The Longhorns enter Saturday as one of the top defensive teams in the country giving up just 57 points per game and limiting opponents to 35.2% from the field, both good for top twenty in the nation.
Texas State will take the court with a 3-4 record coming off of a 100-94 loss at Rice on December 6. The Bobcats are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country led by senior guard Brent Benson, who has hit 31 of 55 from long range on the season. Akron transfer John Rybak gives the Bobcats two three–point shooters that can string points together in bunches.
The Longhorns come into Saturday having received their best bench contributions in a game this season. Varez Ward, Clint Chapman, Gary Johnson and Dogus Balbay all had a hand in the win over Villanova in different ways.
Ward pulled down a career high eight rebounds. The freshman guard also attacked the basket and made a couple of nifty passes to teammates. Chapman was active on both ends of the floor snatching six rebounds, while Johnson pulled down his season average of seven rebounds and blocked a career high three shots. Balbay was a menace defensively against Scottie Reynolds and was key in giving Justin Mason a breather defensively.
The Bobcats have recorded wins over Cal State-Fullerton, Huston-Tillotson and Southwest Assemblies of God, while dropping games to San Francisco (88-74), Wyoming (97-96), Northern Colorado (105-93) and most recently Rice (100-94).
Saturday's tip is set for 12pm central time and will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest in the state of Texas.
A Look at the Coaches
Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 456-228, including 254-94 at Texas. Barnes is 16-10 in NCAA Tournament games at Texas.
Doug Davalos has career record at the D-I level of 22-36 in two years at Texas State. Texas State has improved their win total in each year under the direction of Davalos.
A Look at the Numbers
Texas shoots 45.6% from the field, 37.9% from three and 58.4% from the free-throw line.
The Bobcats convert 48.0% overall, 42.9% from the three-point line and 61.8% from the foul line.
The Longhorns surrender just 35.2% shooting and own a +6.3 rebound advantage.
The Bobcats give up 46.4% defensively and check in with a +3.7 rebounding margin.
The Longhorns are committing 13.8 turnovers per game, while Texas State is turning the ball over 16.9 times per contest.
The Longhorn Starters
G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (8.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists)
G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (19.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists)
F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (14.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists)
F Connor Atchley 6-11 Sr. (7.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks)
C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (6.3 points, 3.1 rebounds)
Key reserves include 6-7 sophomore Gary Johnson (9.9 points, 7.4 rebounds), 6-1 sophomore Dogus Balbay (1.3 points, 1.1 assists), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (2.7 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists) and 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.6 points, 2.6 rebounds).
The Bobcat Starters
G Corey Jefferson 6-0 Sr. (4.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists)
G Brent Benson 6-1 Sr. (19.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists)
F John Rybak 6-5 Jr. (11.4 points, 4.9 rebounds)
F Brandon Bush 6-7 Sr. (13.3 points and 6.0 rebounds)
C Ty Gough (5.9 points and 4.7 rebounds)
Key reserves are 6-6 senior Dylan Moseley (3.6 points, 1.7 rebounds), 6-7 junior Emmanuel Bidias A' Moute (7.6 points, 3.1 rebounds), 5-11 sophomore (4.7 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists) and 6-7 sophomore Cameron Johnson (7.9 points, 3.6 rebounds).
Keys to the Game
The Longhorns will face a difficult task of bringing the energy against an inferior opponent on Saturday. After playing a difficult schedule to date, it's easy to not bring the same intensity to the floor against a team in which one is expected to easily defeat.
The energy off the bench will be key Saturday. With the style that Texas State employs, every Longhorn reserve will have to be ready to bring energy and hustle off the bench. One area Texas wasn't as good as they can be Tuesday night was hustling and securing loose balls in the first half against Villanova. Against a team that likes the game to be frantic and fast for 40 minutes, there will be a number of loose balls and hustle play situations.
The top three-point shooter for the Bobcats is Brent Benson having hit over 50%, while John Rybek is over 40%. Texas must find both players in transition at all times as each player can hit long range jumpers in bunches. The Longhorn defenders must be aware of who to not rotate off of in drive and kick situations and who must be accounted for when rotating.
The Longhorns have to be cautious of entering a jump-shooting contest if the game is played at a fast pace. The Longhorns have big time mismatches on the interior and must work those advantages early and often.
Dogus Balbay and Varez Ward should gain valuable experience against Texas State on Saturday. When they put the ball on the floor, they must be cognizant of the back-tip by Texas State as well as traps and being baited into the corner on inbounds passes or in the half court.
It sounds like a broken record, but defensive rebounding will be key. The Texas guards have to block and chase what will be many long rebounds. The Longhorns can't allow a number of offensive rebounds that will be kicked out to shooters for clean three-point looks.