Barnes Gets 400th Win

Texas beat Texas State on Saturday, 96-70, to give Texas head coach Rick Barnes his 400th career win. The Horns beat the Bobcats with points coming from some unexpected places.

This is a different basketball team. In New York against St. John's and Michigan State, Texas (7-2) was youthful, inexperienced and mistake-prone. In Phoenix against Gonzaga, when the Big Two of A.J. Abrams and Kevin Durant had their struggles, the rest of the team did as well. But after Texas' thrilling 76-75 overtime victory against the LSU Tigers, the demeanor of the Longhorns has changed.

The Big Two struggled again, drawing most of the defensive attention of the Bobcats (4-6). Abrams made only two of his eleven shots during the game and Durant, looking unusually fatigued, spent most of the game on the bench, finishing with 11 points.

But Saturday's Big Two weren't Abrams and Durant. They were D.J. Augustin and Justin Mason.

"When they're hugging up on Kevin or A.J., it just opens up the lane for me or Mason to score," said Augustin.

Augustin followed up his 25-point outing against LSU with a 24-point, 5-assist game against Texas State. The Big 12 Conference Rookie of the Week is taking control of the Texas offense more and more each game and is setting the tempo with his drives and dishes.

"He's a tremendous creator for their offense," said Texas State head coach Doug Davalos. "We couldn't keep him out of the paint. That's just a talented player."

Augustin's aggressive drives also allowed him to get to the line all game. Half his points came on free throws as the freshman converted 12 of his 13 attempts. It was a solid free throw shooting game for Texas, as the Horns hit 35-of-48 attempts (72.9%).

Mason was inserted into the starting lineup early in the season and is earning his spot on the floor. Praised in the early goings for his defensive prowess, the freshman had 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting and played for more of the game than any other Longhorn, getting 30 minutes on the floor.

It was also a big game for Damion James. The freshman forward had his second double-double of the year, putting in 10 points and grabbing 10 hard-fought boards. James has become a fighter under the basket for Texas.

"We've turned him loose a little bit," said Barnes. "That's where he's at his best, when he's got a free flowing mindset and is able to create some havoc."

The obvious pattern to this article is the word "freshman," but Barnes said that he's enjoyed the experience of bringing this team up.

"Part of the fun thing about being with so many young guys is you learn more about them every game," said Barnes.

This season has also been a learning experience for the players as well. One of the most important aspects of the game that they are starting develop is communication.

"The communication has been good the past few games," said Mason. "Communication is a real big key for us in winning and losing basketball games."

To help develop his team's on-the-floor communication skills, the week before the LSU game Barnes had his team run four minute games in practice with no coaching given to them whatsoever. The players started having to rely on each other for adjustments.

"If you talk to them all the time, they don't have time to talk to each other," said Barnes. "Then when you tell them to talk, they don't know what to talk about."

Augustin says the increased communication has helped his ball distribution as the point guard for the Runnin' Horns.

"As the game goes on we're going to get to know where each other are," said Augustin.

With the win, Rick Barnes has now compiled a career record of 400-212. Barnes was quick to defer credit from himself after the game.

"I've had a lot of really good players and a lot of good coaches," said Barnes, "and it just means I'm getting old."

All-in-all it was another game for this team to help find themselves. Texas State put together some good runs midway through the game, but in the end couldn't keep up with the Longhorns. Barnes said that the Bobcats' pressing attack will help the Horns prepare for the weeks ahead.

"We haven't played a team to this point that's going to play with this sort of tempo and coming up we're about to play some teams that will," said Barnes.

Texas starts that run of teams with their next opponent, Arkansas. The Horns take on the Razorbacks in Austin on Wednesday, Dec. 20th at 8:00 p.m.

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