November 30, 2008

Horns wake up to fly past Owls

The combination of the Rice Owls and fatigue made for an interesting day of basketball for the seventh-ranked Texas Longhorns, but five players in double figures led the Longhorns to a 77-56 win over the Owls in a game that played much closer than the match-up on paper might have suggested on paper.

Even though the Longhorns shot 56%b from the field in the first half, the Owls had cut the lead to 30-27 with 3:33 remaining in the first half on a Connor Frizzelle jumper. The Longhorns were able to create a little separation in the final moments of the first half when Justin Mason knocked down a three-point shot in the closing seconds that sent Texas to the locker room with a 37-30 lead.

Any hopes that the Owls might have had about a shocking upset were put to bed in the first four minutes of the second half when the Longhorns went on an 11-3 run that extended their lead to 48-33.

From that moment on the Longhorns never saw their lead dip into single digits and they ended up winning comfortably.

Mason continued his recent ascent by leading the Longhorns with 14 points, while also grabbing six rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Others that finished in double figures were junior Damion James and sophomore Gary Johnson with 12 points, senior Connor Atchley with 11 points and senior guard A.J. Abrams with 10 points.

Abrams, who entered the game as the team's leading scorer at 17.0 points per game, took only one shot in the first half and that didn't even show up in the stat sheet because he was fouled on the play.

"It's the first time I can remember in a long time he just looked beat," Texas coach Rick Barnes replied when asked about Abrams' offensive disappearance in the first half.

When the Longhorns came out for the second half, they waited little time in getting Abrams into the offensive flow, as he knocked down a jumper in the first 18 seconds and helped send the team on its way.

The Owls were led by Lucas Kuipers, who came off the bench and scored 19 points in 27 minutes of action. While Kuipers went seven of 11 from the field, the Owls entire starting line-up combined to shoot nine of 38 from the field.

Inside the Numbers

The Longhorns finished the night 27 of 55 from the field (49.1 percent), five of 16 (31.3 percent) from three-point land and were 18 of 245 (75.0 percent) from the free throw line. On the other side of the court, the Owls were held to 32.0% (19 of 57) shooting from the field, 38.1% (eight of 25) from beyond the arc and they shot a miserable 71.4% (10 of 14) from the charity stripe. The Longhorns outrebounded the Owls 38-33, and beat them in points off turnovers (15-7), points in the paint (38-20), second-chance points (25-16), fast break points (8-4), forced turnovers (13-8), steals (10-5) and blocked shots (7-4). The Owls edged the Longhorns in bench scoring (27-24).

Star of the game

Justin Mason has really started to assert himself offensively in the last week and that continued on Sunday. In addition to setting the table for others on offense (six assists), he continued to look for his own shot with confidence. His three-point shot at the end of the first half was probably the biggest single bucket of the game and when you consider that he led or tied for the team lead in points (14), assists, steals (3) and three-point shots (2), while also finishing second in rebounds (6) and free throw attempts (6), it's clear that he's the only choice in this game.

Unsung hero

After a slow start to his collegiate career, sophomore guard Dogus Balbay flashed the kind of potential he can bring to this team with a scrappy 23-minute performance, as he finished with four points, four assists and three steals. While the rest of the team looked like they were moving in slow motion at times, Balbay's energy off the bench gave the team the kind of lift that was needed. As this team moves forward, Balbay has a performance he can build on for the future.

Unsung hero (Part II)

Balbay wasn't the only guard that came off the bench to give the team a spark. True freshman Varez Ward had the best game of his young career with eight points, three rebounds, two assists and a block. More than anything else, Balbay just seemed to be moving at a faster pace than just about anyone else on the court, with the exception of Balbay. When the Longhorns made their run to create separation, Ward was on the floor and was a centerpiece of the surge.

Top three plays of the night

Bronze - Sophomore Gary Johnson climbed the rafters and made a man's rebound and follow-up off of a missed Connor Atchley shot in the second half that gave the Longhorns a 52-38 lead.

Silver - After Justin Mason missed a three-point shot with the Longhorns holding a slim 21-19 lead, Balbay skied to the rim and made a one-handed follow-up tip-in to give the Longhorns a four-point lead.

Gold - With the Longhorns holding onto a slim four-point lead in the final seconds of the first half, Mason knocked down a three point shot via an assist by Balbay to extend the Texas lead to seven going into the half, while giving the team a shot in the arm in the process.

Longhorn Dunk O'Meter

All season long we plan to keep a running tally on which Longhorns are flying above the rim the most. After exploding for eight dunks against the Oregon Ducks in their last game, the Longhorns were held to two against the Owls.

Here's tonight's scoreboard:

Damion James - 1
Justin Mason - 1

Here's the season scorecard:

Damion James - 9
Dexter Pittman - 6
Justin Mason - 4
Gary Johnson - 3
Connor Atchley - 2
Clint Chapman - 2
Alexis Wangmene - 1

The BIG number

2 of 11

Three-point shooting kept the Owls in the game in the first half, as they knocked down six of 14 shots (42.9%), while the Longhorns hit only three of eight (37.5%). The Longhorns came out and defended the Owls much better on the perimeter in the final 20 minutes, as the Owls were held to 18.2% clip from long-distance and without that x-factor, they didn't have enough offense to compete for 40 minutes.

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