Dec. 29, 2009
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas coach Rick Barnes didn't want his team to even think about basketball over their short holiday break.
It was evident early in Tuesday night's game against Gardner-Webb that the second-ranked Longhorns took the advice.
Texas started sluggishly but was able to pull away for a 95-63 victory.
"We just had way too many turnovers, and I think we turned ourselves over," Barnes said. "Some of our turnovers were just from being careless."
Despite the turnovers and ragged play, Texas never lost control behind a season-high 15 points from Jai Lucas. Damion James had 14 points and 13 rebounds - his 43rd career double-double - and Dexter Pittman added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Longhorns (12-0).
"That's what separates them from Duke and North Carolina because the points can come from a lot of different ways," Gardner-Webb coach Rick Scruggs said. "It makes them a lot harder to play."
Lucas, in his third game back after transferring from Florida in between semesters last season, showed his offensive prowess for the first time in a Texas uniform, hitting all five of his shots behind the 3-point line.
In his first two games back, Lucas played a limited role against No. 9 North Carolina and No. 11 Michigan State. He averaged 9 minutes of playing time and recorded just five points against the Spartans. On Tuesday, Lucas was a bit more offensive.
"They just told me to take open shots and that there's no limitations on anything," Lucas said. "I felt the way that they were guarding the pick-and-roll and helping inside with Dexter, that there were a lot of open shots. And I hit them."
Lucas will become a bigger part of Texas' offense as the Longhorns get closer to Big 12 conference play.
"Maybe the fact that he had to break in with those difficult games against North Carolina and Michigan State, it maybe helped him," Barnes said. "He's starting to understand it more, and the more he plays the more he'll settle in."
Lucas helped the Longhorns slowly start to pull away in the first half. With just over 13 minutes remaining, he hit two 3-pointers from the wing to give Texas a 20-7 lead. James, who leads Texas in scoring (17.0) and rebounding (10.8), scored his first basket on a jumper from the free-throw line to give the Longhorns a 28-15 lead with under 10 minutes left in the half.
Soon after, Texas jumped into a full-court press and forced two quick turnovers. Dogus Balbay scored on an easy layup, which was followed by a steal at midcourt and a layup by James. Justin Mason ignited a crowd of 9,551 when he took a pass from Lucas and threw down a one-handed dunk to put the Longhorns ahead 43-19.
Gary Johnson, who finished with 11 points, scored eight of Texas' final 10 points in the last 3 minutes of the first half.
"In the first half we were sloppy on the offensive end, but the effort was there," Mason said. "And that's what we need to bring every night."
Finishing the first half on a 29-13 run, Pittman scored seven points in the first 3 minutes of the second half as Texas pulled away from a 55-28 halftime lead.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (3-8) were only able to get within 23 points in the second half as C.J. Hailey was 5 of 5 on 3-pointers and scored 20 points. Texas forced 27 turnovers and finished with a season-high 19 steals.
Texas committed 19 turnovers - six in the first 4 minutes of the game.
Lucas admitted he still needs to take a few more steps forward before getting back to his old self.
"It will take a few more games," Lucas said. "I'm not where I need to be yet."
Texas improved to 12-0 for the ninth time in school history and first time since the 1981-82 season (14-0 start that year).
Texas opened the season with 12 wins by double-digit margins for the first time since the 1921-22 season and just the second time in school history (won first 13 games by double-digit margins in 1921-22).
UT set a team season high in steals (19) (topped the 15 against Long Beach State on Dec. 7)
Texas posted a 55-38 advantage on the boards. This marked the 10th time in the first 12 games that the Longhorns have out-rebounded their opponent.
