St. Joe's enters the Maui Invitational 1-1 on the season after defeating Rider 69-57 to begin the season November 14. On November 18, the Hawks surrendered a second half double-digit lead to Holy Cross before eventually losing in overtime 73-69.
Senior forward Ahmad Nivins has been the top player for the Phil Martelli coached squad through two games. His rugged, yet skilled play has been tough to stop for the opponent and enters the Maui Invitational averaging 21 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game.
St. Joe's lost key part off of last year's team and is searching for depth. In the first two games of the season, six players have played the bulk of the minutes with two others playing sparse minutes.
Senior guard Tasheed Carr has been a consistent contributor for the Hawks since transferring from Iowa State and is receiving plenty of help from backcourt mate Darrin Govens this year. Govens is the team's second leading scorer at 16 points per game, while Carr checks in at 12.0 per contest.
For the Longhorns, the Texas guards have been all about the defense and applying consistent ball pressure during the 2-0 start. In two games, the Longhorns have forced 44 turnovers and are holding their opponents to 28.7% from the field.
In wins over Stetson (68-38) and Tulane (76-51), Texas has knocked down 50.9% from the field led by the scoring of A.J. Abrams, 18.0 points per game, and the all-around play of Damion James and Connor Atchley. James enters Monday averaging 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and two assists per game while Atchley checks in at 13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots per game.
The key area of concern for the Longhorns in the first two games has been the dismal display at the free throw line knocking down just 51.0% in the two wins.
Monday's tip is set for 2pm central time and will be televised on ESPN2.
The Longhorns will play the winner or loser of the Indiana-Notre Dame with the game tipping-off 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Texas-St. Joe's game. On Wednesday, there is a distinct possibility of a top ten match-up with Notre Dame at 6pm on ESPN2.
A Look at the Coaches
Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 451-227, including 249-93 at Texas. Barnes is 16-10 in NCAA Tournament games at Texas.
St. Joe's is coached by Phil Martelli, who is in his 14th season as the headman of the Atlantic 10 program. Martelli owns a career record of 262-153, including 6-5 in the NCAA Tournament. Martelii is a four time Atlantic 10 coach of the year award winner.
A Look at the Numbers
Texas shoots 50.9% from the field, 39.3% from three and 51.0% from the free-throw line.
The Hawks convert 45.9% overall, 29.6% from the three-point line and 73.2% from the foul line.
The Longhorns surrender just 28.7% shooting and own a +10.0 rebound advantage.
St. Joe's gives up 37% defensively, but check in with a -6.5 rebounding margin.
The Longhorns are committing 17 turnovers per game, while forcing 22. St. Joe's is turning the ball over 16 times per contest.
The Longhorn Starters
G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (5.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.5 steals)
G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (18.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists)
F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists)
F Connor Atchley 6-11 Sr. (13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 blocks)
C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds)
Key reserves include 6-7 sophomore Gary Johnson (8.5 points, 6.5 rebounds), 6-1 sophomore Dogus Balbay (2.0 points, 2.0 steals), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (2.0 points, 3.0 rebounds), 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.5 points, 3.5 rebounds) and 6-10 sophomore Matt Hill.
The Hawk Starters
G Tasheed Carr 6-4 Sr. (12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists)
G Darrin Govens 6- Jr. (16.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals)
G Garrett Williamson 6-5 Jr. (3.0 points, 3.0 assists)
F Idris Hilliard 6-7 So. (9.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks)
F Ahmad Nivins 6-9 Sr. (21.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks)
Key reserves are 6-2 freshman Chris Prescott (6.0 points, 1.5 assists), 5-11 sophomore Charay Bentley and 6-8 freshman Bryant Irwin.
Keys to the Game
The Longhorns will face the toughest task to date on Monday. Nivins is easily the top post player the Texas has faced and their ability to dislodge and push him away from the basket will be key. The Texas big men will have to continuously bump Nivins and not allow him to cross the face of a big man without some sort of contact.
Unlike many big men, Nivins is a good free throw shooter, so the Longhorns have to be aware of that and force the senior forward to make contested shots. If the Texas big men are going to foul Nivins, make sure he doesn't get a shot to the rim. Make him convert two free throws, but do not give him and one opportunities because he'll convert.
The top three-point shooter for the Hawks is Govens, who has connected on five of 15 this year and 37.6% last year. Govens has to be accounted for in defensive rotation, but has to be closed out on under control. The junior has the ability to blow by off the bounce if Texas doesn't close out under control.
On the defensive end, Govens has quick hands and will pick ones pocket. The Longhorn being defended by Govens must attack him off the bounce and not turn their back to him. If the Longhorn guards turn their back against Govens in reaction to ball pressure, he will make the steal.
St. Joe's has played man and zone this year. Due to the lack of depth and the three games in three days demands of the tournament, expect zone from St. Joe's and quite possibly a high percentage of zone.
Against the zone, Texas is at their best when Mason is up top and Abrams is on the wing or running the baseline. The Longhorns can't settle for the three, but has to keep the ball moving and allow guys like Atchley and Gary Johnson to flash to the high post and create some high/low looks.
The Longhorns have a decided advantage in depth and length in the game, so they must force the tempo early with full court ball pressure and rebound the basketball to create the pace desired.
Forcing Carr and Govens to work on the offensive end the length of the court on every possession will pay dividends in the last ten minutes of the game, as St. Joe's doesn't have the depth to keep them fresh against a defensive team such as Texas.
Against Holy Cross, St. Joe's didn't react well to ball pressure and committed several unforced turnovers as Holy Cross made the run to get the game into overtime.
Dogus Balbay can't play timidly with the ball and has to look to attack the zone off the bounce.