November 17, 2008

The REALLY BIG preview: Tulane

Series vs. Tulane

Texas leads, 9-6. Last meeting: Texas 85-68 (Jan. 17th, 1973; Austin)

A Top 10 mainstay

There wasn't much shake-up this week in the Top 25 rankings after the first week of action on the hardwood. As was the case last week, the Longhorns enter this week ranked No. 7 in the Associated Press poll and No. 8 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll. So far during the Rick Barnes era at Texas, the Longhorns have spent a total of 129 weeks in the AP Top 25, with 53 of those weeks having the Longhorns in the Top 10.

Post-Stetson Notes

• Head coach Rick Barnes earned his 450th career victory.
• The Longhorns won their sixth straight season-opener by a margin of at least 20 points.
• Connor Atchley, who scored 14 points against Stetson, hit double digits in scoring for the 19th time in 103 career games.
• Damion James, who scored 13 points, hit double digits in scoring for the 39th time in 74 career games.
• Dexter Pittman's 10 points marked only the fourth time in his career (66 games) that he has hit the double-digit mark in scoring.

The Turk makes his debut

Texas fans have been eagerly anticipating the debut of Turkish point guard Dogus Balbay and they will finally get a chance to see the Turkish point guard in action on Tuesday night, after he finished an NCAA-mandated 11-game suspension because of his participation in 11 games for a professional Turkish team during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

Balbay is expected to bring a steady hand to the point guard position because of his International experience. After his recovery from the right knee injury that sidelined him for most of last season, Balbay returned home to Turkey and played for his Under-20 National Team in the European Championships. Balbay led Turkey to a fourth-place, averaging 8.3 points per game (fourth-best on the team), a team-best 4.9 assists per game, and 4.1 rebounds (third-best) in the eight-game tournament.

The 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, scoring 21 points in the season-opener, with 15 of those 21 points coming on three-point shots, marking the 24th time in his career that he's eclipsed the 20-point barrier.

Heading into tonight's game, Abrams ranks 14th on UT's all-time scoring list with 1,410 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.

Currently, Abrams has 1,410 career points. 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

Rookie point guard D.J. Augustin has come off the bench in seven games so far this season and is averaging 8.8 points and 3.4 assists in slightly more than 23 minutes per game. He tied a career-high with 14 points against Toronto on November 9th.

Former Naismith winner T.J. Ford is currently a career-high 16.4 points and 6.2 assists per game in his new stint as the starting point guard in Indiana. Ford has a season-high 24 points and 10 assists in a win over Oklahoma City on November 10th.

In Oklahoma City's first season as a full-time NBA city, the hard-luck lessons of having a losing team are starting to sink in. Through ten games, the Thunder has racked up a 1-9 record. Former National Player of the Year and UT star Kevin Durant is averaging 21.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 43.0% from the floor and 30.0% from three-point land. He exploded for a season-high 37 points earlier this week in a loss at Indiana.

Portland forward Lamarcus Aldridge is off to a strong start this year, averaging 16.7 points per game and 7.1 rebounds through the first ten games of the season.

About Tulane ...

After beating Loyola 74-61 in their only exhibition game, Tulane opened the 2008-09 season with a 68-62 win over McNeese State at home on Saturday.

Leading the way for the Green Wave were Kris Richard and Kevin Sims, who both scored 17 points. Big man Robinson Louisme added 11 points for the Green Wave.

Richard was the game MVP for Tulane, as he also finished with seven rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.

From a statistical perspective, the Green Wave shot 44.2% from the field (23 for 52), 36.8% from three-point land (seven for 19) and 50% from the free throw line (13 of 26). The Green Wave lost the battle of the boards 39-32, while the turnover battle as even (17 turnovers for each).

Overall, this Tulane team is trying to replace some really key pieces from last year's solid team which went 17-15 and beat three different SEC teams (Auburn, Alabama and LSU). Gone is all-Conference USA performer David Gomez (14.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and 40% of this team's scoring and rebounding from last season's team.

If the Green Wave is going to have a match-up advantage on the Longhorns, it might be at the point guard position. Junior 5-10 point guard Kevin Sims was second on the team in scoring last year at 12.2 ppg and he averaged a team best 3.8 assists. After a strong start against McNeese State, look for the Longhorns defense to do their best to swarm Sims and force the ball into someone else's hands.

Although a six-point win over McNeese wasn't exactly inspiring, the development of Richard is something that should excite all Green Wave fans. After averaging 3.2 points and 15.4 minutes per game last season, his 17-point explosion in the opener gives hope that the hole in the scoring department that was created with the departure of Gomez.

The team's best big man is the 6-7, 255-pound Louisme, who averaged 9.8 points and 5.4 rebounds last season.

Outside of that, the Green Wave is still learning what they have as a team. Junior forward Asim McQueen and senior Daniel Puckett round up the rest of the frontcourt and they combined for ten points and ten rebounds in 47 combined minutes in the opener.

Not other players on the roster scored more than five points in the opener.

The Texas line-up

The starters

Guard - A.J. Abrams - 5-10 senior - (21.0 points, and 1.0 assists)
Guard - Justin Mason - 6-2 junior - (4.0 points and 3.0 assists)
Forward - Damion James - 6-7 junior - (13.0 points and 7.0 rebounds)
Forward - Gary Johnson - 6-6 sophomore - (6.0 points and 7.0 rebounds)
Forward - Connor Atchley - 6-11 senior - (14.0 points and 5.0 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - Dogus Balbay - 6-0 sophomore (Has not played this season)
Guard - Varez Ward - 6-1 freshman - (0.0 points and 3.0 rebounds)
Forward - Alexis Wangmene - 6-7 sophomore - (0.0 points and 1.0 rebounds)
Forward/center - Dexter Pittman - 6-10 junior - (10.0 points and 4.0 rebounds)
Forward/center - Clint Chapman - 6-10 sophomore - (0.0 points and 2.0 rebounds)

The Stetson line-up

The starters

Guard - Kris Richard - 6-5 sophomore - (17.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists)
Guard - Kevin Sims - 5-10 junior (17.0 points, 6.0 rebounds)
Forward - Asim McQueen - 6-7 junior - (5.0 points and 6.0 rebounds)
Forward - Daniel Puckett 6-7 senior - (5.0 points and 4.0 rebounds)
Center - Robinson Louisme - 6-7 senior - (11.0 points and 5.0 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - Kendall Timmons - 6-5 freshman (4.0 points and 2.0 rebounds)
Guard - Trent Rogers - 6-3 freshman - (2.0 points and 1.0 steals)
Forward - David Booker - 6-7 sophomore - (4.0 points and 0.0 rebounds)
Forward - Jon Anderson - 6-9 freshman - (3.0 points and 2.0 rebounds)
Forward - Johnny Mayhane - 6-5 sophomore - 1.1 points and 1.5 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…

Texas will play its 2,500th game in men's basketball against Tulane on Tuesday night. The Horns have an all-time record of 1,564- 935 (.626) in their 103 years of play.

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