Hoops: Aldridge Comes Up Big In Return

With C LaMarcus Aldridge back on the court for Texas, the Longhorns rolled past St. Mary's University 113-49 in the season’s first exhibition game Wednesday night at the Erwin Center.

Aldridge, who missed most of last season after suffering a hip injury in January, finished with a team-high 21 points and seven rebounds. More notably, he showed no signs of any carry-over from last year’s injury.

"I felt great out there," said Aldridge. "I didn’t have any pain or any soreness, and I’m back to myself."

Aldridge’s performance did not shock head coach Rick Barnes.

"He has been working hard in our intense practices, so I’m not surprised," said Barnes. "He can run all day long now and not get tired. He did a lot of good things out there tonight."

The exhibition not only gave Aldridge a chance to put an end to his basketball absence, it also allowed F P.J. Tucker to return to action. Tucker, who also missed most of last year, returned from an academic ineligibility to score 18 points and man the court for 24 minutes in his pre-season debut.

Despite impressive numbers, head coach Rick Barnes sees room for improvement in Tucker.

"He was really amped up out there," said Barnes. "He came in very hyper tonight, but he was playing way too hard and wasn’t as clean as he normally will be."

The surprise performance of the game belonged to freshman PG A.J. Abrams. Abrams scored 11 points but really introduced himself to Longhorn fans with his flashy play. The newcomer led his squad with six assists and five steals and proved himself worthy of subbing in for G Daniel Gibson.

Aldridge and Tucker started things off for the Horns, exchanging baskets in the first several minutes to give Texas a 15-0 jump. A few minutes later, G Craig Winder got in on the action. Winder, a junior but newcomer for Texas, threw down a dunk that created a welcoming ovation from fans in attendance en route to scoring seven points on the night, and Texas never looked back.

Another Longhorn newcomer, G J.D. Lewis, also looked impressive in his debut, scoring 14 points, including six points just before Texas went into the half with a commanding 60-23 lead.

The Horns went on a 12-4 run to start the second half after G Kenton Paulino connected with Tucker on a long-range alley-oop pass that brought fans to their feet.

The Longhorns’ defense kept up the intensity in the second half, allowing Div-II St. Mary's to shoot just 34.8 percent in the game, while the Horns finished 60 percent from the field.

The second half provided Abrams time to shine, as the freshman stole a pass and ran it the length of the court for two points. When St. Mary inbounded the ball, Abrams stole it again and tacked on another quick bucket.

Six Texas players finished with double-digits in points, and apparently none on the Texas roster took the game lightly.

"It felt like a regular season game," said Aldridge. "We were all really excited before the game and all gave our best effort."

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