November 26, 2008

The REALLY BIG preview: Oregon

The Basics

The Longhorns take on Oregon tonight in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational after dropping a thriller to No.8 Notre Dame on Tuesday night. The game is set to tip-off at 3:30pm central and will be televised by ESPN2.

Series vs. Oregon

Series tied, 1-5. Last meeting: Oregon 72-70 (March 25th, 2002; Midwest Regional Semifinals in Madison, Wisc.)

Post-Notre Dame's Notes Notes

• After three dominant defensive performances to start the season, the Longhorns were grilled by a veteran defensive Irish squad that wasn't fazed by the pressure tactics that the Longhorns used. The Irish shot 47.6% from the field and 45.8% from three-point land, while only committing six turnovers. Heading into that game the Longhorns had held two of their three opponents under 30% shooting and none of their first three opponents have cracked the 25% mark in three-point shooting.
• The Longhorns have won the rebounding battle in all four games this season (three games by 10+). They beat the Irish 48-37 on the glass.
• A.J. Abrams became the first player in UT history to surpass the 300-barrier in career three-point shots made and only the second in the history of the Big 12.
• Abrams also passed Gabe Muoneke (1,456) and LaSalle Thompson (1,463) on UT's career scoring list. Abrams is now alone in 12th place with 1,465 points.
• Justin Mason had a season highs in points (17) and assists (seven).

Aloha mans "Let's play some basketball"

The Longhorns match-up with Oregon today night in the third game of a three-game, three-day stretch at the Maui Invitational. After beating St. Joseph's 68-50 on Monday and losing to the Irish on Tuesday, the Longhorns are hoping to match their best finish (2004) in their three attempts at the Maui Invitational.

Defense leading the way

If there's one things we know that we can probably take to the bank about this year's, it's the fact that the Longhorns are going to be very salty on defense. Although they didn't do a good job of containing Notre Dame on Tuesday, the defensive numbers through four games is very impressive. In the first four games of the season, the Longhorns have held their opponents 55.0 points per game, 34.1% FG shooting and 28.4% from three-point range. Through those first four games, the Longhorns have also recorded 36 steals and 24 blocks.

UT's Microwave

Although his adjustment to the point guard position is still a work in progress, but one thing that's not a work in progress is his ability to put the ball in the basket.

The Big 12's top returning scorer picked up where he left off last season, averaging 19.0 points per game through the first four games, while making 17 of 41 (41.5%) from three-point land. Overall, he's hit the 20-point mark on 25 different occasions for the Longhorns during his career.

Heading into today's game, Abrams ranks 12th on UT's all-time scoring list with 1,465 points and trails No.11 Johnny Moore (1,482) by only 17 points. If Abrams can average a minimum of 20 points per game this season, he will almost certainly move into the No.3 slot all-time among Longhorn career scoring leaders and would have Terrence Rencher (2,306 points) and Travis Mayes (2,279 yards) in his sights.

If he averages 20.0 points per game this season, he'd be on pace to finish with 2,030 and that does not include any potential post-season games. Even if he only averages the 16.5 points per game that he averaged last season, he'd still be on pace to finish the regular season with 1,921 points, which would put him within 37 points of Reggie Freeman for the No.3 spot.

NBA Longhorn Notes

Cleveland guard Daniel Gibson scored 10 points and dished out seven assists in a 119-101 win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

Rookie point guard D.J. Augustin played 40 minutes on Monday night against the Philadelphia 76ers and scored 25 points, dished out 11 assists and grabbed five rebounds in a 93-84 win. So far this season and is averaging 12.5 points and 3.9 assists. In his first-career start on Friday against Atlanta, Augustin scored a career-high 27 points and dished out seven assists.

Kevin Durant scored 29 points in a heartbreaking 99-98 home loss to Phoenix. The former National Player of the Year is averaging 22.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while shooting 46.3% from the floor and 47.8% from three-point land.

Oregon ...

This is a team that the Longhorns should beat decisively.

The Ducks squad is one of the youngest in the nation (featuring six freshmen) and their biggest problem has been finding ways to put the ball in the basket.

In their first three games of the season, the Ducks were only shooting 36.2% from the field and in their overtime loss to Oakland last week, their problems started with a terrible second-half shooting slump (22.2%).

Despite the slow start, the Ducks were cooking in their opener in Maui, as the team was at a season best 62.5% from the field and pounded Alabama 91-69. Yet if the Ducks thought their luck was changing for the better, they quickly learned against No.1 North Carolina that they still have a ways to go.

Against the Tar Heels, the Ducks shot an awful 30.1% from the floor and they never had a chance, as they got drilled 98-69 by the nation's top-ranked team.

Despite the fact that the Ducks are young and have troubles scoring, it's a deep and talented team that can often play at a break-neck pace and their goal is to disrupt your ball handlers and get your offense out of any possible rhythm.

Given the lack of consistent point guard play for the Longhorns and the often stagnant offensive, the high-pressure, risk-taking Ducks could either be just what the doctor ordered for this Texas team or perhaps they can expose the Longhorns' biggest deficiency - no proven point guard.

The Ducks' best player in the first two days of the tournament has been 6-10 freshman center Michael Dunigan (15.0 points and 8.2 rebounds per game), who has scored 18 points in each of the two games in Maui and averaged 8.5 rebounds per game.

