December 15, 2008

The BIG Preview: No. 5 Horns take on TSU

The Basics

The Longhorns continue their march through December with a home match-up against Texas Southern (0-8) at 7PM. The game will be televised on Fox Southwest in the Austin and San Antonio markets, and it will be available on the ESPN Full Court Package.

Series vs. Texas Southern

Texas leads 2-0. Last meeting: Texas 98-61 (Nov. 28, 2007; Austin)

Post-Texas State Notes

• Texas junior Dexter Pittman had the first double-double of his career (17 points and 10 rebounds against the Bobcats.
• Damion James remained the only player on the team has scored in double figures in all nine of Texas' games this season.
• The Longhorns were outrebounded for the third straight game on Saturday.
• Justin Mason had a career-high in assists with nine against the Bobcats.
• The Longhorn bench was outscored 43-12.

Horns crack the top five

The Longhorns moved into the No.5 spot in both the AP and ESPN Top Coaches Poll on Monday after wins over Villanova and Texas State.

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 nine 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 58.7 points per game, 36.0 percent from the floor and 29.0 percent from three-point range. Through those first nine games, the Longhorns have also recorded 73 steals and 60 blocks. By comparison, UT's opponents have tallied 65 steals and 25 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 20.2 points per game through the first nine games, while making 33 of 70 (47.1 percent) from three-point land. Overall, he's hit the 20-point mark on 28 different occasions for the Longhorns during his career.

Heading into today's game against Texas Southern, Abrams ranks 9th on UT's all-time scoring list with 1,571 points and trails No.8 Brandon Mouton (1,582) by only 11 points and No.7 Kris Clack (1,592 points) by 21 points. He passed former Longhorn star Raymond Downs (1,558 points) with his 29-point scoring explosion against Texas State on Saturday. If Abrams can average a minimum of 20 points per game this season, he will move into the No.3 slot all-time among Longhorn career scoring leaders and would have Terrence Rencher (2,306 points) and Travis Mays (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 and he'd still have the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments remaining to play.

Mason moving into rarified air

Junior point guard Justin Mason knew coming into this season that the Longhorns were going to lean on him to become a better distributor of the basketball for his teammates and he hasn't let anyone down through the first quarter of the season.

Mason is currently averaging a career-high 5.6 assists per game and even more important, he's averaging a 2.2:1 assist to turnover ratio, which ranks among the best marks in school history.

In the last three games, Mason has taken his newfound playmaking ways to new heights, having dished out 22 assists and committing only three turnovers, which translates to a ridiculous 7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Overall, Mason's strong start to this season has him within the best career assist-to-turnover in school history.

Here's a look at the numbers:

Top Career Assist-to-Turnover Ratio in UT History (since 1982-83)

1. T.J. Ford (2002-03) - 2.21
2. D.J. Augustin (2007-08) - 2.05
3. Justin Mason (2007- ) - 1.93
4. Alex Broadway (1985-88) - 1.80

NBA Longhorn Notes

Former Naismith Winner T.J. Ford scored 16 points, dished out five assists and grabbed five rebounds for Indiana in their 118-98 win over Washington on Monday. Overall, Ford is averaging 14.3 points and 5.6 assists for the Pacers.

Former All-American D.J. Augustin scored nine points and dished out four assists in Charlotte's 83-79 loss to Dallas on Thursday, as he returned to the bench and played 28 minutes behind starter Raymond Felton. Augustin is averaging 13.5 points and 4.4 assist per game this season, but he's been better in his last five games, having averaged 15.6 points and 5.0 assists during that time.

Maurice Evans scored two points, but did grab eight rebounds in 21 minutes, as his Atlanta Hawks beats Charlotte 83-79 on Monday. Evans is averaging 8.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in his role as sixth man for the Hawks.

About Texas Southern…

Give the Tigers credit because they don't duck anyone. This team might be 0-8 on the season, but they've already gone on the road and faced UTEP, Cincinnati, Northern Iowa, Marquette, Arkansas and Washington this season. Up next after the Longhorns are trips to Gonzaga and Idaho.

Is travel the No.1 recruiting tool for the Tigers?

