Big Fish: Tucker Takes Over As Texas Dismisses UTA

One of these days, forward <B>P.J. Tucker</B> may finally realize he is just a freshman (and one that very few programs wanted, at that). In just his second start, the youngster became the first Longhorn frosh to record consecutive 20-plus point games since <B>Chris Mihm</B> turned the trick in 1998.

Tucker led his team with 22 points in 21 minutes as No. 19 Texas outmuscled Texas-Arlington, 99-79 at the Erwin Center Friday. The Horns raised their mark to 7-2 on the season while the Moving Mavs fell to 4-6.

Tucker, meanwhile, is worth the price of admission. Following one of the most dazzling debuts in program history last November, the freshman made the most of his first collegiate start in Monday’s win against George Washington, tallying career highs in points (27) and rebounds (15). He has recorded four double-doubles in his first nine ballgames and now leads the team in scoring (15.3 ppg).

"The team found a way to get me the ball, and it’s just up to me to finish the play," he said after connecting on 6-of-7 from the field and 10-of-11 from the line.

That is music to head coach Rick Barnes ears. The 6-5 forward is providing the kind of low post presence that Barnes has been demanding. Meanwhile, junior C Jason Klotz turned in a strong outing in the first half with eight points (4-of-4 FG) in seven minutes off the bench. The Horns led 46-34 at the break and, although the Mavs drew within 11 in the second half, Texas eventually eased past the visitors on the strength of 48 bench points.

Senior Royal Ivey played all three guard positions, posting up in the No. 3 spot, as Barnes continues to tinker with his rotations. Ivey had a solid night, adding 10 points (4-of-4 FG), six assists and one steal. In fact, both student sections began chanting Ivey’s name after he was knocked to the floor on a driving layup to make the score 78-61 with 6:52 remaining.

With senior G Brandon Mouton in street clothes (knee and ankle), sophomore G Kenton Paulino saw action for the first time this season. Erratic in the early going (three turnovers), Paulino settled down and contributed a career-best seven points (3-of-6 FG) and two assists in 22 minutes.

"I was anxious because I hadn’t played all year," said Paulino, who suffered a hamstring injury during the preseason. "It was exciting to be out there but I was more nervous than usual."

Junior G Kenny Taylor isn’t shy about launching the treys (almost too unabashed, actually, as Barnes gave him an earful after hastily jacking one up from the arc midway through the second half).

In fact, sophomore F Brad Buckman received not one but two heaping helpings of (a-hem) Barnes encouragement after taking a couple of ill-advised jumpers midway through the first half.

"The first time he told me, ‘Don’t shoot another jumper until you establish your inside game,’" Buckman said. "And then I went and shot a jumper. And then he got really mad at me. But it lit a fire in me. I really understood what he meant. It all starts down low, you know."

The "fire" resulted in Buckman registering the game’s only double-double with 12 points (3-of-9 FG, 5-of-5 FT) and 10 boards (nine defensive).

"I was hoping I could make more shots because 3-for-9 is not good enough for me," Buckman said. "But we came off with a win, which is great."

Senior C James Thomas, slowed by injury, is still seeing limited action. Thomas contributed five points (1-of-3 FG, 3-of-4 FT) and seven boards, but had three turnovers, in 11 minutes of play.

F Derrick Obasohan led all scorers with 25 points (11-of-22 FG, 3-of-5 FG) but the Horns held UTA to 42.9 percent (27-of-63) from the field. Texas controlled the glass and typically limited UTA to one shot, collecting 48 boards (31 defensive). The Horns managed to work the ball inside, shooting 56.5 percent (35-of-62) for the game but probably settled for a few too many three-pointers (8-of-22) against the UTA zone defense.

Texas takes the show on the road to face a tough, 7-1 Providence team, 6 p.m. (CST) Monday in an ESPN national telecast. Barnes, of course, coached at Providence before taking over at Clemson.

"A lot of people love him up there but there are lot of people of hate him up there, too," said Ivey, whose aunt lives in Providence.

Texas opens Big 12 play at home on Jan. 10 against Baylor.

Horns Digest Top Stories