Jan. 2, 2010
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AUSTIN, Texas -- It's not very often a coach calls a win a "huge step backward."
Texas coach Rick Barnes was disappointed, though, watching his No. 2 Longhorns stumble and misfire their way through a 76-70 win over scrappy Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday.
"I don't think at any point in time I thought we were going to lose that game, it was just really disappointing," Barnes said. "We took a huge step backward. Lack of effort, lack of concentration."
Harsh words for a team off to one of the best starts in school history. Texas (13-0) had been very impressive through the first six weeks of the season, winning the first 12 games by at least 11 points, including big victories over North Carolina and Michigan State.
With that run, Texas was probably expecting to cruise right into Big 12 play.
Instead, the Longhorns can expect some tough practices and more stern comments from Barnes after shooting 35 percent and getting outrebounded 47-37 against an opponent that should have been the latest blowout victim.
If not for 25 turnovers, the Islanders (5-7) may have may have had a chance to pull off the upset.
"We played terrible. Point blank," senior forward Dexter Pittman said. "We're better than that."
Pittman scored 18 points and Jordan Hamilton scored 17, but the rest of the Longhorns were targets of Barnes' criticism.
Even Damion James, who got his fourth consecutive double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, left too many boards for the taking, Barnes said.
Kevin Palmer scored 28 for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (5-7), which cut the lead to 74-68 with 36 seconds left before Hamilton made two free throws.
"They're used to beating people by double digits. We stayed with them the whole time," Islanders forward Demond Watt said. "The turnovers killed us. If we cut down on those, we might have pulled out this game."
Texas started slow and struggled to shoot the entire game. Freshman guard Avery Bradley went 0 for 8 from the field.
Barnes said the Longhorns let their poor shooting affect everything else, from defense to rebounding to ball handling. Texas made 7 of 25 3-pointers and 23 of 33 free throws. Point guard J'Covan Brown had six turnovers against two assists.
"We've got guys who can shoot the ball if they don't go mental," Barnes said.
The Longhorns missed 12 of their first 15 shots before Jai Lucas kick-started the offense with a 3-pointer. Hamilton followed it with another 3-pointer and Texas made five shots in a row to break the shooting slump with a 17-0 run.
It wouldn't last.
Two dunks by Gary Johnson put Texas up 37-21 before Texas A&M-Corpus Christi rallied to cut the lead under 10 on two 3-pointers from Palmer and Marcus Hammonds.
Texas' shooting struggles returned in the second. The Longhorns missed 11 of their first 13 and turned the ball over on a shot-clock violation. The Islanders cut the lead to 44-38 when Palmer was left wide open in the left corner for a 3-pointer.
Texas couldn't find the late run to put the game away. The Longhorns built the lead back to around 10 points, only to have the Islanders battle for rebounds and loose balls and make timely shots to keep it close.
The Longhorns seemed to finally get some breathing room when a layup by Lucas made it 61-47 with 7:12 to play, but Palmer struck again with another 3-pointer and six straight free throws.
What the Islanders couldn't do was make a charge at taking the lead. Brown hit a 3-pointer and a layup by Pittman with three minutes left gave Texas a 71-60 lead that was just enough to hold off the Islanders down the stretch.
Pittman said Hamilton, Bradley and Texas' other new players can expect tough games like that the rest of the season.
"I'm kind of thankful this game kind of happened," Pittman said. "The young guys could get a taste of what it's like in the Big 12."
Texas improved to 13-0 for the seventh time in school history and first time since the 1981-82 season (14-0 start that year).
Texas improved to 97-11 (.898) against in-state foes during the Rick Barnes era.
Texas improved to 157-20 at home during the Rick Barnes era, including 113-8 over the last eight years.
Texas improved to 3-0 all-time against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Texas went on an 18-0 run over a 5:27 span the first half, to turn a 13-11 deficit at the 12:42 mark to a 29-13 lead at the 7:15 mark
Texas' defense has held opponents to a 0.39-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio over the last two games (20-to-52)
Had consecutive free throw streak snapped at 20
Reached double figures in scoring (17 points) for the eighth time this year
Set a career high with seven assists, topping his previous high of five against Iowa
Recorded a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) for the seventh time this season and the 44rd time in his career (121 games)
Reached double figures in scoring for the 11th time this season and the 80th time in his career
Reached double figures in rebounding for the seventh time this season and the 55th time in his career
Reached double figures in scoring (18 points) for the 10th time this year and the 27th time in his career (113 games)
Blocked five or more shots for the second time in his career
TEXAS COACH QUOTES
Head Coach Rick Barnes
On the game being closer than expected: I didn't think, at any point in time, that we were going to lose that game. I am very disappointed in our effort, intensity, and the way we carried ourselves. I thought we missed shots early that affected the way we played. We didn't do anything that we had worked on. It was just a lack of effort and concentration. I was sitting there thinking that they might just be able to play through it and figure it out on the court. The one bright spot was Jordan Hamilton. He tried to do the things that we worked on. I also thought that Dexter Pittman tried to do the things that he needed to do, but no one else did what they needed to do. Those two guys were the two guys who really tried to do what they needed to do.