Dead legs or not, the bottom line with this team is that they haven't been very good this season in losing each of their eight games. The team defense hasn't been strong (allowing 77.1 points per game), while the offense has topped 45.0 percent shooting from the floor only twice.

How bad have the Tigers been this season? They've been trailing by double-figures at halftime in seven of their eight games. Basically, this isn't a good team and for the second straight game this Longhorn team will need to make this game about elevating their own level of play, instead of wasting the 40 minutes of game action and not getting better in all areas of their game.

If you're looking for some players to keep an eye on, the first one that jumps off the stat sheet is 6-6, 180-pound junior guard Deandre Hall, who averages 15.6 points per game and he's saved his best performances for the best competition, having scored 29 points against Cincinnati and 19 points against both Marquette and Arkansas.

Pacing them in the backcourt is 6-3 senior Matthew Miller, who is averaging 11.6 points and 4.8 assists per game, and 6-2 senior Sollie Norwood, who averages 8.5 points.

Meanwhile, their most intimidating player inside is 6-7, 215-pound junior Ricky Boyles, who is averaging 6.2 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Overall the numbers are pretty telling, as the Tigers are shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 32.0 percent from downtown, while registering at -6.5 in rebounds, -3.6 in turnovers, -3.75 in assists and most important is their -15.7 in scoring margin.

In fact, the only stat that the Tigers have been able to win from their opponents this season is fouls committed (168-156), so they do have that going for them.

The Three Keys

1. Play to a standard. The Longhorns are the fifth-rankled team in the nation and they need to play like it, especially after sleep-walking at times against Texas State. This is a chance for the team to work on some key areas that need some fine tuning and they shouldn't be wasting opportunities to do so.

2. Dominate the glass. This team started the year by dominating teams in the rebounding department, but they have been outrebounded in three straight games and while they are still a strong +5.2 in the team rebounding department, they need to get back to the basics. Box out, box out and more boxing out.

3. Young players need to improve. This game is about guys like Varez Ward, Dogus Balbay, Clint Chapman and Matt Hill trying to settle in a little and improve their all-around performances. If any of these guys can't play well against the Tigers, how can they be counted on this Saturday against Michigan State?

The Texas line-up

The starters

Guard - A.J. Abrams - 5-10 senior - (20.2 points, and 2.7 rebounds)
Guard - Justin Mason - 6-2 junior - (7.9 points and 5.6 assists)
Forward - Damion James - 6-7 junior - (14.8 points and 8.4 rebounds)
Forward - Connor Atchley - 6-11 senior - (6.6 points and 3.8 rebounds)
Forward/center - Dexter Pittman - 6-10 junior - (7.4 points and 3.9 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - Dogus Balbay - 6-0 sophomore (1.1 points and 0.9 assists)
Guard - Varez Ward - 6-2 freshman (2.9 points and 2.6 rebounds)
Forward - Gary Johnson - 6-6 sophomore - (9.2 points and 6.9 rebounds)
Forward/center - Clint Chapman - 6-10 sophomore - (1.9 points and 2.4 rebounds)
Forward - Matt Hill - 6-10 sophomore - (0.0 points and 1.2 rebounds)

The Texas State line-up

The starters

Guard - DeAndre Hall - 6-6 junior (15.6 points and 3.6 rebounds)
Guard - Matthew Miller- 6-3 senior - (11.6 points and 4.8 assists)
Forward -Jacques Jones- 6-7 senior - (7.9 points and 3.4 rebounds)
Forward - Ricky Boyles - 6-7 junior - (6.2 points and 6.5 rebounds)
Forward - Michael Drewy - 6-8 senior - (7.3 points and 5.1 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - Sollie Norwood - 6-2 senior - (8.5 points and 1.9 rebounds)
Guard - David Burrell - 6-3 senior - (1.9 points and 1.5 rebounds)
Guard - Hamid Ford - 6-0 freshman (0.6 points and 0.9 assists)
Guard - Damian Henderson - 6-3 senior - (2.0 points and 1.6 rebounds)
Forward - Deante Jones - 6-8 freshman - (3.5 points and 5.5 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…


As bad as the Longhorns have been at the free throw line this season (60.6 percent), they look like a collection of Larry Bids in comparison to the Tigers, who are bricking 48.6% percent of their shots from the charity stripe.

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