December 7, 2009

Freshmen star in Horns' win over Long Beach

Now that's the type of dominant showing Texas fans have been waiting for.

The Longhorns weren't perfect, and head coach Rick Barnes will not be pleased with the amount of points his defense allowed, but the 107-74 beat down of the Long Beach State 49ers on Monday night was by far the most complete performance UT has put together in this young season. The game was a great indicator of the team's lofty potential, especially on the offensive end of the court.

Texas was able to pour in points at will against the 49ers making 59 percent of its shots from the field, and much of the offensive output came without any needed help from senior leaders Dexter Pittman and Damion James. The Horns did an excellent job of spreading the ball around, as an astounding 11 players got on the board with at least three points. The lone Longhorn without a point (besides the two walk-ons) was senior guard Justin Mason.

Pittman got into foul trouble and missed the majority of the first half, but Texas showcased its incredible depth and a couple supremely talented youngsters showed exactly why they were so highly touted coming out of high school. Freshmen Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton led the Longhorn offense in the first half with 10 and 11 points, respectively.

The Horns started the game hot making 8-of-12 shots through the first five and a half minutes to grab a quick 18-9 lead, and the 49ers would only fuel to the fire with 14 first half turnovers. Long Beach State tried to make a run at the end of the first half behind the shooting of guards Caspar Ware and Stephen Gilling, but back to back buckets from Bradley and Hamilton extended the Texas lead to 44-27 with 3:30 left in the first half.
Freshman guard J'Covan Brown made up for some first half turnovers by sinking two baskets of his own before the buzzer to make the score 52-37 heading into the locker rooms. Eight of UT's 11 scorers made buckets before the break.

Dogus Balbay may have solidified himself as the teams starting point guard with his play Monday night. After racking up five first half assists, the junior from Turkey assisted on 11 of the Horn's first 14 points in the second half, and ended the game with 11 total helpers.

Pittman got back into the game with 14 minutes left to play after sitting out with three fouls, and the big man made the most of his limited minutes (12). He picked up 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting, but this game was really about the coming out party for Texas' bench players and youth.

Shawn Williams, Clint Chapman, Alexis Wangmene, Matt Hill and Bradley teamed up to score Texas' last 18 points of the contest. Wangmene put an exclamation point on the win with a big dunk assisted by Williams at the 1:06 minute mark, and Hill followed with a lay up with 44 seconds to go, which solidified the dominant win that keeps the Horns undefeated at 7-0.

Three of the Longhorns top five scorers were true freshman with Bradley leading all scorers with 17. James and Johnson finished with 14 a piece and the freshman duo of Hamilton and Brown each had 13.

Star of the game

So many players had great showings against the 49ers, but the player who stands out the most is the freshman phenom Bradley. He's been an excellent defender all season, but he played by far his most complete game on offense. He picked up 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting, with one rebound and only one turnover. He also had two steals on defense, including one that came just two minutes into the ball game that he took back to the hole and threw down for a highlight reel dunk.

Unsung hero No. 1

Dogus Balbay has shown that he's one of the best guards in the country at finding the open man for easy buckets. You also won't find another player in the country that works harder and puts forth as much effort on the court. Once again the Turkish sensation was flying around the court causing havoc and forcing turnovers. Balbay found himself in the starting lineup for just the second time this season, and Barnes will most likely keep him there after tonight's performance. Balbay finished with four points, 11 assists, and two rebounds. He also picked up two steals and had one block.

Unsung hero No. 2

Gary Johnson played one of the best games of his career Monday night. He played lock down defense when he was on the floor, and was very active under the basket. He did an excellent job of boxing out at the glass and getting second chance put back points for the Horns. Johnson is a great compliment to Damion James, and tonight there was little drop off when James went to the bench. Johnson has an aggressive style of play that Barnes must love, and he is just another of the many talented bench players on this deep Texas roster. Johnson racked up 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting, and had five rebounds.

Inside the numbers

Texas finished the game making 46-of-78 shots (59 percent), 7-of-18 three pointers (38.9 percent), and 8-of-15 free throws (53.3 percent). Long Beach State made 23-of-57 shots (40.4 percent), 9-of-24 three pointers (37.5 percent), and 19-of-24 free throws (79.2 percent). Texas dominated on the glass with 38 rebounds compared to the 49ers' 27, and also won the turnover battle by a large margin committing only 11 and forcing 23.

One area that didn't improve

Free throws continue to be a big issue for the Horns this season as Texas once again put up ugly numbers from the line. Texas made only 53.3 percent of its free throws and when UT faces higher caliber teams down the road, those shots will be crucial. The Longhorns have a few more games to build confidence from the line before the bad percentages will come back to bite them.

Brown still has room for improvement

J'Covan Brown has wowed Texas fans with his offensive skill set, but the freshman still has a long way to go before Rick Barnes can completely trust him with the starting point guard position. Brown still makes way too many careless mistakes with the ball and picked up six more turnovers. He is a great scorer, and has the ability to become a great distributor, but he must limit the mental errors.

Longhorn Dunk O' Meter

Avery Bradley - 1
Dexter Pittman - 1
Alexis Wangmene - 1

The BIG number


That's the number of points scored by Texas' talented true freshmen against Long Beach State. That number shows just how high the ceiling is for these young players, and each has greatly improved on defense as well. The future looks bright for the hoops team in Austin.

Up next…

The Longhorns will face Texas State (3-6) this Saturday, December 12. Tip off is set for 3:00 PM at the Erwin Center.

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