Longhorns smother St. Joe's 68-50

The #6 Texas Longhorns put together another suffocating defensive performance Monday morning in Maui handling St. Joe's 68-50 behind the hot first half shooting of A.J. Abrams and the terrific play off the bench of Gary Johnson and Alexis Wangmene.

The Texas Longhorns applied the full court man-to-man ball pressure from beginning to end suffocating the St. Joe's Hawks (1-2). The Longhorns, a 68-50 winner, pressured every inbound both full court and half court making life tough the Hawks.

While the defense was stellar again for the Longhorns, the offense sputtered in the first half with Connor Atchley on the bench for the last 14:29 of the first half. To add to the offensive woes, Justin Mason sat next to Atchley for much of the first half as well with two fouls.

With two of the key players on the bench, A.J. Abrams stepped up on the offensive side of the floor scoring 14 first half points to go along with an assist on a drive kick to Damion James for a corner three-pointer. James struggled with unforced turnovers, forced shots and dropping an easy pass that would have been a two handed dunk, but continued to play hard and make plays.

The Longhorns (3-0) also received a big boost off the bench in the last four minutes of the half after St. Joe's worked to get back into the game. Sophomore forward Alexis Wangmene gave the Longhorns the best four minutes of his short career with six key points and four big rebounds to close the half. Two of the baskets came on offensive rebounds as the Longhorns took a 37-28 lead into the half.

The second half was more of the same ball pressure defense. An 11-2 run in the first five minutes of the second half allowed the Longhorns to gain a comfortable lead at 50-37.

The Texas offense in the second half centered around a couple of key mid-range shots by Atchley, key plays by Dexter Pittman and Gary Johnson scoring in transition and around the rim in the half court.

St. Joe's mixed up their defense in both halves playing a few possessions of 1-2-2 zone and a box and one on Abrams in the second half.

St. Joe's struggled the entire game getting quality looks at the basket with a couple of late three-pointers putting the Hawks over 30% for the game at 30.4%.

Ahmad Nivins led the Hawks with 14 points and 13 rebounds for his third straight double-double to begin the season.

The Hawks converted just four of 23 three-pointers with two coming in the last two minutes of the game.

Abrams led the Longhorns with 17 points. Abrams received help from James with 14 points, and Gary Johnson with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

A Look at the Numbers

Texas shot 42.9% (24-56) overall, 40.0% (6-15) from the three-point line and 73.7% (14-19) from the foul line.

St. Joe's converted just 29.3% (17-58) from the field, 19.0% (4-21) from three and 66.7% (12-18) from the free throw line.

The Longhorns won the battle of the boards 39-38.

Texas won the turnover battle 18-16.

The Good

The Longhorns were dominant again on the defensive end for the third straight game. The Longhorns have made the switch to pressure the ball on every inbounds play either full court or half court.

The hedges were quick and tight on the ball screens by the Texas big men. The defensive rotation was quick and the close outs under control.

St. Joe's didn't have a quality ball handler, so the pressure defense kept the Hawks out of any offensive rhythm. The only success the Hawks enjoyed was during a short stretch in the second half when they got the ball to the middle of the floor and attacked the pressure.

Texas did a wonderful job of defending Darrell Govens. The top three-point shooter for St. Joe's knocked down his only clean look from three in the final seconds of the first half. The Longhorns guarded him tight and closed out on him quickly and under control for entire game. Govens ended up two of five from three.

Texas had a great day shooting free throws. Great for this team thus far knocking down 73.7%.

Gary Johnson continued his strong play off the bench with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Johnson was active on defense. Johnson blocked out consistently and fought for the traffic rebounds.

Alexis Wangmene may have played his best game as a Longhorn finishing with eight points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot. His play on both ends of the floor in the final four minutes of the first half kept the Longhorns from being up only two or four points at the break.

Dexter Pittman played physical on the boards and made a nice dish to James for a two handed dunk.

Abrams not only did a good job scoring the ball, but also made a couple of nice plays for assists. In the first half, a drive and kick to the corner ended with a James three. In the second half, he made a nice underhanded look away pass to Gary Johnson for a two handed dunk.

The Bad

Unforced turnovers were numerous and far too frequent. James had three unforced turnovers. Justin Mason was indecisive on middle penetration, which is unacceptable for a junior with as many starts and minutes as Mason has played. Mason has to take the open mid-range jumper and give his teammates a chance to crash the offensive glass instead of forcing passes through defenders. Mason totaled five turnovers.

Turnovers equal poor offensive efficiency. The Longhorns are still working on their motion offense, but they have to start seeing better results to have confidence to run the motion against quality opponents.

Damion James' shot selection in the first half was real bad. James took quick shots, forced jump shots out of the rhythm of the game. James did score in transition in the second half but struggled from the field converting just five of 15 field goals.

Varez Ward played too fast and without any control. In the second half, he made two unforced turnovers and was pulled from the game. One was a three quarter court pass attempt to Atchley, not in transition, with Texas up more than 15 points. That is a situation in which Ward has to have some patience and value the clock and possession.

Clint Chapman missed a pair of easy baskets in the first half. The first was a dunk and the second an offensive put back attempt.

The Longhorns left too many points out there in the first half today. The nine-point halftime lead should have been more than 15.

Connor Atchley's foul trouble basically shut down the Texas offense in the first half. Without Atchley on the floor, the Longhorns' floor spacing suffers, the ball screen game is non-existent and the hoops IQ is not the same.

The Longhorns gave up 16 offensive rebounds, which spells trouble against a Notre Dame team that spreads the floor with precise spacing and send two players to the offensive glass at all times.


Monday was another double-digit victory against a team that doesn't have ball handlers to create transition opportunities against the Texas full court ball pressure. That will not be the case Tuesday against Notre Dame as the pressure defense and smart rotation and close out ability will be tested for 40 minutes.

The Longhorns will have to play their best game of the year on the offensive end and the glass tomorrow.

Horns Digest Top Stories