Texas Tops Oral Roberts in Defensive Struggle

It was a poor shooting night for Rick Barnes' Longhorns, but Texas stood strong on the defensive end in a 66-56 win over Oral Roberts on Tuesday to extend the Longhorns' record 11-0.

Last week it was defense. This week it was offense.

A missed dunk from Damion James off a missed runner from D.J. Augustin to close out the first half encapsulated Texas' offensive struggles as the Horns went into the locker room with a 33-33 tie.

Connor Atchley

The Horns had clearly stepped it up on the defensive end, the main focus in practice this week, but on offense the shots were not falling.

"In the first half, we were standing around and hanging D.J. out to dry," said junior guard A.J. Abrams, who went scoreless scoreless the entire first half.

Augustin himself went 3-for-11 in the first half and Texas couldn't get anything going. Texas head coach Rick Barnes said his team needed to work much harder on creating opportunities.

"In the first half, we stood around way too much," said Barnes. "There was no flow to our offense. For whatever reason, we didn't run as well as we'd been running."

Texas moved much better in the second half, creating more scoring chances, but shots continued to rattle out. The Horns actually shot worse in the second half (37.9 percent) than the first (40.6 percent). The difference, though, was Augustin getting to the line. The sophomore point guard went 11-of-12 from the free throw line on the game to seal the 66-56 victory for Texas, which moved to 11-0. Oral Roberts fell to 6-4 with the loss.

"They didn't shoot any better in the second half," said Oral Roberts head coach Scott Sutton. "They made 16 free throws and we made six. That's D.J. Augustin. He's a great player and you have to give him credit for that."

D.J. Augustin

As much as his teammates struggled, Connor Atchley continued his hot play unabated. Coming off a career high 26 against Texas State, the junior F/C went 4-for-5 in the first half, including 3-for-3 from behind the three-point arc, for 11 of his team's 33 points. With Augustin stepping up late in the game, Atchley let his teammate takeover and finished with 16 points and five boards.

Augustin had 24, Atchley had 16, Abrams had 11 and James had 9, but according to Barnes, the game's most valuable player was a Longhorn who only scored two points.

"Justin Mason, in my mind, is the MVP of this game," said Barnes.

Justin Mason

The sophomore guard went strong to the rim all game and pulled down 10 rebounds. Augustin agreed that Mason was a huge part of Texas getting a lead and holding it after half time.

"In the second half, Justin Mason came out with energy and he sparked the defensive rebounding effort," said Augustin. "Once he got in there and got some rebounds, everybody started getting after it."

The shots weren't falling, but Texas was smart with the basketball for most of the contest, only turning the ball over eight times with the first one coming with 5:20 to go in the first half.

As successful as the team has been in the first 11 games of the season, a major issue for Texas is depth. Barnes said he would have liked to get significantly more minutes for his younger players

"I wanted some of the those younger guys to play more, but they didn't because they didn't get done what we needed to get done. They didn't rebound the ball," said Barnes.

Alexis Wangmene, Dexter Pittman and Clint Chapman, all post players, were the only Longhorns to come off the bench during the game and they combined for three fouls (all by Pittman) and only a single rebound (also by Pittman). Barnes said he hopes to get young bench more time, but only if the players step up the effort and the focus.

Clint Chapman

"If they don't pay attention, they're going to sit. Sooner or later, that sitting has an effect on their head and maybe they'll get the point," said Barnes.

That bench also got a little shorter when it was announced that sophomore forward Matt Hill underwent surgery on his left heel and will miss the entirety of the 2007-2008 season. Hill has not played all year as doctors evaluated his foot and eventually determined surgery was necessary.

The major force for the Golden Eagles in the first half was 6-foot-10 center Shawn King, who put up eight point, but Texas played tough underneath in the second. King was held scoreless in the second half and fouled out with 2:56 to go in the game.

It was a balanced offensive effort for Oral Roberts, but the Golden Eagles were led by guard Adam Liberty, who finished with 12 points to go with his eight boards. Liberty was followed by bench players Robert Jarvis and Marchello Vealy, who contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively. Oral Roberts looked about as bad as Texas didn't shooting, hitting only 23-of-62 shots (37.1 percent) on the night.

After the game, Barnes said that after the poor defensive showing against Texas State, his team might have overcompensated a bit.

A.J. Abrams

"We didn't talk about offense much going into this game," Barnes admitted. "We talked about getting better defensively and we did that."

Oral Roberts plays Oklahoma State on Thursday night. It will be a match-up of the Sutton brothers, as Oral Roberts' Scott faces his sibling Sean, the Cowboy's head coach. Texas next heads to the Palace at Auburn Hills to play Michigan State on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. and the game broadcast will be on ESPN.

Horns Digest Top Stories