Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Longhorns are Legends in the Annals of Stub Hub! History

After facing three high school teams to start the season, the Longhorns spent Thanksgiving in the winter wonderland that is, Newark, New Jersey. There’s nothing like crime, filth, and oil refineries that get you in the Holiday spirit.

This season, the Longhorns have had many question marks coming into the season. With Kevin Durant gone, the Longhorns had their leader leave after one season. Would DJ Augustin or someone else step up and lead this team? Would the team be able to fill the holes in the stat sheet left behind by Kevin Durant? Would the Longhorns get any interior presence from any of the bigs? Who would emerge to give this Longhorns team more than a few scoring options? Would any of the freshman emerge as a budding star?

In the semi-finals against New Mexico State, the Longhorns faced a team that pushes the pace, and returned most of their lineup from a tournament team last season. It was the first true test for this Longhorns group, and they passed with flying colors, defeating the Aggies 102-87. Leading from wire to wire, the Longhorns were unstoppable on offense and solid enough on defense. AJ Abrams had 31 points on 9 of 12 from three point range. DJ Augustin had 25 points and 10 assists, and Connor Atchley, Justin Mason, and Damion James all scored in double figures. The Longhorns shot 62% from the field and 61% from three point range in the game. It was a track meet for the Longhorns, but limited their mistakes to 11 turnovers, compared to 19 for the Aggies.

The win put the Longhorns in the Stubhub Championship match against #7 Tennessee on Saturday. In a back and forth first half, the Longhorns seized control in the last three minutes, going on a 12-2 run to end the half, giving the Longhorns a 50-41 lead. They would coast from there winning 97-78. The Longhorns shot 63% from the field and 50% from three point range while holding the Volunteers to 37% from the field. The Longhorns got a balanced scoring attack, with AJ Abrams, DJ Augustin, Justin Mason, and Connor Atchley (CONNOR ATCHLEY!) scoring over 20 points. Connor also had 11 rebounds (CONNOR ATCHLEY!) and DJ Augustin had 8 assists.

The tournament was a statement for the Longhorns as they showcased their offensive firepower in the post-Kevin Durant era. It is clear to see that this is DJ Augustin’s team and he has become one of the top point guards in the country. With DJ at the helm the Longhorns will be able to score against almost anyone. AJ Abrams continues to improve as a scorer and the biggest surprise has to be the play of Connor Atchley (CONNOR ATCHLEY!). With Justin Mason’s return to the form we saw early in his freshman year, the Longhorns have their defensive stopper and slasher on the offensive end. The Horns have also been getting quality minutes from freshman Alexis Wangmene off the bench.

There are only a few question marks for this Longhorns team, early in the season. DJ Augustin had 6 turnovers in each of the last two games, which you would think has to do with the fast paced style of both games. But it will be something to keep an eye on moving forward. The play of Damion James early in the season has left a bit to be desired, as the Horns were hoping this would be the season that James lived up to his pre-college hype and emerged as the force in the post the Longhorns need. The Longhorns still need another post player or two to step up and be a reliable option off the bench.

Alexis Wangmene has played well, but Dexter Pittman isn’t fully healthy yet, Clint Chapman hasn’t been a viable option, Matt Hill is out for the year, and Gary Johnson (who was supposed to be the answer this season) has still not been cleared to play with his heart condition. Against the power play of the Big XII, the Longhorns are going to need improved play from the interior if they hope to be able to benefit from their quick perimeter attack.

The Longhorns will get a taste of what they need to work on as they face the #1 team in the country UCLA on December 2nd in Los Angeles. They will also get a good preview for Big XII play, as they also face Michigan State and Wisconsin this December, who will be two of their most physical tests of the season.

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