Texas Upends UTSA In Season Opener

Texas used a 13-0 second-half run to overcome a sluggish start and UTSA's half court offense en route to a 58-37 season-opening win Monday at the Erwin Center.

Points came at a premium considering the Roadrunners' game plan was to shorten possessions by draining the shot clock and given that tenacious defense has become a Longhorn trademark under head coach Rick Barnes. The outcome represented the fewest points Texas scored in a season-opening win in 25 years. At the same time, the 37 points is the fewest Texas has allowed in a season opener since 1945. In fact, more total points were scored in Texas' football game Saturday against Texas Tech than the Horns' basketball opener.

"They tried to hold the ball," sophomore guard D.J. Augustin said. "That was their play. We had to play harder and get the ball out of their hands."

But like a heaping spoonful of foul-tasting medicine, this one may eventually prove beneficial for Barnes' bunch.

"This was probably good for us," Barnes said. "We're going to play a lot of teams that try to spread us out and play a game of keep-away."

Texas played without true freshman forward Gary Johnson, who has still not been cleared to play in regular season games because of a heart condition, but as expected, Augustin led all scorers with 19 points (6-of-13). Justin Mason (12 points) and A.J. Abrams (11) were the only other Horns to tally double-digits but only after the two combined for 1-of-10 shooting in the first period.

"They missed some open shots," Barnes understated. "They got a little tentative, and they can't do that."

Texas eventually hit 20-of-45 FGs (44.4 percent) after misfiring on 12 of its first 17 shots. The team's' first FG of the 2007-08 season came courtesy of a Damion James steal and slam, trimming an early 4-1 Roadrunner lead. A pair of Augustin treys sparked a 9-0 Texas run. Devin Gibson's NBA three drew the visitors to within one at 18-17 with 2:49 remaining until the break. Augustin's spinning lay-up gave Texas a 22-19 halftime lead following what has to be the ugliest 20 minutes of basketball you'll see all year.

Abrams was 0-for-5 from the field during that span while 6-10 center Connor Atchley never took a shot. Barnes even substituted walk-on Ian Mooney for Mason late in the first period. Texas tried to get big man Dexter Pittman involved by setting two plays for him but "he messed up both times," Barnes said. (Out of fairness to Pittman, the sophomore center had been limited most of the preseason with a foot injury.)

But the undersized and short-handed Roadrunners -- injuries sidelined three of UTSA's frontline players -- held a 17-12 rebounding edge at intermission.

"I really thought at halftime that we had a chance to win," Gibson said.

Texas opened the second half with a turnover, a shot clock violation and Abrams' third foul. Augustin's driving lay-up gave him exactly half of Texas' 28 points and six-point lead. Then Mason found his game.

His aggressive rebound and traditional three-point play made it a 31-25 contest. He followed with a 17-footer off the ball fake.

"I think the momentum shifted at that time," Mason said.

Augustin knocked down three FTs after he was fouled on an attempt outside the arc to spot Texas its first double-digit lead at 36-25. Freshman Alexis Wangmene's first points as a Longhorn came on a traditional three-point play as part of a 13-0 run.

The run resulted, in part, from Texas extending its defense, taking control of the offensive glass. Gibson was the game's leading scorer at halftime with 11 points but "was throwing up from exhaustion", according to UTSA coach Brooks Thompson. The freshman guard went without a FG during the entire second period.

The lid finally came off the bucket for Abrams, who drained a pair of treys off screens to make it a 47-28 Texas advantage. The next time Mooney checked back in, Texas had built a 20-point lead. Mason's baseline jumper capped the scoring for Texas.

The Horns eventually won the battle of the boards, 29-27. Texas limited UTSA to 26.7 percent (12-of-45) from the field for the game.

"That will win you a lot of games," Barnes said, "even when we played as bad (offensively) as we did."

Texas returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday, against UC Davis in the opening round of the StubHub Legends Classic.

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