January 27, 2009

The BIG Preview: Horns head to Waco

The Basics

After a couple of days off following a big win over in-state rival Texas A&M on Saturday night, the No.11 Texas Longhorns (14-4, 2-1) take back to the court on Tuesday night with showdown on the road against Baylor (15-4, 3-2) at 8PM. The game will be televised regionally by the Big 12.

Series vs. Baylor

Texas leads 153-75; Last meeting: Texas 82-77 (February 16, 2008; Waco).

Post-Texas Tech Notes

• Senior guard A.J. Abrams is four three-point shots away from establishing a new Big 12 career record for made three-point shots. The All-America candidate did not make a three-point shot against the Aggies.

• Junior Damion James scored a season-high 28 points and grabbed seven rebounds against the Aggies.

• With the win over the Aggies, the Longhorns were able extend their home-court winning streak to 19 games.

• The Longhorns dominated the Aggies on the glass (41-29) and have won the rebounding battle in 14 of their first 18 games.

Owning the Bears

In one of the most amazing stats you'll find, Texas head coach Rick Barnes has never lost to Baylor during his time in Austin, as he's compiled a sterling 22-0 record against the Bears. Of those 22 wins, 14 have come by double-digit margins.

James is heating up in Big 12 play

Starting with his outstanding second-half performance against Texas Tech down in Lubbock, junior forward Damion James has played some of the best basketball of his career in the last 60 minutes of game action.

After scoring 14 of his 18 points in Lubbock in the final 20 minutes of action, James broke out for a season-high 28 points against the Aggies on Saturday night.

In his last eight games, James' has taken his level of play to its highest point this season, averaging a team-best 17.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.


Abrams keeps gaining ground

A.J. Abrams has fallen to sixth in the Big 12 in scoring this season, but he is still on his way towards becoming one of the most prolific scorers in the history of the program. So far this season, he's averaging 16.9 points per game through the first 18 games, while making 51-of-133 (38.3 percent) from 3-point land.

Heading into Tuesday's game against Baylor, Abrams ranks sixth on UT's all-time scoring list with 1,693 points and trails No. 5 Joey Wright (1,819) by only 126 points. 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 averages only 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.

The Big 12 scoring record is 2,256 points set by former Texas Tech star Andre Emmett.


6th Man of the Year?

Sophomore forward Gary Johnson is quickly emerging as one of the top sixth men in the Big 12 this year, ranking third on the team in scoring (11.3) and second in rebounds (6.9).

In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find a player on the Longhorn roster that has played better than the former Houston Aldine star in the month of the season, as he's averaged 15.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest while hitting 45-of-87 (.517) field goals and 30-of-29 (.769) free throws in his last eight games.

Here's a look at the Big 12's top scorers and rebounders off the bench:

Scoring

1. LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor) - 16.9
2. Gary Johnson (Texas) - 11.3
3. Mike Singletary (Texas Tech) - 11.1
4. Keiton Page (Oklahoma State) - 10.5
5. Fred Brown (Kansas State) - 9.0

Rebounding

1. Gary Johnson (Texas) - 6.9
2. Mike Singletary (Texas Tech) - 5.8
3. Ron Anderson (Kansas State) - 5.6
4. Marcus Morris (Kansas) - 5.2
5. Jamar Samuels (Kansas State) - 4.8

Balbay starting to soar at the right time

After a slow start, sophomore point guard Dogus Balbay is starting to make a serious impact on both ends of the floor for the Longhorns.

In his last eight games dating back to the loss against Michigan State before the holidays, Balbay has dished our 29 assists and only turned the ball over five times during the same span for a nice little 5.8-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio.

In his last three Big 12 games against Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas A&M, Balbay is averaging 4.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.


NBA Longhorn Notes

Former Naismith Award winner Kevin Durant continues to play at a level that has made him perhaps the NBA's top young player, scoring 18 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists in Oklahoma City's 94-85 win over New Jersey on Monday night. Durant is currently averaging 24.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Former All-American Lamarcus Aldridge continues to play well in his third season with the Portland Trailblazers, averaging 17.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game this season. He had 10 points and three rebounds in a 113-88 win over the L.A. Clippers on Monday night.

D.J Augustin has been out of the line-up for Charlotte because of abdominal strain and is probably a week away from returning to action. Augustin has not played in a game since January 10th.

About Baylor…

Texas basketball fans have seen enough of the Bears over the years that they should have a pretty good idea of what they'll get on Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center.

Fast-tempo. Lots of points. Lots of three-point shots.

The Bears specialize in offense and they've got a trio of guards that can break loose for a 30-point game on any given night.

Leading the way for the Bears is a pair of smallish senior guards - 6-1 Curtis Jerrells and 6-0 Henry Dugat.

