February 26, 2009

The BIG Review: Longhorns hang on against Tech


It was a surreal night all the way around.

Kevin Durant was reduced to tears after his No. 35 was retired. Texas Tech left its head coach in Lubbock. And the guy standing in for Pat Knight - assistant coach Chris Beard - said in his post-game press conference that the last time he talked to the media as a head coach it was over beers at Seminole (Oklahoma) Junior College.

Oh, and Texas had to hang on for an 87-81 win against a team that has only two conference wins.

But before someone cracks a joke about how Texas wanted to honor Durant by not playing any defense, let's just shrug this one off to a red-hot night shooting the ball by the Red Raiders.

UT was also without its third-leading scorer - Gary Johnson (left ankle) - whom Rick Barnes said he expects to play Saturday at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys destroyed Colorado in Boulder Wednesday night 76-55 and Barnes said OSU "is playing the best of anyone in the league right now. We'll need Gary for that one."

Plain and simply, Texas allowed Texas Tech to gain some confidence early, and the Red Raiders (12-16, 2-11) ended up sticking around.

The guy Texas had no answer for was guard Nick Okorie, who was 8-of-11 for 24 points as Tech shot 55.6 percent in the first half (60 percent from 3, 6-of-10) and led by as many as 9 before taking a 43-38 lead at intermission.

"I liked way we came back and responded defensively," Barnes said. "We allowed them to get some comfort, and they are a team that can score some points. We allowed them to get in a rhythm and had no answer for it for a while."

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

The officials did a lousy job on both ends of the floor on this one and dragged the game to a halt. After the officials did a great job of letting guys play in the Texas-Oklahoma game Saturday, calling only 27 fouls, Wednesday night's crew called 51 fouls in the game. Texas was the benefactor - going to the line 43 times (making 31), while Tech shot 21 free throws (making 15).

STAR OF THE GAME

A.J. Abrams scored at least 20 points for the fourth time in the last five games - hitting 6-of-13 from the field and 8-of-10 from the foul line for 24. He was the only one who hit a 3-pointer for Texas. He hit 4-of-9. The rest of the team was 0-of-5.

UNSUNG HERO

James couldn't hit anything from the field (4-of-10), but he aggressively drove the ball and drew fouls, hitting 12-of-15 from the foul line. James ended up with 20 points and 11 rebounds with three assists, three blocks and one steal without a turnover in 26 minutes because of foul trouble.

TOUGH DAY AT THE OFFICE

Dexter Pittman had as bad a night as he's had in a long time. Barnes even called him out in the post-game press conference. He missed bunny after bunny while going 3-of-7 for seven points and six rebounds and one assist with three turnovers in 16 minutes. Pittman should have dominated against Tech's small lineup, but as bad as he was offensively he was even worse defensively.

THE BENCH
Barnes liked what he got from Matt Hill (2 points, 1 rebound in 4 minutes) and Clint Chapman (7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, 2 steals in 22 minutes). Varez Ward continues to take outside shots before doing what he does best - drive to the basket and draw fouls. And Ward's bad shot selection the last four games appears to be affecting his defense a little. Ward, the team's best on-the-ball defender, lost his man a couple times in the second half, although he hit two big free throws with 56 seconds left.

TOP THREE PLAYS OF THE GAME

Bronze -
A defensive rebound and timeout called by Damion James before he could get tied up by Tech with UT clinging to a 77-73 lead with 3:18 left.

Silver - A.J. Abrams' 3-pointer with 7:31 left, putting Texas up 67-64 after a 6-0 run by Tech in which Abrams and Connor Atchley turned the ball over

Gold - Damion James' monster dunk with 14:19 left with an assist to Justin Mason in an 8-0 run that put Texas up for good


LONGHORN DUNK-O-METER

Dunks against Texas Tech:

Connor Atchley - 1
Damion James - 1

Dunks for the season:

Damion James - 41
Dexter Pittman - 31
Gary Johnson - 8
Justin Mason - 7
Connor Atchley - 6
Clint Chapman - 5
Varez Ward - 1
Alexis Wangmene - 1

THE BIG NUMBER

20


Texas had a season-high 20 offensive rebounds Wednesday night. UT had more offensive boards (20) than defensive boards (19). That's what you call hitting the glass. Texas has totally bought into its new identity of following Dogus Balbay (11 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal) to the rim to collect garbage. The Longhorns outscored Tech 24-15 in second-chance points.

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