Hoops: Tucker, Freshmen Pace Texas In Opener

For the first time since the 1986-1987 season, the Texas men’s basketball team kicked off the season with two freshman starters. The Horns, featuring newcomers F LaMarcus Aldridge and G Daniel Gibson in a starting role, beat Texas State 95-63 in Friday night's Erwin Center season opener.

Both freshman scored more than 10 points in each of Texas’ two exhibition games, and on Friday, the highly touted recruits continued that streak. Aldridge scored 11 points* and Gibson added 10* after getting the starting nod in both halves.

Texas took the lead from the opening tip and controlled the scoreboard for most of the game. The Longhorns reached their first double-digit lead of the game after a pair of three-pointers off the hands of G Kenton Paulino and G Kenny Taylor.

Forward P.J. Tucker proved to be the game’s star after leading the Horns with 18 points*. The Bobcats kept the game respectable by trailing only by 15 at the break, but Tucker helped blow the game open in the second half.

After exchanging buckets following the break, a three-pointer by G Sydmill Harris started a 16-4 run for the Horns.

It looks as though Texas plans to repeat last season’s strategy of using the full squad of suited players, as the Longhorn bench amounted for 35 of the team’s points.

The Horns factored in the three-point shot in the victory, as Gibson, Paulino and Harris each contributed from downtown. Texas finished with 13 treys, but according to head coach Rick Barnes, the three-point shot will not be a focus of his offense in the future.

"We are not going to live and die by the three," Barnes said.

Tucker finished the game with a team-high 18 points, as many of his points came in razzle-dazzle fashion, including a big first-half dunk and a crowd-pleasing second-half alley-oop slam.

Tucker proved in the opener his ability to transfer positions on the court to play more of a small forward role this year.

"Anywhere on the court," said Tucker after the game, "As long as I’m on the court, I feel comfortable."

Texas State’s Josh Naylor provided the only offensive threat for the Bobcats, as the guard racked up 11 points in the first eight minutes of play. The Texas defense responded quickly and shut out the Bobcats’ offensive leader the rest of the game.

Barnes’ only concern during the game occurred after the first half, as the Bobcats were shooting above 40 percent from the field. The Texas coach stressed with his players the importance of keeping opponents from ending the game with an above 40 shooting percentage.

Texas, ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press poll and No. 15 in the ESPN/USA Today Preseason coaches poll coming into the contest, has now posted 16 consecutive wins over the Bobcats.

Freshman Mike Williams failed to make an appearance on the court, as the newcomer has not yet been deemed academically eligible. UT Vice President for Administration and Legal Affairs Patti Ohlendorf said The University is setting up a 3-person panel to assess Williams' situation. The members of the panel will be from outside the UT Athletic Department. The panel will likely not make decisions until after Thanksgiving and then will collaborate with NCAA to get the final decision on his eligibility.

"All problems occurred prior to him coming to UT," Ohlendorf said. "We feel confident he will play at some point this season, hopefully sooner than later."

*The original version of this story misstated the point totals for several players.

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