On the offensive woes: I told the team, we are settling for threes when we've got a guy whose one of the leaders in field goal percentage in the country. Whether he shoots them or not, we play through him. We play inside and out, and we weren't driving the ball enough. They were back in there keeping it tight. The biggest problem was the layups. You get in the open court and you need to finish those layups.
On J'Covan Brown's turnovers: I told him that that line should embarrass him more than anything. He's too good of a player for that. He's a guy that just needs to tighten his game up. I think he let the fact that he missed some shots affect the way that he's going to play. He wasn't trying to guard very well for a while, then in the end he tried to guard. You can't let offense dictate the way that you're going to play the game.
Senior Center Dexter Pittman
On if he was happy with his play: It's all about the team. I did some good things, but it's about the team. We have to go out there and play hard. We played terrible - point blank. We're better than that. No offense to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. We all had to bring it and we really didn't.
On if he was frustrated that the team was running the offense through him: Not really, because I'm not a selfish player. They had basically had their whole team guarding me so it was tough getting the ball inside. If we would have moved the ball around more to break it down.
On the team's game plan: We're going to be in a lot of games like this in the Big 12. We have to learn that when things aren't going our way, we need to break down and just go. We had a chance to put a nail in the coffin and we didn't. I'm kind of glad this happened, so the younger guys could get a taste of what Big 12 games will be like. I told the younger guys that Texas Tech plays this same style.
Freshman Guard/Forward Jordan Hamilton
On his development: My thing is just not forcing bad shots and getting my teammates involved. Tonight our defense was poor. I could have done more things, but I got two quick fouls when I came back in the game. I should have moved my feet. That's another thing I have to work on.
On his shot selection: When I first started off, coach taught me a lot about what's a good shot and what's a bad shot. What's a forced and what's an open shot. He had me watch a lot of film on NBA guys. I've still got to get my teammates involved more.
On his career-high seven assists: I think I still can get more if I work at it. Dexter (Pittman) is a force inside and I've got to keep feeding him down low.
TEXAS A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI QUOTES
Head Coach Perry Clark
On the gameplan: I thought our team executed the things that we wanted to do. Keep the ball out of the middle, tried to not allow them second chance shots, and we tried to keep them out of transition. I thought we were fairly successful with a lot of those in the second half.
On Texas' defense: Give Texas a lot of credit, Rick [Barnes] is a heck of a coach and he's got these guys, defensively, playing so well. I was really concerned more so with their defense than their offense. They are able to put so much pressure on you, get you out of what you want to do, turn you over, and make easy baskets.
On the key point in the game: I thought the key part of the game was when we got it down to six and then we turned the ball over two times in a row. I don't know what happened, I just know that we were dribbling and all of a sudden the ball was going the other way. If we had gotten a basket there and maybe hitting a three or been able to tie it, it would have given the game a whole new perspective.
Junior Forward Justin Reynolds
On what the team learned: This game shows that we have a lot of potential, not just from game-to-game but in our conference as well. We can be great.
On the team's improvement: We've had hard practices. Coach told us to step on to the court with our head held high and that is exactly what we did. It was a close game
On the team's game plan: Our game plan was to shut down the paint and not give [Dexter] Pittman shot opportunities.
Junior Forward Demond Watt
On the difference in height: I don't feel like it was a big factor because I feel we were just as athletic and just as big as them. Both teams played the same style. There really wasn't a big difference.
On the closeness of score: We just stayed together. Kevin [Palmer] is our main scorer, but he wasn't the sole factor. We kept things together as a team out there and kept our composure.
On the frustration: I think there may have been some frustration on their side because they usually win by double digits but we actually kept playing with them.
On what the team took away: I feel like we gained a lot of confidence. We were with them the whole time, but I feel like the turnovers killed us a lot. But I feel like this confidence will carry over into conference play next week.
Senior Guard Kevin Palmer
On the start of the game: We played together, and we gave a lot of energy. So, I am very proud of the way we started the game.
On what the team took from the game: We got a lot of confidence tonight. I really feel like that is what we took away. Our execution is good, our offense is good, all we have to do now is cut down on turnovers and we should be good all the way around.
On the team's game plan: We just wanted to come in with the same game plan as any other game, play with high energy and look confident.