Texas Triple- Whammies Rice

Damion James, A.J. Abrams and D.J. Augustin each scored 18 points to lead Texas past Rice, 80-54, Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston.

No. 4/5 Texas is off to its best start in 26 years, raising its mark to 9-0 (the 1981-82 Longhorns opened at 14-0, but only won two games the rest of the season following the untimely injury to F Mike Wacker).

Despite the 18-point showing from three starters, the game's top individual performance belonged to Damion James. The sophomore F posted his fourth-straight double-double on a 7-of-13 night and a season-best 17 rebounds. He also added a block, an assist and a steal. James insists his goal is 20 boards per contest, but head coach Rick Barnes would certainly settle for the kind of consistent play that James is providing during his second year in a Longhorn uniform.

A.J. Abrams continues to showcase a midrange game that had been missing from his repertoire during his three-year tenure. D.J. Augustin hit his Big 12 Conference-leading average of seven assists; his stat sheet included three steals and no turnovers. C Connor Atchley also enjoyed another solid outing, contributing eight points (3-of-6), nine rebounds and three blocked shots. Dexter Pittman also had a career-best three assists to go along with seven points and five rebounds.

Texas shot 47 percent (29-of-63) for the game while holding to Owls to 36 percent (23-of-64) from the floor. The Horns connected on 6-of-16 shots (37.5 percent) from three-point range; the Owls were 5-of-14 (35.7 percent) from outside the arc. The Horns hit 16-of-22 foul shots while the Owls were just 3-of-11 from the charity stripe. Texas out-rebounded Rice, 49-36.

Afterwards, Barnes' only complaint was his team's second-period lapse in intensity. And he wanted better play from his post players. Oh, and Barnes wanted a greater edge in rebounding. Rice never led in this one but, for the second straight game, Texas saw a 21-point lead trimmed in half before pulling away from an out-manned foe. The up-tempo Horns have also won eight of their first nine ballgames by at least 15 points.

Texas set the tone early with its 2-2-1 zone press, forcing five turnovers in the first 10 minutes and saddling the Owls with early foul trouble. Texas would eventually convert 13 Rice turnovers into 21 points.

The Horns used a 13-0 run to make it a 30-10 game with just under nine minutes remaining in the opening period. Atchely's straight-on trey kept Rice at bay, 41-21. The Horns took a 47-29 lead into the locker room.

Texas opened the second period misfiring on nine of its first 12 shots as Rice trimmed the Longhorn lead with a 12-2 run, 56-46. But James' put-back launched a rally that saw Texas outscore Rice 24-8 during the final 10 minutes. James' dunk, on the assist from Athcley, capped an 8-0 run to get final separation from a shorthanded yet scrappy Owl team.

Mason's trey followed Abram's long-range bucket to rebuild the Texas advantage, 71-51. Augustin followed his trey with a pair of free throws to cap the scoring for Texas.

Texas returns to action next Saturday, 5:00 p.m. (CST) against Texas State at the Erwin Center.

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