Johnson Debuts, James Dominates

Gary Johnson made his Texas (12-2) debut Wednesday night, but sophomore forward Damion James stole the spotlight from the highly touted freshman with a 29-point, 14-rebound, five-block performance in the Horns' 67-59 win over TCU (8-5) at the Erwin Center.

But, according to Texas head coach Rick Barnes, neither were the star of the game. Nor was D.J. Augustin, who put up 20 points, 18 of them in the second half.

No, according to Barnes, the player who had the most impressive performance in Wednesday night's win was the most surprising possible:

Ian Mooney.

"Maybe I'm stupid at times, because Ian Mooney did exactly what we've been begging three or four post guys to do. He does it every day in practice," said Barnes. "You expect your scholarship players that you recruited buy into that role. He went out there and did exactly what we need from our post guys."

The senior walk-on, who has only played in blowouts, who had scored a grand total of one point in his entire career at the University of Texas, played a career-high 14 minutes against TCU. Mooney only registered two points (instantaneously doubling his career total) and one board, but Barnes said the fight that the 6-foot-3 forward put up on the defensive end blew him away.

"It won't show up on the stat sheet, but I'm telling you, he did so many things defensively. Most of those (defensive) stands were because of him. He was terrific," said Barnes.

Mooney showed up in the game earlier than he had his entire career, but then, even more surprisingly, stayed in. Texas used a significantly different rotation of players than Longhorn fans have seen this season, but Barnes said it all comes down to one word, a word he told his team after Saturday's loss to Wisconsin.

"I said there's one word you better understand, from D.J. Augustin all the way down. Accountability," said Barnes. "D.J. wasn't playing well in the first half. I could have put him back in, played zone, but I wasn't going to do it. Because he wasn't playing well, I wasn't going to do it. That's accountability."

After the game, Mooney said he was completely oblivious to Barnes' intentions of putting him into the game so early.

"You practice and sometimes you get in and sometimes you don't," said Mooney. "I'm happy that I got to have a chance to play and I had a lot of fun out there."

Despite Mooney's defensive performance, if one takes a look at the aforementioned stat sheet, it's not hard to find the star of Wednesday night's game. Sophomore forward Damion James dropped in a career-high 29 points to go with 14 rebounds and five blocks. James was a force for Texas from start to finish, putting up 10 of Texas' first 16 points. But James said he wasn't paying attention to his scoring; it just came naturally with the flow of the game.

"I never look to score. I love to rebound," said James. "I just want to rebound. It's not about me, it's about my teammates and they were great."

James got his shots from all over the floor. Coming into the game, James had made only seven total three-points in his career but hit three against the Horned Frogs.

"I wish Damion would have picked on someone else," said TCU head coach Neil Douherty, jokingly. "We've seen him make shots from mid-range, consistently, but he made deeps one with a hand in his face tonight, consistently."

The return of Gary Johnson ended up being the undercard to the James and Mooney show. The freshman forward got the start and put up five points and five rebounds in 21 minutes on the floor. Johnson said that even through he didn't have a big performance against TCU, he's happy to get through his first collegiate game.

"The first game is always tough, but I feel like I got that behind me and I can focus on getting better offensively and defensively," said Johnson.

James said he didn't think the potential nervousness of Johnson's college debut had anything to do with it.

"No, I don't think he was," said James. "Gary's never nervous. It was just his first game as a college player. He played great for his college debut."

Johnson wasn't the only change to the starting lineup. Sophomore guard Justin Mason started in place of junior guard A.J. Abrams, who hurt his left foot late in Tuesday's practice. Barnes said he didn't know when Abrams would be ready to return, but he isn't treating the injury as serious.

"We don't know yet," said Barnes. "He just rolled his ankle a little bit, swelled up on him."

Augustin had 20 points, but half of those came on free throws (10-of-12) and the sophomore struggled at times, committing three fouls and giving up three turnovers to go with his three assists. Barnes said his point guard needs to play with much more control.

"One of the worst plays of the game was D.J. giving up a foul 45 feet from the basket," said Barnes. "Knowing you're already down a guard, you don't give up those fouls. You don't do it."

Barnes said that consistent, high-level play from Augustin is essential to the Horns' success and that they just haven't been getting it from him.

"He didn't play well. He hasn't played well in three games and he's better than that," said Barnes. "I don't think there's a better player in the country when he brings it and he needs to do more. This team really needs him and this is his team. Great quarterbacks win games and great point guards win games. That's the bottom line with point guards."

Barnes said he has no qualms with sitting any player on the team and that, maybe, he should have been playing Mooney a lot earlier than he did.

"Ian does what he does every day and it all goes back to one word. Accountability," said Barnes.

Texas next hosts Saint Mary's (Calif.) on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. at the Erwin Center.

Horns Digest Top Stories