December 12, 2008

The BIG preview: Bobcats coming to town

The Basics

After a stretch of games that witnessed the Longhorns take on three top ten teams in the span of a couple of weeks, the nation's No.6 team gets back into action on Saturday at noon when they take on Texas State. The game is scheduled to be shown on Fox Southwest and will be available outside of the state of Texas on the ESPN Full Court Package.

Series vs. Texas State

Texas leads 37-5. Last meeting: Texas 96-81 (Dec. 15, 2008; Austin)

Post-Villanova Notes

• The Longhorns have beaten 10 straight ranked opponents at the Erwin Center.
• The Longhorns have blocked seven shots on defense this season in seven of their first eight games, while also holding their opponents to less than 40 percent shooting from the field in seven of eight games.
• Damion James is the only player on the team has scored in double figures in all eight of Texas' games this season.
• True freshman Varez Ward had a career-high eight rebounds against the Wildcats.
• The Longhorns were outrebounded for the second straight game.

Wangmene out for the season

Sophomore forward Alexis Wangmene will reportedly have season-ending surgery on his right knee and will miss the rest of the season.

The 6-8 Wangmene had just started to come into his own when he injured the knee a few weeks ago and the team now hopes that he'll receive a medical redshirt after the season because he will have played in fewer than 30 of UT's games this season.

One tough schedule

The Longhorns are currently in the middle of a pretty taxing stretch that will see them take on five ranked or previously ranked teams before the start of Big 12 play.

Overall, here are the early games of note that should play an important role for the Longhorns later in the season when it's time to talk tournament seeding:

November 25th - vs. No.8 Notre Dame (L 81-80)
December 4th - vs. No.9 UCLA in Austin (W 68-64)
December 9th - vs. No.12 Villanova in New York City (W 67-58)
December 20th - vs. No.18 Michigan State in Houston
December 23rd - at Wisconsin in Madison

Defense leading the way

If there's one thing we know that we can take to the bank about this year's team, it's the fact that the Longhorns can play some nasty defense. After eight games this season, the Longhorns have proven to be one of the nation's most intimidating defensive units, as they have held their opponents to 56.9 points per game, 35.2 FG shooting and 30.4 from three-point range. Through those first eight games, the Longhorns have also recorded 66 steals and 51 blocks. By comparison, UT's opponents have tallied 57 steals and 23 blocks against the Longhorns.

Abrams keeps gaining ground

A.J. Abrams is not only the Big 12's top returning scorer this season, but he's also on his way towards becoming one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the program. So far this season, he's averaging 19.0 points per game through the first eight games, while making 28 of 63 (44.4 percent) from three-point land. Overall, he's hit the 20-point mark on 27 different occasions for the Longhorns during his career.

Heading into today's game against the Boncats, Abrams ranks 10th on UT's all-time scoring list with 1,541 points and trails No.9 Raymond Downs (1,558) by only 17 points. He passed former Longhorn star B.J. Tyler (1,502 points) with his 31-point scoring explosion against UCLA last week. If Abrams can average a minimum of 20 points per game this season, he will almost certainly move into the No.3 slot all-time among Longhorn career scoring leaders and would have Terrence Rencher (2,306 points) and Travis Mayes (2,279 yards) in his sights.

If he averages 20.0 points per game this season, he'd be on pace to finish with 2,030 and that does not include any potential post-season games. Even if he only averages the 16.5 points per game that he averaged last season, he'd still be on pace to finish the regular season with 1,921 points, which would put him within 37 points of Reggie Freeman for the No.3 spot.

NBA Longhorn Notes

Former Longhorn Lamarcus Aldridge is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now, as he's averaging 19.2 points per game in his last five games, including three straight games of 20+ points. Overall, Aldridge is averaging 16.6 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Trailblazers.

Former All-American D.J. Augustin scored nine points and dished out 10 assists in Charlotte's 95-90 loss to Dallas on Thursday in his first return to the Lone Star State as a professional. Augustin is averaging 13.3 points and 4.5 assists per game this season.

In his first season with the Philadelphia 76ers, former UT standout Royal Ivey is averaging 2.2 points per game.

About Texas State…

The Longhorns enter their match-up with Texas State with a 7-0 record this season when they score between 60-79 points and they lost the only game (vs. Notre Dame in Maui) when they went above that number.

Expect that trend to end on Saturday against the Bobcats for a couple of good reasons:

a) The Bobcats are not that good, as they enter the game with a 3-4 record that includes losses to Wyoming and Rice, and double-digit setbacks to San Francisco and Northern Colorado.
b) The Bobcats don't play a lot of defense, having surrendered an average 86.0 points per game and 46.4 percent field goal age for the season.

Though the Bobcats haven't played anyone nearly as good as Texas thus far this season, they don't enter the game without some capable players and given the distance between the two schools, there's a good chance that every player on the court will be very familiar with each other.

Leading the way for the Bobcats is 6-1 senior guard Brent Benson, who averages 19.3 points and is without questioned the resident gunner for the team. Don't look for Benson to pass the ball much in this game because he's currently averaging more than three times as many three-point shots per game (2.3) than assists. The scary thing for opposing teams is that this hired gunner is shooting a silly 56.4 from long-distance, so when he gets hot, watch out.

