November 29, 2008

The REALLY BIG preview - Rice

The Basics

After a three-game stint in Maui for the Maui Invitational, the Longhorns return home on Sunday to take on Rice in a game that will be televised by Fox Southwest in the state of Texas. The game will also be a part of the ESPN game package.

Series vs. Rice

Texas leads 131-59. Last meeting: Texas 80-54 (December 8th, 2007; in Houston, Texas)

Post-Oregon Notes

• The Longhorns have won the rebounding battle in all five games this season (three games by 10+). They beat the Ducks 45-33 on the glass.
• Texas held the Ducks without a field goal for a span of 12:29 in the first half (from 15:49 to 3:20).
• Damion James and Justin Mason both came out of offensive slumps in Maui, with the two combining for 39 points
• Gary Johnson has scored in double-figures in four of the team's five games this season.

Defense leading the way

If there's one thing we know that we can probably take to the bank about this year's, it's the fact that the Longhorns are going to be very salty on defense. After five games this season, the Longhorns have proven to be one of the nation's most intimidating defensive units, as they have held their opponents 55.4 points per game, 34.2% FG shooting and 30.3% from three-point range. Through those first five games, the Longhorns have also recorded 45 steals and 31 blocks.

UT's Microwave

Although his adjustment to the point guard position is still a work in progress, but one thing that's not a work in progress is his ability to put the ball in the basket.

The Big 12's top returning scorer picked up where he left off last season, averaging 17.0 points per game through the first five games, while making 18 of 42 (42.9%) from three-point land. Overall, he's hit the 20-point mark on 25 different occasions for the Longhorns during his career.

Heading into today's game, Abrams ranks 12th on UT's all-time scoring list with 1,474 points and trails No.11 Johnny Moore (1,482) by only eight points. 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

Kevin Durant scored 30 points and grabbed seven rebounds in helping lead Oklahoma City to their second win of the season, the Thunder rolled 111-103.

Rookie D.J. Augustin scored 13 points and dished out five assists in Charlotte's 89-84 loss to Boston on Saturday night.

About Rice…

In the world of college basketball, the Rice Owls probably aren't the worst team that the Texas Longhorns will face this season. After all, these Owls have already won a pair of games this season and enter the game with a 2-3 record.

That being said, if this particular Owls squad were a boxer, they'd be a classic sparring partner, complete with no power in his punches and a glass jaw to boot.

Seriously, as you look at the numbers from their first five games, you'll find a team that has problems putting the ball in the hoops, grabbing rebounds and in their only game against a legit NCAA Tournament contender, the Owls lost by 31.

If there's a player to keep an eye on with the Owls, it's probably 6-2 junior guard Cory Pflieger. The Dickson, Tennessee native is the only Owl that currently averages double-digits in points with 10.4 points per game. Pflieger will sometimes struggle to get his shot, but when he's on, he can be a deadly three point shooter and he's really the only player in the starting line-up for the Owls that has to be accounted for at all times.

The top post-player for the Owls is 6-7 senior Aleks Perka, who averages 9.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Perka is a gamer, but he has physical limitations and he's going to have his hands full against the Longhorn front-line that will swarm him in waves because of the lack of other quality big men on the Rice roster.

Sophomore center Trey Stanton is the other starter in the front-court for the Owls. He's averaging only 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in 18 minutes per game this season.

Overall, the Owls will start three players against the Longhorns that are 6-2 or under and not a single post-player outside of Perka and Stanton average more than 2.4 rebounds per game.

The Three Keys

1. Continue to work on the offense. The Owls don't bring a lot of size to the table and they are going to really find themselves in a pinch when it comes to matching up with the Longhorns for 40 minutes. This should be a great opportunity for the Longhorns to work on everything they need to work on offensively, which includes ball movement, getting the ball inside to the big men and just working on the details of their trade.
2. Get Dexter Pittman going again. The big fella had a rotten week in Hawaii and could barely stay on the court for a minute at a time without him picking up a pair of fouls. This team is at its best when he's a major contributor and this game should serve as a perfect opportunity for him to get back into the flow of things.
3. Play Dogus Balbay and Varez Ward a lot. There's no reason why both of these players shouldn't get 20 minutes of action in this game.

The Texas line-up

The starters

Guard - A.J. Abrams - 5-10 senior - (17.0 points, and 3.2 rebounds)
Guard - Justin Mason - 6-2 junior - (9.0 points and 4.8 assists)
Forward - Damion James - 6-7 junior - (15.0 points and 8.6 rebounds)
Forward - Connor Atchley - 6-11 senior - (8.0 points and 5.2 rebounds)
Forward/center - Dexter Pittman - 6-10 junior - (6.4 points and 3.8 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - Dogus Balbay - 6-0 sophomore (1.3 points and 0.5 assists)
Guard - Varez Ward - 6-2 freshman (1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds)
Forward - Gary Johnson - 6-6 sophomore - (10.6 points and 7.8 rebounds)
Forward/center - Clint Chapman - 6-10 sophomore - (1.8 points and 2.2 rebounds)
Forward - Matt Hill - 6-10 sophomore - (0.0 points and 1.0 rebounds)

The Rice line-up

The starters

Guard - Cory Pflieger - 6-2 junior (10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds)
Guard - Connor Frizzelle- 6-1 freshman - (9.0 points and 3.2 rebounds)
Guard -[db]Rodney Foster- 6-1 senior - (8.6 points and 5.4 assists)
Forward - [db]Aleks Perka - 6-7 senior - (9.9 points and 6.8 rebounds)
Center - Trey Stanton - 6-10 freshman - (6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - Bryan Beasley - 6-2 sophomore - (6.6 points and 1.4 rebounds)
Guard - Nate Schwarze- 5-11 freshman (1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds)
Guard - Lawrence Ghoram - 6-5 freshman - (5.0 points and 2.2 rebounds)
Forward - Emerson Herndon - 6-8 freshman (2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds)
Forward - Sulelman Bralmoh - 6-8 sophomore - (2.8 points and 2.4 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…

10 of 11

That was sophomore Gary Johnson's work from the free-throw line at the Maui Invitational.

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