Dunigan is an active player that does most of his damage around the basket and the further the Longhorns can push him out, the less effective the young big man will likely be. Against the Tar Heels, 10 of his shots came on dunks and lay-ups and he made seven of those. He was zero for five from any shot outside of two feet.

Junior guard Tajuan Porter is a poor man's A.J. Abrams in that he's small (5-6), can be an explosive scorer and he's not often involved with the ball distribution. The difference is that while Abrams has played at an All-Big 12 level this season, Porter has been awful at times, shooting 30.6 from the field and from three-point range. Where he's been really good is at the free-throw line, a place he's been to 25 times this season and he's knocked down 96% of those shots. Still, he's only averaging 13.0 points per game this season and against the Tar Heels, he scored eight points on three of 10 shooting.

Perhaps the most frustrating player for the Ducks this week has been sophomore guard Lekendric Longmire. The 6-5 swingman came into the season averaging 16.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per night, but he's only scored seven points in the tournament and he was held scoreless against North Carolina.

Also, keep an eye on 6-6 bruiser Joevan Catron. The big fella is a double-double waiting to happen (9.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game) and he also leads the Ducks in assists (16), steals (12) and blocks (five).

Playing the point for the Ducks is a two-man combo that features 6-1 true freshman Garrett Sim and 6-2 sophomore Kamyron Brown. Sim is cat-quick, ultra-athletic high-flyer that has done a decent job early in his career, averaging 7.4 points per game and posting a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio. Like Sim, Brown relies on speed and quickness on both ends of the floor. In 16.4 minutes of action per game, he's tied for the team-lead in assists (16), but he also leads the team in turnovers (12).

Overall, the Ducks will play 10 different players an average of 15 minutes or more and they are going to try to push the tempo for 40 minutes against the Longhorns. The problem is that they have a lot of talented players, but not enough of them are good college basketball players yet and the team doesn't really do anything exceedingly well. They'll create some steals and get some fast-break opportunities, but they don't shoot well, they turn it over nearly 20 times per game and are an average rebounding team.

The Three Keys

1. Come to play. It would be easy to show up on Wednesday after such a tough loss and not have a high intensity level for a third game in three days. If Texas brings a high-effort performance, they should control this game from the outset.
2. Play with poise. The Ducks are going to apply pressure on the ball for 94-feet at times, which makes this the biggest early-season test for Abrams, Mason, Dogus Balbay and Varez Ward. This team has struggled to find its point guard this season and if they struggle tonight, the Longhorns could find themselves in some trouble.
3. Get Gary Johnson and Connor Atchley involved. Those two are doing too much standing and watching on the offensive end of the floor and it just looks like they haven't adjusted their games since D.J. Augustin departed. James is forcing shots from all spots on the floor and isn't getting involved enough in the Texas transition game. Meanwhile, Atchley should be more than a 10-point/four-board guy. He simply has to get more active and aggressive around the basket. He's not even getting to the free throw line on an average of twice per night through four games.

The Texas line-up

The starters

Guard - A.J. Abrams - 5-10 senior - (19.0 points, and 1.8 assists)
Guard - Justin Mason - 6-2 junior - (6.8 points and 4.8 assists)
Forward - Damion James - 6-7 junior - (13.5 points and 7.8 rebounds)
Forward - Connor Atchley - 6-11 senior - (10.0 points and 4.3 rebounds)
Forward/center - Dexter Pittman - 6-10 junior - (7.0 points and 4.5 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - Dogus Balbay - 6-0 sophomore (1.0 points and 0.5 assists)
Guard - Varez Ward - 6-2 freshman (1.3 points and 1.3 assists)
Forward - Gary Johnson - 6-6 sophomore - (10.3 points and 7.8 rebounds)
Forward/center - Clint Chapman - 6-10 sophomore - (1.8 points and 2.5 rebounds)
Forward - Alexis Wangmene - 6-7 sophomore - (4.0 points and 3.3 rebounds)

The Oregon line-up

The starters

Guard - Garret Sim - 6-1 freshman (7.4 points and 2.8 assists)
Guard - Tajuan Porter - 5-6 junior - (13.0 points and 1.8 assists)
Guard - Lekendrick Longmire - 6-5 sophomore - (10.4 points and 3.2 rebounds)
Forward - Joevan Catron - 6-6 junior - (9.4 points and 8.8 rebounds)
Forward - Michael Dunigan - 6-10 freshman - (15.0 points and 8.2 rebounds)

The next five

Guard - Kamyron Brown - 6-2 sophomore - (4.8 points and 3.2 rebounds)
Guard - Teandre Williams - 6-4 freshman (5.3 points and 1.3 rebounds)
Guard - - 6-5 freshman (5.0 points and 1.4 rebounds)
Forward -
Churchill Odia - 6-6 senior - (4.8 points and 2.4 rebounds)
Forward - Josh Crittle - 6-8 freshman - (2.2 points and 4.0 rebounds)

And finally…

In our quest to provide you with a tidbit in each preview that teaches you something you might not have otherwise known, we give you this…


That's how many steals T.J. Ford had in the 2002 NCAA Tournament match-up with the Ducks, which just happens to be a school record for NCAA Tournament play.

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