Thus far this season, Benson has scored in double figures in every game this season and went nuts in a road loss to Wyoming when he knocked down nine of 12 three-point shots and scored 32 points.

Another major shot taker for the Bobcats is 6-7 forward Brandon Bush, who is averaging 13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Unlike Benson, Bush does most of his work around the basket and when he does shoot the ball, he's been very efficient (50.7 percent). The former Mayde Creek star does a good job of attacking the offensive glass and he doesn't need the offense to run through him in order for him to get scoring opportunities.

One player that seems to be emerging for the Bobcats is 6-5 junior transfer John Rybak, who might not be able to save a ship full of military personnel from Tommy Jones, but his offensive game is starting to come around and after he dropped a 32-point, 10-rebound spot on the stat sheet against Rice in Texas State's last game.

Possessing an inside/outside game, Rybak can be deadly from beyond the arc, but he's also a hard working player that doesn't turn the ball over and when he's at his best, he can be an above-average all-around offensive player. The problem with Rybak is that he can't seem to stay out of foul trouble, which has played a big part in him only playing more than 23 minutes in three games this season.

The x-factor for the Bobcats is point guard Corey Jefferson. Although he's not a good shooter (35.7 from the field, 33.3 from three-point range and 53.3 from the free throw line), he's by far and away best defender and ball distributor on the team. He's yet to reach the double-figure mark in scoring, but this is a Texas State team that likes to play an incredibly high-paced game and he's going to need to make sure in trying to push the tempo, this team doesn't run itself out of the game.

The Bobcats will play an 11-man rotation with all 11 players averaging double-figures in minutes. Overall, this is a scrappy team that has some offensive ability, but they just don't pay enough attention to detail on defense and that should be their major undoing in this game.

The Three Keys

1. Control the tempo. The Bobcats are going to want this game to be a free-for-all and the Longhorns definitely need to run when the opportunities are there, but they need to make sure they play under control. With the experience that the Longhorns have, this shouldn't be a huge issue, but it's easy to see where a very ugly game might be played if they get too focused on matching Texas State's three-point bombing ways (they've shot 39 more three's this year than Texas in one fewer game)
2. Hit the glass. The absence of Wangmene has been a big blow for the Longhorns in the defensive rebounding department and it's not an accident that UCLA and Villanova have killed the Longhorns on the glass in his absence. Texas State is not a poor rebounding team and they produce a lot of long rebounds, which means that the Longhorn guards will need to make sure that they aren't watching the action too much. Here your pre-game stat of the day - 59.9 of Texas State's rebounding is done on the offensive glass. On the other side of the court, the Horns get 52.8 of their rebounds on the offensive class. Moral of the story - block out on defense against this team.
3. Be ready to play. This won't be an easy game to play, not after finals and a string of high-profile game. The Longhorns need to show up with some energy and that could be hard in a 1/3-filled arena. It doesn't matter because when this team steps on the court, it's time to get down to business.

The Texas line-up

The starters

Guard - A.J. Abrams - 5-10 senior - (19.0 points, and 2.6 rebounds)
Guard - Justin Mason - 6-2 junior - (8.4 points and 5.2 assists)
Forward - Damion James - 6-7 junior - (14.5 points and 8.4 rebounds)
Forward - Connor Atchley - 6-11 senior - (7.1 points and 4.0 rebounds)
Forward/center - Dexter Pittman - 6-10 junior - (6.3 points and 3.1 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - Dogus Balbay - 6-0 sophomore (1.3 points and 1.1 assists)
Guard - Varez Ward - 6-2 freshman (2.7 points and 2.6 rebounds)
Forward - Gary Johnson - 6-6 sophomore - (9.9 points and 7.4 rebounds)
Forward/center - Clint Chapman - 6-10 sophomore - (1.6 points and 2.6 rebounds)
Forward - Matt Hill - 6-10 sophomore - (0.0 points and 1.3 rebounds)

The Texas State line-up

The starters

Guard - Corey Jefferson - 6-0 senior (4.4 points and 5.6 assists)
Guard - Brent Benson- 6-1 senior - (19.3 points and 2.4 rebounds)
Forward -Brandon Bush- 6-7 senior - (13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds)
Forward - John Rybak - 6-5 junior - (11.4 points and 4.9 rebounds)
Center - Ty Gough - 6-10 sophomore - (5.9 points and 4.7 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - John Bowman - 6-4 freshman (4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds)
Guard - Roshun Jackson - 6-6 freshman - (3.6 points and 1.6 rebounds)
Guard - Ryan White- 5-11 sophomore (4.7 points and 2.0 rebounds)
Forward - Emmanuel Bidias A Moute - 6-8 junior - (7.6 points and 3.1 rebounds)
Forward - Cameron Johnson - 6-7 sophomore (7.9 points and 3.6 rebounds)

And finally…

In our quest to provide you with a tidbit in each preview that teaches you something you might not have otherwise known, we give you this…


Those are the number of fouls that Connor Atchley has though eight games, which leads the team by three over Dexter Pittman.

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