On Saturday, the Longhorns (16-7, 5-4) will take on a struggling Colorado team in Boulder, but this is not a game to be taken lightly. Against Oklahoma State, the defense by the Cowboys was virtually non-existent. While Colorado isn't one of the more talented team in the conference to say the least, they are a very well coached team that will make the Longhorns earn a victory.
The Buffalos (9-14, 1-8) are coming off of their worst performance of the season Wednesday in Ames losing to Iowa State 70-42. It's not just the 28-point defeat that grabbed people's attention, but also the fact that Iowa State led 37-9 at the half with junior guard Dwight Thorne III scoring all nine Colorado points.
The top player for Colorado is 6-5 sophomore guard Cory Higgins. Higgins is one of the top scorers in the conference at 17.2 points, but is a much improved all-around player in 2008, averaging 5.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
For Texas, the play of Dogus Balbay will be key throughout the rest of the season. With Balbay now inserted in the starting line-up, the Longhorns have made a commitment to handing him the ball and running the team.
In four Big 12 games in which the sophomore point guard has logged more than 20 minutes, he is averaging 6.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists as well as being the Longhorn's best on the ball defender and providing energy and the ability to create chances in transition.
The game is set to tip-off at 1pm central and will be televised nationally by ESPN.
A Look at the Coaches
Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 465-234, including 261-99 at Texas. Barnes is 125-44 in Big 12 games at Texas.
Jeff Bzdelik is in his second season at Colorado. He has career record of 96-133 on the D-I level, including 21-34 in Boulder.
A Look at the Numbers
Texas shoots 43.8% from the field, 32.1% from three and 66.5% from the free throw line.
The Buffalos convert 46.4% overall, 34.4% from the three-point line and 73.3% from the foul line.
The Longhorns surrender just 39.8% shooting and own a +5.3 rebound advantage.
Colorado surrenders 46.0% defensively and checks in with a negative 5.6 rebounding margin.
The Longhorns are committing 12.4 turnovers per game, while Colorado is turning the ball over 13.8 times per contest.
The Longhorn Starters
G Dogus Balbay 6-0 So. (2.2 points, 1.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists)
G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (16.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.6 assists)
G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (6.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists)
F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (15.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists)
F Gary Johnson 6-6 So. (11.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks)
Key reserves include 6-11 senior Connor Atchley (5.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks), 6-10 junior Dexter Pittman (8.9 points and 4.5 rebounds), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (3.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists), 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.6 rebounds) and 6-10 sophomore Matt Hill (1.4 rebounds).
The Buffalo Starters
G Nate Tomlinson 6-2 Fr. (7.9 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists))
G Dwight Thorne III 6-2 Jr. (13.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists)
G Cory Higgins 6-5 So. (17.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 steals)
F Jeremy Jackson-Wilson 6-6 Sr. (5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds)
F Austin Dufault 6-9 Fr. (9.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists)
What to Watch For
The Longhorns have to first bring intensity and energy to the game Saturday against an opponent that doesn't get the adrenaline flowing. Much of that job will be on Dogus Balbay to bring the energy from the opening tip, push the ball and get his teammates playing on the move.
Gary Johnson will have a major advantage inside as Colorado isn't a lengthy, shot blocking team and he will get any shot he desires. The key is to not settle for the quick 16 or 17 footers, but to work to get position and get to the right handed jump hook.
Dogus Balbay has to apply ball pressure, but not get in early foul trouble. Colorado has struggled at times with ball pressure and in the half court getting pushed out to 25to 27 feet and having their timing disrupted. The altitude is always an interesting aspect of playing in Colorado. It will be interesting to see if Texas can come out and pressure the ball for 94 feet as a team as they have done this year. It will also be interesting to see how the altitude affects players such as Balbay, Varez Ward, Damion James and especially Dexter Pittman.
Dwight Thorne III and Nate Tomlinson are both over 40% from three and must be defended with proper close outs. Because Colorado struggles to score the ball, Texas would be smart to not rotate off of either shooter and make Colorado score the ball inside against a Texas team that is bigger, stronger and is a shot blocking team.
Cory Higgins is one of the top scorers in the Big 12. At 6-5 and with an impressive hoops IQ, Higgins is one of the better rebounding guards in the conference and country. Texas has to know where he is when a shot goes up.
Jeremy Jackson-Wilson shoots 57.5% from the foul line. That means Texas has to target him as a player to foul around the basket and make him earn his points. Trey Eckloff off the bench also falls into that category.
While Colorado isn't a very talented team or a very good team, Jeff Bzdelik is one of the more respected coaches in the conference. He is known as an X's and O's coach with a keen understanding of the game and knows how to exploit a team's weakness and take away a strength.
Texas has to play with patience and not be baited into quick shots without rebounders in position to attack Colorado's weak rebounding. Don't be surprised if Colorado gives space to Damion James and welcomes jump shots from 13 feet and out. It keeps James off the offensive glass and that is a win for Colorado. Same can be said for Gary Johnson. Texas has to play smart, take shots when the weak side rebounders are in position and hammer the Buffaloes on the offensive glass in man or zone. The type of defense being played doesn't matter, the shot selection and timing will tell the story.