Horns Get Up Off The Mat, Ride Tucker To Big Win

So if you&#146;re <B>Rick Barnes&#146;</B> roundballers, how do you get over a national television spanking at the hands of Duke? Simple. You dish out a national television spanking to, well, if not exactly a Duke, then an East Coast foe nonetheless, in this case, feisty but out-manned George Washington U. Against the Colonials Monday night on ESPN2, Texas rubbed a little salve into their Duke-inflicted wounds with an 88-72 victory.

You remember GWU, the program that gave hard luck Tom Penders a paycheck for a couple of seasons after he left Austin? Penders has now also left DC, but his former Colonial program could’ve used a little of his us-against-the-world road attitude in Austin Monday night. Actually, the Colonials brought plenty of ‘tude, they just didn’t have the horses to hang with the Horns.

Texas sprinted out to a 9-0 lead and never looked back, except maybe to watch GWU sucking the Horns’ exhaust, trying to keep the margin under 20 for most of the evening. By halftime, Texas led 45-26 on the strength of a seven-of-eight first-half shooting performance from energized frosh P.J. Tucker. George Washington never quit, narrowing it to 12 at the 14-minute mark of the second half, but Texas eventually opened it back up to 20 at 73-53 on a three-point play by Brian Boddicker at 7:42. Despite a late three-point barrage from GWU’s Greg Collucci (7 of 11 threes, 18 points) which kept the margin from getting out of hand, the Colonials never really threatened, and Texas coasted in with the 16-point win.

While Boddicker did his part with 15 points and six boards, it was Newcomers Night at the Drum Monday as Tucker and Kenny Taylor led the Horns’ scoring assault. Folks, you’ve heard it before, but Tucker has got to be considered the recruiting steal of the new century. GWU coach Carl Hobbs sure thinks so. "He pretty much dominated the game," said Hobbs afterwards. "He is the surprise player in the country, without a doubt. Coach Barnes and his staff could’ve predicted this performance, but no one else could have."

Not only is Tucker tenacious under the boards, grabbing 15 rebounds Monday, he is a scoring machine inside against the big bodies, particularly utilizing a sweet, double-clutch reverse lay-in to evade defenders. Tucker finished with a game-high 27 points, the fifth-most points ever in a game by a UT freshman. "P.J. was basically unstoppable tonight," said Boddicker. "I would work to the outside and P.J. got matched up on a smaller guy. We knew what we were looking for and we got it."

They also got a ton of help from Taylor who poured in 19 points on seven of 14 shooting from the field, including five of 11 treys, to give him his career high as a Longhorn. But as nice a night as Taylor had, the story of this one was P.J. Tucker. "He’s been our most consistent player," Barnes said of Tucker post-game. "He makes himself available, he has a great feel for the game, he gets his hands up, he knows where he needs to go, and he knows what to do with the ball when he gets it."

Barnes also liked the way the team worked in practice after their poor showing in New York. "We know we were embarrassed against Duke and we know we are better than that. Coming out of final exams, I don’t think we had great focus, but I never heard any of the guys make an excuse."

No excuses were necessary Monday. Texas next takes on UT-Arlington in Austin Jan. 2 at 7 p.m.

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