Texas pulls away, beats A&M 67-58

The #14 Texas Longhorns got a season-high 28 points from forward Damion James, including 11 during a two minute stretch extending a two score lead to 12 points and the Longhorns never looked back winning 67-58. Fellow forward Gary Johnson added 15 points for the Longhorns who improved to 3-1 in Big 12 play.

The #14 Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies played a tight game for nearly 29-minutes Saturday night in Austin. With A.J. Abrams guarded tightly by the Aggies, the Longhorns needed someone to step up and Damion James did just that.

With Texas leading 41-37, James scored on a continuation play and converted the free throw to follow giving the Longhorns a 44-37 lead with 11:22 to play. The play ended up being the first of several by the junior forward.

After the James three-point play, Texas A&M (15-5, 1-4) senior wing Josh Carter knocked down a three to cut the lead back to four at 44-40. That would be as close as the Aggies would get the rest of the night.

James followed the Carter long-range jumper with eight straight points to extend the Texas lead to 52-40 with 9:27 to play. James scored on an array of baskets from a two handed dunk in transition, an eight-foot jumper, a finish in the lane and a pair of free throws.

Texas A&M cut the lead to single digits, 52-43, on another Carter three-pointer, but James answered with his 12 and 13 straight points for the Longhorns to extend the lead back to 10 at 54-44.

If the Longhorns (14-4, 3-1) had thrown the knock out punch to that point, they did when Connor Atchley scored and was fouled on an inbounds play. After Atchley sank the free throw with 6:56 to play, Texas had a 13 point advantage at 57-44.

Texas then worked the clock the final few minutes and converted seven of 10 free throws in the final two minutes for a final margin of 67-58.

The Aggies received three late three pointers in the closing minutes to keep the final margin respectable. Donald Sloan hit a pair of long-range jumpers in the final 1:18 as well as a pair of free throws.

Sloan led the Aggies with 17 points. Joining Sloan in double figures was junior center Chimenelou Elonu with 12 points, but was held to one point in the second half.

James led the Longhorns with 28 points. Johnson chipped in 15.

A Look at the Numbers

The Longhorns shot 41.7% (25-60) overall, 25.0% (2-8) from three and 65.2% (15-23) from the free throw line.

The Aggies converted 45.5% (20-44) from the floor, 40.0% (6-15) from the three point line and 50.0% (12-24) from the foul line.

The Longhorns won the battle of the boards 41-29, including 16 offensive rebounds.

The Longhorns won the turnover battle 13 to 9.

The Good

The Longhorns took the best shot of a Texas A&M team that was desperate for a win. A&M came out strong and beat Texas to a couple of early rebounds for second chance points, but the Longhorns answered on the offensive end behind another hot start by Gary Johnson.

Gary Johnson continues to play big time basketball for Texas. While he posted on three rebounds, he scored 15 points and was a difference maker hedging on ball screens and helping push the Aggies offense out to 35-feet at times.

Damion James had the best in game stretch of offensive basketball in his career at Texas. James scored 11-points in a two minute stretch when Texas needed it the most and scored 13-straight for the Longhorns. James took smart shots in catch and shoot situations, drove Aggie big men when matched-up favorably and ran the floor in transition finishing above the rim. James even mixed in a couple of scores off the dribble against aggressive perimeter defense.

Connor Atchley chased offensive rebound more tonight than in recent memory. Atchley was credited with three offensive rebounds, but kept two more loose ball rebounds alive with tips to teammates. When Pittman and Atchley have been on the floor this season, Atchley had to protect Pittman in transition thus not having the freedom to crash the offensive glass from the perimeter as he did so well a year ago.

A.J. Abrams didn't force shots against tight defense. Only one shot was questionable in transition, but he played a very controlled game on the offensive end. Abrams grabbed four rebounds, dished out four assists and recorded three steals to go with nine points on 10 field goal attempts.

Dogus Balbay gave the Longhorns energy off the bench again. While Balbay didn't score as he had in the past couple of games, he leaped high to snag five rebounds and dished out four assists as ell as playing sound on the ball defense on Donald Sloan.

Texas did a great job of hedging aggressively on ball screens and pushing the A&M offense out to 35-feet at times and disrupting any chance for flow. The reason Texas could blitz and hedge aggressively is because the Aggies don't have a big man that can burn the opponent on the screen and float. The Aggies failed to slip and show screen and run to the box Saturday night.

Abrams did a very good job on Josh Carter. Abrams chased the senior wing and made him work for every shot in the half court. Carter hit a three in transition and was held in check other than one post up move. When A&M posted up Carter on the first possession in the second half for an easy score, it appeared as if Abrams would be in for a much tougher half defensively, but the Aggies never forced the issue.

Texas did a good job of creating full court pressure and second half turnovers that led to scores and free throw opportunities.

The Longhorns wore out A&M on the offensive glass to the tune of 16 caroms and 15-second chance points.

The Bad

The Longhorns didn't defend the three-point line late in the game as well as they can. While Sloan made a tough shot, Texas was a little slow to react on a couple of occasions.

For some reason, the Longhorns came out with the game plan to defend A&M guard Derrick Roland tightly on the perimeter, which opened up Elonu for simply post up chances in which he took advantage of them. Roland also went right by James off the bounce and created more offense than he usually does for himself and others just by getting a shot to the rim against rotating defense. Roland, an inconsistent and poor perimeter shooter, should have been guarded, but not tight to the point of having to scramble on defense against a below average offensive player.

Gary Johnson didn't body up and block out on the glass in the first half real well. He gave up a couple of second chances that would not have happened if he put his body on an Aggie body in the paint.

The Longhorn post defenders gave up too much ground to Elonu early in the game. Elonu consistently caught the ball six to eight feet from the basket and that allowed him to go right up over the top and use his length without having to make a move in which rotating defense could have caused a turnover or timing to be altered.

Overall

A key win with a trip to Waco looming in three days. At 3-1 with two road games in the books and another to come against Baylor, being in position to be 4-1 after five games with three on the road is right where the Longhorns need to be to stay in the Big 12 race. On Tuesday, the Longhorns will face a Baylor team in must win mode as they are coming off of a sound whipping at the hands of Oklahoma 95-76. With a loss at Texas A&M also already in the books, falling to 3-3 would all but take the Bears out of the Big 12 race and put them in a tough position to finish in the top four and earn a first round bye in the Big 12 Tournament.


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