and crashed the offensive glass.

Gary Johnson: Recognize the double team in the post. Gary has been the Longhorns' most efficient low post scorer this season, but he is also forcing the action on offense as well. Johnson needs to do a better job of recognizing when he has the advantage on the low block and when he needs to kick the ball back out and re-post. 42 shots in just 112 minutes of play are too many for Johnson.

Dexter Pittman: Don't foul. After playing double digits in minutes in each of the ‘Horns' first three games, Big Dex played just five minutes against Notre Dame and just seven against Oregon as he was hampered with foul trouble. Pittman has looked much better this season than in either of his first two. Now, he just needs to learn how to play defense without fouling and give Barnes the 15 minutes a game he is capable of delivering.

Connor Atchley: Show up. Connor's declining impact offensively is a concern. His point production from first game to the most recent one: 14, 12, 7, 7, and 0. That is not going to work. Atchley needs to be involved in more pick-and-pop situations so that he can open driving lanes for Mason or Dogus Balbay and also stretch the defense with his ability to hit the three. Connor needs to be more aggressive than one shot per every ten minutes on the floor.

Dogus Balbay: Continue to protect the ball. In 56 minutes, Balbay has turned the ball over just three times. For a backup point guard, that is an acceptable rate. I would like to see Dogus be a little more active on offense. It doesn't look like he trusts his jumper, so it's time to get into the lane and create for others.

Clint Chapman: Be strong with the ball. Each time it looks like Clint is going to secure an offensive rebound or finish strong near the basket, he fumbles the ball, gets knocked off balance by a small guard, or misses an easy layup. Chap must learn how to play through contact.

Alexis Wangmene: Get healthy. Wingman is apparently out for today's game with an injured knee.

Varez Ward: Be aggressive without fouling. In Maui, Ward played 28 minutes and somehow committed nine fouls. Varez has the chance to mature into a Justin Mason/Chico Vasquez role with Texas in the next season or two. The first step is to play defense without fouling.

The BCS numbers are out of our hands now, so join me at the Erwin Center this afternoon.

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Statesman.com on Mason and James adjusting to new roles