Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Two Down..Four to Go...

Well the good ol’ Orange and White are back where they belong, the Sweet Sixteen. The Horns will face off against the Stanford Cardinal in what may as well be a home game in Houston this Friday. A matchup of big guards vs. big men, both teams enter Friday’s game playing some of their best basketball. Before they lock “horns” this weekend, let’s look at how Texas got past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Austin Who?

Only four times in the history of the NCAA tournament has a 15-seed upset a 2-seed in the first round. The Horns never gave the Austin Peay Governors that chance to put their hand on tournament history. Texas came out of the gate firing as usual hopping out to an early 9-0 lead and pushed the gap to 34-14 with a little less than 3 minutes to go in the half. The Governors could never really recover from a 15 point halftime deficit and the Ohio Valley Champs were sent home with a 74-54 big-boy conference lesson.

Junior A.J. Abrams let the UT assault with 26 points including 18 from a 6-10 shooting day from behind the arc. Joining Abrams in double figures was Damion James, Connor Atchley, and Dexter Pittman. “Sexy” Dexy was the pleasant surprise of the first round win recording a double-double in only 16 minutes of play. Pittman shot 50% and grabbed 10 boards, but more importantly gave Texas a little more definition on the inside. With Gary Johnson being very questionable, this inside presence may pay dividends in up coming matchups with Stanford and a possible date with UCLA.

Weathering the Storm
A.J. Abrams is making quite a name for himself on the Forty Acres. And in Arkansas and Miami for that matter. After a 26 point performance on Friday, Abrams decided to continue the trend and drop in 26 again on Easter Sunday afternoon. Dropping another six 3-pointers, Abrams led a shooting barrage of 13 three’s and 44% shooting throughout the game. D.J. Augustin’s shooting touch was still nonexistent, but he rebounded from a sub-par six-point performance in the first round. Damion James and Conner Atchley joined Abrams and Augustin in double figures with 16 and 15 respectively.

Although Texas escaped with a 75-72 victory, the Miami Hurricanes made sure that it was anything but easy. Texas held a convincing lead for the first 35 minutes of play and with a 16-point lead with 4:15 left to play, the storm finally set in. The Canes cut the lead all the way down to two on the shoulders of four treys by Jack McClinton and Raymond Hicks. The game looked like it was in the bag when Abrams knocked down both free throws with 9 seconds to play, but Hicks hit a trey with 2 seconds to play and Miami sent D.J. to the line. The drama ensued when Augustin missed the front end, but Texas escaped with the victory after D.J. laid in the second one. In a game that was far less close than it seems, Miami may have delivered a blessing in disguise to the Horns, preparing them for future late game battles.

All in all, Texas had a typical first round weekend. The blowout. The near miss. The drama. The ticket to the Sweet Sixteen. Overall, Texas shot extremely well, cleaned up on the glass, and converted in the clutch. Expect big things in Houston this weekend when the Lopez twins meet the battle-tested Horns.

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