Hoops: Tucker, Boddicker Lead UT Past New Orleans

Minutes after Texas (5-1) dismissed his New Orleans (3-1) basketball team, 89-55, at the Erwin Center Sunday, Privateer coach <B>Monte Towe </B>asked the first question during the post-game press conference: &quot;How come <B>P.J. Tucker </B>is playing here at Texas instead of at North Carolina?&quot;

For the fourth time in six outings, the freshman forward was Texas’ leading scorer with 17 bench points (5-of-11 FG, 7-of-10 FT) in 24 minutes. He added six boards and three steals against no turnovers. Tucker is averaging 14.8 ppg, second only to senior G Brandon Mouton’s 15.1 ppg pace.

"He’s an undersized kid but he’s a player," Towe said. "He’s relentless."

Head coach Rick Barnes was a bit more reserved in his praise of Tucker ("P.J. has some skills") after moving the freshman more to the perimeter in the second half. But Tucker’s slam dunk on an alley-oop dish from senior G Royal Ivey to cap the scoring with 29 seconds remaining surprised even Barnes.

"I didn’t know he had that kind of leaping ability," Barnes admitted.

Senior F Brian Boddicker was just off Tucker’s pace with 16 points (4-9 FG, 6-6 FT) including two-of-three from beyond the arc. He also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds after getting zero boards against Arizona. Boddicker’s MIA status in crashing the boards in Tuesday’s loss drew some choice mid-week words from Barnes.

"Coach challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and go get some boards and that’s what I did," Boddicker said. "He was on me all week."

Boddicker responded with just the second double-double of his collegiate career and first since the UNC-Asheville game to open last season’s NCAA Tournament. Although Boddicker was a McDonalds high school All-American and a member of the Big 12 All-Reserve team, the senior has a tendency to get lost in the offense by drifting out to the wing before snapping out of (what appears to be) momentary mental lapses.

"Brian has a great basketball mind," Barnes said. "He just needs to use it all the time. Tonight, he came out and played the way he has to play. He had a big impact on this game."

Shooting G Kenny Taylor started his first game in a Longhorn uniform (instead of junior Sydmill Harris) after transferring earlier this season from Baylor. Taylor finished with eight points (2-of-6 FG, 3-of-4 FT) and seven rebounds in 23 minutes. Barnes said the decision had to do with Taylor’s ball handling ability and his defensive prowess.

"He’s a guy that can make plays by passing the ball," Barnes said. "He definitely stretches the defense but Kenny has a knack of knowing where he needs to be and how to stretch the defense to get some room in there."

After going 0-5 from the field against Arizona, sophomore F Brad Buckman bricked his first six FG attempts and all four FT tries before finally breaking out of his slump with 6:49 left in the contest. Although Buckman was just 3-of-10 shooting, he compensated with seven boards and a career-high five blocked shots.

"Brad was trying way too hard and he snapped back out of it," Barnes said. "When he made that shot, it lifted the weight of the world off his shoulders."

Sunday’s game marked Texas’ third meeting against New Orleans, with the Privateers actually entering with a 2-0 series lead. The Crescent City club took a pair from Texas during former head coach Bob Weltlich’s glory days (1983, 1984).

Texas held New Orleans to 29 percent (18-of-62) form the field and dominated the boards, 58-32. The Horns connected on 32-of-72 FG (45.1 percent) but continue to struggle from the line, hitting just 61.3 percent (19-of-31).

Consecutive Tucker lay-ups spotted Texas a 22-14 lead with 9:12 remaining in the first half, but back-to-back New Orleans treys brought the Privateers within two. Longhorn post men delivered with junior C Jason Klotz’s bucket and senior C James Thomasputback.

An already physical game bordered, at times, on brawl. Taylor hit a free throw after the New Orleans bench was whistled for a technical while Ivey sank one from the charity stripe nearly two minutes later after he was collared and thrown head-first to the floor.

The aggressive style only aroused what had been a spotty Longhorn offense. Ivey’s driving lay-up rebuilt the Texas lead, 32-24. Mouton’s steal and lay-up made it, 36-24, while Boddicker added a trey with 50 seconds until intermission. Mouton’s bucket moments later completed a 19-2 Texas run.

"During the last four minutes of the half, coach really challenged us." Boddicker said. "He told us to win the four minutes and to get momentum going into the half. We went out and played solid defense. Our defense is what created offense going into the half."

Senior G A.J. Meredith nailed a trey just before the break as Texas took a 41-27 lead into the locker room.

Officials called a much tighter game following the break, as both squads drew more whistles than a hot chick at a construction site (23 for Texas, 22 for UNO). Two Privateers (F Nathaniel Parker, C Ben Elias) picked up their fourth fouls less than two minutes into the second half.

Taylor’s trey opened the scoring for the Horns, 44-29. A pair of Boddicker free throws at the 13:42 mark capped an 11-2 Texas run to make it 52-31. Taylor’s tip-in gave the Horns a 63-38 lead midway through the second half.

After Buckman got untracked, his jumper gave Texas a 75-45 lead with 5:42 remaining. His fourth block led to a Tucker lay-up and an 81-48 margin with 3:28 on the game clock. Tucker’s assist led to a Harris trey to make it 86-54 with 1:42 left.

The Horns return to Madison Square Garden this Saturday against No. 4 Duke (11 a.m. CST, ESPN).

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