March 22, 2008

Horns set to take on old friend for Sweet 16 bid

The No.7 Texas Longhorns took care of business Friday afternoon jumping out to a big lead before cruising home with a 74-54 win over Austin Peay. On Sunday the competition takes a big step forward as Jack McClinton and the Miami Hurricanes will be waiting for them after eliminating St. Mary's on Friday.

The Longhorns (29-6) will take the court with the chance to advance to a fifth Sweet 16 in the last seven years and tie a school record for wins in a season. The team that will be standing in their way will be led by an old friend.

The Hurricanes (23-10) advanced to the round of 32 with a 78-64 win over the St. Mary's Gaels behind a career-high, 38 point performance by junior guard McClinton.

McClinton has been the go-to-guy and key for Miami's success all season and on Friday the guard delivered in a big way. Having already posted three 30+ point games on the season, McClinton walked to the locker room at halftime with just six points and the Gaels holding a slight 32-27 lead. The all-ACC performer took over quickly in the second half pouring in 32 points on an array of drives and finishes as well as contested jumpers on the perimeter.

For the Longhorns, Justin Mason has drawn some tough match-ups all season and more than held his own. On Sunday in the Alltel Arena, he may face his toughest chore to date.

Texas rolls into Sunday's game shooting the ball well from the perimeter. The Longhorns have converted 10 or more three-pointers two games in a row and are riding the hot hand of A.J. Abrams, who has hit six or more three's in two of the last three games.

The Longhorns and Hurricanes have met two times prior to the round of 32 with each team winning once. The last meeting was a 123-104 Longhorn victory on February 22, 1989.

This game will have special meaning for both head coaches. Miami head coach Frank Haith worked under Rick Barnes on the Longhorn staff from 2001-04 and was part of the 2003 Final Four team and three consecutive Sweet 16 teams.

Haith's assistant, Mike Schwartz, was a graduate assistant at Texas during that time as well, so Sunday there will be a couple of familiar faces on the Hurricanes bench.

Barnes enters Sunday with a career-record of 447-226, including a 16-15 record in the NCAA Tournament. Barnes is 14-9 in NCAA Tournament games at Texas.

Haith has a career-record of 69-59 and is now 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament with Friday's win.

Game time is set for 1:15pm central time and will be televised on CBS.

A look at the numbers

Texas shoots 45.4% overall, 38.7% from the three-point line and 68.5% from the foul line.

Miami converts 43.8% from the field, 38.4% from three and 74.3% from the free throw line.

The Longhorns sport a +2.7 rebound margin to +2.5 for the Hurricanes.

Texas turns the ball over a nation leading 9.5 times per game to 13.5 by Miami.

The projected starters

Texas

G D.J. Augustin 5-11 sophomore (19.4 points, 5.7 assists)
G A.J. Abrams 5-11 junior (16.4 points, 2.8 rebounds)
G Justin Mason 6-2 sophomore (7.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists)
F Damion James 6-7 sophomore (13.1 points, 10.5 rebounds)
C Connor Atchley[/db[ 6-11 junior (9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 blocks)

Key reserves include 6-8 freshman [db]Alexis Wangmene (2.3 points, 2.4 rebounds), 6-10 sophomore Dexter Pittman (2.7 points, 2.2 rebounds) and 6-10 freshman Clint Chapman.

Miami

G Lance Hurdle 6-2 junior (7.9 points, 2.4 assists)
G Jack McClinton 6-1 junior (17.7 points, 2.7 assists)
G James Dews 6-3 sophomore (10.3 points, 2.9 rebounds)
F Dwayne Collins 6-8 sophomore (8.7 points, 6.5 rebounds)
F Anthony King 6-9 senior (7.1 points, 7.1 rebounds)

Key reserves include 6-8 junior Jimmy Graham (6.0 points, 4.9 rebounds), 6-7 junior Brian Asbury (9.0 points, 4.2 rebounds), 6-0 freshman Eddie Rios (3.4 points, 2.0 assists) and 6-7 senior Raymond Hicks (4.9 points, 3.2 rebounds).

Keys to the game

The first key to the game will be how Miami defenses the screen and roll/float of Texas. Miami's big men are athletic interior players, but they will be quickly tested on their ability to hedge and recover. Texas' ability to pull away the Hurricane big men from the basket with the skilled play of Atchley and James is going to be key in advancing on to Houston.

On the flip side, James' and Atchley's ability to stay out of foul trouble is going to be huge in this game. With Gary Johnson likely out for Sunday, the Longhorns don't want to have to get into a situation in which Pittman and Wangmene are logging major minutes and more importantly have to play on the floor together. If that happens, Texas will have a tough time offensively.

The Hurricanes showed some 2-3 zone in the first half against St. Mary's. Texas looked to attack the middle against the Austin Peay zone more than at any other time in recent memory. The ball movement must be crisp and from side to side against Miami. When the ball does get into the paint, whether it is man or zone, the Hurricanes have two athletic defenders waiting for a chance to block a shot in graham and Collins.

Mason will likely draw the tough assignment of guarding McClinton. First is to play sound defense without getting into early foul trouble. Against St. Mary's, the Hurricanes spent the first half trying to pound the ball inside, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Miami attempt to go at Mason early and see if they can pick up a foul or two.

McClinton has an array of moves off the dribble and scores the ball really well on floaters and runners. He plays a with a very low inside shoulder and gets tremendous leverage. On the catch, he is tough to defend because he understands how to use a subtle ball fake/shot fake. Often times he makes one hard dribble and gets into a mid-range jump shot. Have to close out soundly as well because he shoots 42.9% from three.

Miami will run three or four sets to get McClinton the ball on the move on the wing or in the corner, but he is really tough in isolation situations.

There is no doubt that Miami will look to get the ball inside with hopes of getting Atchley and or James into foul trouble. Miami uses the high ball screen game to get into a high/low set. Against St. Mary's, there wasn't a shot blocker/shot changer to keep Miami from scoring. The Hurricanes don't have much skill scoring the ball on the blocks, but they are strong and have quality bounce.

If the game is close down the stretch, Miami is not as team one wants to have to foul. McClinton, Hurdle and Dews are all very good free throw shooters. Dwayne Collins is the worst of the bunch at 49% with Graham at 56.1%, Rios at 57.1% and Anthony King at 68.9%.


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