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Tigers and Longhorns at the Erwin Center

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The newly minted #5 Texas Longhorns (8-1) host Texas Southern (0-8), their weakest opponent of the season, tonight at the Drum. This will be the ‘Horns' second straight game against a grossly inferior opponent before they return to facing tougher competition in Big 10 foes, Michigan State and Wisconsin. The tip time is 7 pm and the game will be televised in Austin, San Antonio, and areas west of those two markets by Fox Sports Southwest as well as by ESPN Full Court. With finals concluding today and just a few holiday shopping days left, the Erwin Center will painfully quiet.

Texas and Texas Southern have met in each of the last two seasons with the Longhorns prevailing by 37 points last season and by 40 points in 2006. Texas is 5-0 all time against members of the SWAC. While filler games are necessary, this one definitely hurts the RPI and strength of schedule significantly. 

Longhorns on the Season

The ‘Horns are currently riding a five game winning streak and are now ranked in the top five by the AP and ESPN/USA Today for the first time this season.  

Tigers on the Season

The beginning of this season has not been pretty for first year coach, Tony Harvey. The Tigers are winless and have yet to play a game at home. Texas Southern is 0-6 in true road games and 0-2 on neutral courts. Of 344 Division I teams, Ken Pomeroy's ratings have Texas Southern as the 318th best team in the country.

Texas Southern Key Contributors

The Tigers go eight deep and have two players averaging in double figures. Deandre Hall, a 6-6 junior guard, leads the team at 14.4 points per game (ppg) and is joined by 6-3 senior guard, Matthew Miller, in the backcourt. Miller averages 11.6 ppg and leads the team in assists with 4.8 per contest. Junior forward, Ricky Boyles, is leading the team in rebounding at 6.5 boards per game. The Tigers have one player who is listed at 6-8 and two others who stand 6-7 in their regular rotation. After being outrebounded by Texas State on Saturday, Texas should have no trouble controlling the glass against the smaller Tigers.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

Pomeroy's advanced metric statistics reveal Texas Southern to be a very bad ball club. Texas Southern is ranked 292nd in adjusted offensive efficiency and 308th in adjusted defensive efficiency. The Tigers have had trouble knocking down three-pointers and holding onto the basketball. They are also ranked dead last in Division I from the free throw line at 51.4%. And we thought the ‘Horns were tough to watch at the stripe?

Defensively, the Tigers are even worse. They rank in the bottom five of Division I in defensive rebounding and near the bottom in field goal percentage defense. If this doesn't set up for an offensive explosion, I don't know what would.

Keys to the Game

  • 1) Play like a Top Five Team. In my review of the Texas State game, I stated that I wouldn't read too much into the Longhorns' flat performance. However, two off games in a row and I'll start to worry a little. Texas should be able to create turnovers, score at will on fast breaks and in the paint, and control the boards on both ends. This game should be over by halftime.
  • 2) Get Connor Involved. There is no question that DJ Augustin's departure hurt the team as a whole. However, no one is suffering more from the lack of play making, three-point shooting point guard than Connor. Atchley was rewarded with three to four wide-open looks from three and an easy basket or two as his defender helped with dribble penetration in just about every game last season. This year, the Texas offense has revolved around AJ Abrams off the catch, Damion James around the rim, and Gary Johnson and Dexter Pittman on the block. Connor is an incredible help defender and an above average rebounder, but he is also an offensive player who needs to be in the right spots to score with consistency. So far, he's been lost on offense. Tonight would be a great opportunity for Connor to regain some confidence. If I'm Barnes, I'd try to hit Atchley on the low block a couple of times for a hook shot and also get AJ and Connor together for some high pick-and-roll offense. This is a very good Texas team, but to reach its potential, Connor Atchley must become more involved offensively.
  • 3) Knock Down Free Throws. This isn't a key for this game so much as it is a key to the rest of the season. Texas is currently shooting 60.6% as a team. The Longhorns will not be able to leave four-five points a game on the line against stronger competition.

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