Jerrells has been doing it all for the Bears this season, leading them in points (17.6) and assists (5.8). He's the unquestioned heart and soul of the team and when the Bears are truly playing like a Top 25 outfit, he's mixing his inside-outside game, while also getting his teammates involved with good shots off of dribble-penetration.

Like all of the Baylor guards, Jerrells can fall in love with the three-point shot and it'll be vital for the Bears tonight that he stays aggressive and attacks the Texas defense, instead of settling for long-range jumpers.

The same is true of Dugat, who can be one of the Big 12's best high-flyers near the rim when he's not settling for jump shots. His shot selection has improved this season and he's doing a much better job of letting the offensive game come to him within the flow of the offense. With his 40.0 percent three-point percentage this season, the Longhorns will have to know where he's at all times.

In fact, the Bears have four shooters that are high-volume long-range gunners that make better than 36.6 percent of their three-point shots.

Along with Jerrells (.366) and Dugat (.400), the Bears also feature top sixth man LaceDarius Dunn (.422) and swingman Tweety Carter (.429).

While it's obvious that the Bears have the shooters/scorers to beat anyone in the nation on a hot night, their inconsistent and at times ineffective play from the front-court has been a season-long Achilles heel.

Senior big-man Kevin Rogers is a capable player that averages a respectable 12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, but once you get past him, its slim pickings.

Senior starting center Mamadou Diene averages only a shade over 10 minutes per game and really doesn't have much of an effective low-post offensive game. The team will get some points and rebounds off the bench from back-up Quincy Acy, but it's a team that ranks in the middle of the pack at best in most of the Big 12 rebounding and defensive stats.

This is a pretty easy group to figure out - if they are hitting their shots, they can be deadly. If you can force them into becoming a one-dimensional jump-shooting team and limit their number of second-chance opportunities, they're going to have problems beating elite competition.

The Three Keys

1. Don't let Baylor settle into an early groove. There's no question that the Bears will come out sky-high emotionally in this game because they've got a senior-laden bunch that has never beaten the Longhorns and this might be their best chance at pulling it off, if they are veer going to. The first five minutes of the game will be vital because the Longhorns will need to ensure that they don't let the Bears race out to an early lead that forces them to play outside of their offensive comfort zone, while playing a game of catch-up for 40 minutes.

2. Corral the long rebounds. Baylor is going to take a lot of three-point shots tonight, which means that there are going to be a lot of long rebounds. The Texas guards are going to need to crash the glass tonight in an effort to limit second-chance opportunities. If the Longhorns win the battle of second-chance points tonight, they'll likely win the game.

3. Get the ball inside. Texas has a considerable edge in the front-court and they have to remember that on the offensive end and not allow the Bears to turn the game into a track meet. Pound the ball inside, get their big men in foul trouble and control the pace of the game.

The Texas line-up

The starters

Guard - A.J. Abrams - 5-10 senior - (16.9 points, and 2.3 rebounds)
Guard - Justin Mason - 6-2 junior - (6.9 points and 4.0 rebounds)
Forward - Damion James - 6-7 junior - (15.6 points and 8.2 rebounds)
Forward - Connor Atchley - 6-11 senior - (5.9 points and 3.8 rebounds)
Forward - Gary Johnson - 6-6 sophomore - (11.3 points and 6.9 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - Dogus Balbay - 6-0 sophomore (1.6 points and 2.2 assists)
Guard - Varez Ward - 6-2 freshman (2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds)
Forward/center - Dexter Pittman - 6-10 junior - (8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds)
Forward/center - Clint Chapman - 6-10 sophomore - (1.4 points and 1.6 rebounds)
Forward - Matt Hill - 6-10 sophomore - (1.0 points and 1.4 rebounds)

The Baylor line-up

The starters

Guard - Curtis Jerrells - 6-1 senior - (17.6 points and 5.8 assists)
Guard - Henry Dugat - 6-0 senior - (12.4 points and 3.6 rebounds)
Guard - Tweety Carter - 5-11 junior - (10.6 points and 3.0 rebounds)
Forward - Kevin Rogers - 6-9 senior - (12.3 points and 7.9 rebounds)
Center - Mamadou Diene - 7-1 senior - (1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - LaceDarius Dunn - 6-4 sophomore - (16.9 points and 4.5 rebounds)
Forward - Fred Ellis - 6-6 freshman - (2.2 points and 2.2 rebounds)
Forward - Quincy Acy - 6-7 freshman (6.7 points and 4.7 rebounds)
Forward - Anthony Jones - 6-10 freshman (2.8 points and 1.4 rebounds)
Center - Josh Lomers - 7-0 junior - (2.8 points and 1.2 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…

.322

That's the team mark from three-point range this season and it currently ranks last in the Big 12. Their opponent tonight ranks second in the conference with a .394 clip from downtown.


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