Texas shoots down Ducks 70-57

The #6 Texas Longhorns faced the tough task on Wednesday of overcoming a last second, heartbreaking loss early in the season and having to play a lesser opponent on a quick turn around. The Longhorns responded in a must win game overcoming dead legs and a slow start to beat the Oregon Ducks 70-57.

The Texas Longhorns faced their initial adversity of the 2008-09 season Tuesday night after a tough loss to Notre Dame. If Wednesday was an indication of this team's ability to respond to adversity, Longhorn fans have a team of which they can be proud.

The Longhorns and Ducks entered Wednesday with the task of playing a third game in three days. The start was as one would expect with both teams coming out of the gates sluggish and dead legged.

Oregon got off to the better of the slow starts leading 7-2 at the first T.V. timeout more than four minutes into the game.

The Longhorns (4-1) responded after the stoppage in play and began what would end up being a 25-3 run over the ensuing 12 minutes and 14 seconds. Gary Johnson started the run off the bench as well as the inspired play of Justin Mason and Damion James, who scored nine points during the run.

Trailing 27-10, the Ducks missed free throw after free throw in the first half and could never grab momentum or make a run to cut the deficit. Oregon converted just one of eight free throws during the Longhorn scoring run and a paltry six of 16 in the first half.

The Longhorns went on a scoring drought of their own in the closing minutes of the half getting just a lay-up from Dogus Balbay and a dunk by James. The Longhorns took a 31-20 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Texas again got off to a slow start in the second half as Oregon made a quick four point run to get within seven at 31-24.

The Longhorns responded with six straight points to extend the lead to 37-24 and regain control of the game. Mason scored on a dunk, A.J. Abrams on an 18-foot jumper and Johnson a pair of free throws.

The Ducks (3-3) would never get closer than eight the rest of the game as the Texas ball pressure took its toll on the youthful Oregon team that features eight freshmen.

Damion James, who struggled in the first two games of the Maui Invitational relying on a shaky perimeter oriented game, got back to his strengths Wednesday pounding the offensive glass, scoring in transition and taking smart shots within the flow of the offense.

James led the Longhorns with 21 points and 12 rebounds for his first double double of the season. Mason turned in another terrific all-around performance scoring 18 points, dishing out five assists and pulling down five rebounds. Gary Johnson joined James and Mason in double figures with 12 points.

The Longhorns outscored Oregon 42-18 in the paint.

Joevan Catron led the Ducks with 13 hard earned points. Tajuan Porter and Garrett Sim joined the junior forward in double figures with 11 apiece. Leading scorer and standout freshman Michael Dunigan was limited to nine points and was pestered by a wave of Texas big men for 40 minutes.

Texas connected on 46.0% (29-63) from the field, 33.3% (2-6) from the three-point line and 58.8% (10-17) from the foul line.

The Ducks knocked down 34.6% (18-52) overall, 38.1% (8-21) from three and 48.1% (13-27) from the free throw line.

Texas won the battle of the boards 41-27 and the turnover battle 17-16.

The Good

Justin Mason recovered from one of his worst performances as a Longhorn Monday and put together another big time performance for the second straight game. Mason ran the team as well as anyone has thus far, turned the corner in the ball/screen game, defended, rebounded and made several timely assists. The only negative Wednesday for Mason was his 2-6 from the free throw line.

Mason finished with 18 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block. Tuesday and Wednesday are the best back-to-back games of Mason's career as a Longhorn.

Damion James got back to doing what he does best. Texas worked a two-man game at times away from James, which left the junior jumping jack on the weak side to offensive rebound and score the ball. James did just that. James didn't force shots on the catch, but instead played within the flow and allowed the game to come to him. That is the first time this year he has done such. James pulled down five offensive rebounds and was key in Texas' 42-18 points in the paint advantage. James also scored and ran the floor in transition.

A.J. Abrams was defended by Oregon as well as a team can. The senior didn't force shots and continued to move without the ball even though he was being shadowed. On the defensive end, Abrams did a very good job of defending the three-point line and always had the feet sliding laterally.

Gary Johnson again brought a lot of needed energy off the bench finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds. Johnson scored on an offensive rebound, a dunk in transition and converted all six of his free throw attempts. Johnson hedged aggressively on ball screens and worked hard on both ends for position in the post. As well as defending in the post, Johnson moved the feet and did a very good job of defending on the perimeter in limited chances.

Texas took advantage of a slow hedging and rotating Oregon team in the half court when they desired.

The Longhorns owned the offensive glass grabbing 16 caroms.

The Bad

The Longhorns missed too many one and ones in the second half finishing under 60% again from the line. Clint Chapman has really struggled this year and Mason has to convert at a higher rate as he is getting to the line as much as any other Longhorn in the last couple of games.

Oregon was very slow to show on screens and slow to rotate on dribble penetration middle or baseline and Mason took advantage. Mason created several straight line drives that ended with scores and assists. The problem was Texas continued to work on their motion offense and let the Ducks off the hook in a way. Texas very likely would have score more consistently and created even more offensive rebounding opportunities if they had gotten shots on goal in the ball screen game.

Connor Atchley went scoreless for the first time in a while and is struggling to get in the flow. He didn't post one time, which is a concern as he makes things happen. Texas does need him on the perimeter to help spread the floor and attempt to get into some high/low looks, but he has to be more involved offensively as the season goes along.

Texas has to develop Varez Ward and Dogus Balbay more. To be as good as they want to be, Texas must commit to this. Each played just eight minutes in a third game in three days scenario.

Dexter Pittman is only having success when he receives the ball in a position to score uncontested. If Pittman catches the ball with his back to the basket, he is struggling with feel for the game and the understanding of how to use his body as advantage to create space and quickly turn and get the ball to the basket.

Overall

The Longhorns didn't get the big win they had envisioned, but won two games and return to Austin 4-1. The defensive is very good, not as great as many have said, and the offense is a work in progress to say the least. The Longhorns continue to struggle in their motion offense and have had much more success when they work in the random ball screen offense.

Wednesday was big in that James returned to the player that has gained him national respect and has helped Texas win 56 games in the last two years. Justin Mason is playing the best basketball of his college career and Alexis Wangmene proved to be a player that can help off the bench along with Gary Johnson.


Horns Digest Top Stories