Texas Shoots Down Chicago State

Sophomore guard A.J. Abrams drained a personal-best eight treys to lead Texas past Chicago State, 92-66, Friday in the Austin Regional's championship game of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic. The Horns advance to face Michigan State in the semifinals Thursday at New York's Madison Square Garden.

A.J. Abrams led all scorers with 28 points (9-of-13 FG) and was named the Regional's MVP. Abrams' long-range barrage from outside the arc was two treys shy of the school record, but he set his career-best treys during the first nine minutes of the ballgame.

"They were leaving the corner open," Abrams said. "I was going from corner to corner getting some open spots."

Freshman phenom F Kevin Durant was double-teamed most of the night and still notched a double-double with 21 points (6-of-15 FG) and 13 rebounds (12 on the defensive end). He also had a game-best five blocked shots. Silky smooth point guard D.J. Augustin contributed 13 points (5-of-7 FG) and nine assists while fellow freshman F Damion James also finished in double figures with 14 points (4-of-7 FG).

Chicago State junior G David Holston (all 5-7 of him) scored 43 points against St. Bonaventure Thursday but was held to seven points Friday, misfiring on 10-of-11 from outside the arc.

The Horns shot 48.3 percent from the field (29-of-60), including 13-of-24 from three-point land. The Cougars shot 51.4 percent (18-of-35) in the first period but were just 9-of-33 (27.3 percent) after intermission. Texas was 21-of-28 (75 percent) from the charity stripe.

"I've always thought if you can keep a team under 40 percent then you've done a good job," Barnes said. "They shot ball well early, but most of those were second-chance points."

Two games out of the block, and it's evident this very young Texas team should be a dynamo come March, if not sooner. Augustin is Texas' best floor general since T.J. Ford while Durant, the highest rated prospect ever to sign with Texas, looks every bit like he'll live up to his considerable hype. But there are still glaring signs of Texas' growing pains, and that's why Barnes wants to address them in tournaments this month.

Texas' post defense left much to be desired against the smaller Cougars. The Horns outrebounded Chicago State 43-37 but needs to block-out better on missed shots. The visitors tallied more second-chance points (19 to 13) and points in the paint (36 to 28). The dribble penetration that Longhorn guards allowed put undue pressure on post players.

"If we were as good as we're going to be right now," Barnes said, "I'd be really concerned."

With Texas leading 82-62, Barnes called timeout at the 3:37 mark because he thought his squad was standing around.

"We were up 20 and not playing," Barnes said, before adding "D.J. needs to own the last four minutes of every ballgame."

The courtside chat resulted in an Augustin steal and layup, followed by James' blocked shot.

Texas was 8-of-11 from outside the arc during the first nine minutes of the ballgame.

Texas grabbed a 15-12 lead behind five treys, three from Abrams. James followed with an old-fashioned three-point play. Freshman G Justin Mason's layup made it 31-22, capping a 10-2 Texas run. The Horns went from man defense to a 2-3 zone with 11 minutes remaining until the break. They would mix defenses the rest of the way as the Cougars frequently beat Texas off the dribble in the early going.

"We played more zone tonight than we've worked on in practice," Barnes said.

Chicago State chipped away at the Longhorn lead, trimming the deficit, 32-28, with David Halson's jumper. Durant hit an 18-foot jumper before Abrams drained his six trey of the ballgame. Augustin's trey from the left wing gave Texas its first double-digit lead of the night before freshman G Justin Mason followed with a traditional three-point play. A pair of Durant jumpers gave Texas its largest lead of the first half at 55-38 with 1:38 until intermission.

The Horns had just one turnover during the first 20 minutes but committed five give-aways during the first 4:30 of the second period.

"The part that most disturbed me was the way we came out after halftime," Barnes said. "We didn't listen and didn't execute. The turnovers and lack of execution coming out is the thing that bothers me the most."

The visitors pulled within ten, 56-46, before Abram's trey from the parking lot made it a 60-46 contest. But the fireworks were just starting. C Connor Atchley's block led to Durant's fastbreak jam. Next trip down the court, James followed with a slam of his own on the feed from Atchley to rebuild the Longhorn lead at 64-46. Abrams' eighth trey made it a runaway at 71-51.

Big guy Dexter Pittman checked in with little more than nine minutes remaining. (The 6-10, 310-pounder has now lost 70 pounds since enrolling last June. In fact, the freshman did two hours of cardiovasular training prior to each of Longhorn game this week). He finished the game with two points (2-of-4 FT).

Texas' game against Michigan State is slated for a 6 p.m. (CST) tip-off and will be televised on ESPN2.

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