UT's 55 first-half points marked a season high (topped the 54 against North Carolina on Dec. 19)
The 27-point halftime lead (55-28) marked the largest halftime margin of the season (previous high was 26 [45-19] against UT-Pan American on Dec. 15)
UT's 76.2% shooting from the free throw line was a season high (topped the 70.8% against Iowa on Nov. 23)
Set a career high with four steals, topping his previous high of three set on five prior occasions
Set a career high with four steals, topping his previous high of three set on two prior occasions
Recorded a double-double (14 points, 13 rebounds) for the sixth time this season and the 43rd time in 120 career games
Reached double figures in scoring for the 10th time this season and the 79th time in his career
Reached double figures in rebounding for the sixth time this season and the 54th time in his career
Ended the game with 1,507 points to pass B.J. Tyler (1,502 - 1992-94) for 11th place on the UT career scoring list
Became the 12th player in school history to reach the 1,500-point plateau
Set a career high with five steals, topping his previous high of four against North Carolina this season
Reached double figures in scoring (11 points) for the fourth time this year and the 25th time in his career (66 games)
Set UT career highs in points (15) and three-pointers made (5-of-7) and tied his UT career high in assists (two)
Reached double figures in scoring for the first time in his UT career
Set a career high with five three-pointers, topping the three he had made on five occasions while playing at Florida
Reached double figures in scoring (15 points) for the ninth time this year and the 26th time in his career (112 games)
Head Coach Rick Barnes
On Jai Lucas hitting the three-pointers: When Jai is open, like J'Covan [Brown], he needs to shoot the ball. If teams are going to play ball screens that way, we need to shoot that shot. Jai shot the ball well, he got some good reads off the ball screen and he kept going back to the same shot. Maybe the fact that he had to break in with two difficult games against North Carolina and Michigan State helped him. I thought today he seemed more relaxed than he has been. He is starting to understand it more, and I think the more he plays, the more he will settle in.
On Justin Mason being more aggressive offensively: I told Justin before the game that I wanted him to shoot the first shot of the game. Gardner-Webb did exactly what we called and Justin can shoot it. In practice the other day, we actually ran 12 straight possessions where he had to shoot the ball from behind the three-point line, and he made six of them. I told him we'd take those numbers any time and he's worked too hard not to do it. He's got to believe in himself that he can make those shots because he can, and he does. We want him to be more aggressive. He needs to be more aggressive and should be more aggressive.
On tonight's game plan: Tonight, we scrambled a little bit. We went to multiple traps which we're not going to do a lot in the season obviously. But I wanted to see communication out of it and guys that covered each other and scrambled a bit. The second half I didn't think we did a very good job of getting our hands up and guarding the three-point line. Gardner-Webb brought some guys that can knock down the three, and we didn't do a great job defending the three. Those are the things we have to work on. It takes discipline and you need to do what you need to do.
Senior Center Dexter Pittman
On Jai Lucas: When Jai plays, a lot of things open up. Jai is really crafty and if you leave him open, he'll shoot the ball. He will create shots for others. Jai is a great player. He comes from a great background of family basketball. He was a high school All-American so he knows what to do.
On where the team is at this point in the season: Once conference play starts it's going to be real tough because everybody knows what everybody can do so that's when you go out there and continue to get better as a team and as an individual.
Senior Guard Justin Mason
On how he approached tonight's game: I've been working on my game over the past couple of weeks, just trying to fine tune things. Tonight I wanted to be more aggressive offensively and that's what I was trying to do.
On the difference of in his shot: I changed a few mechanics on my shot. It's taking some time to get used to but things will start to come around.
Junior Guard Jai Lucas
On hitting five three-pointers tonight: The coaches tell me to take open shots when they come my way. Tonight, Gardner-Webb was guarding the pick-and0roll with a lot of focus on Dex (Pittman), because he is such a presence down there, so there were a lot of open shots and I just happened to be hitting them.
On developing his game: It'll take a couple more games. I still don't feel like I'm where I need to be. There are still some things I need to work on so I just have to stay focused.
Head Coach Rick Scruggs
On Texas: We're glad this part of the season is over. Texas is playing the most well-balanced and is the most well rounded team we've played so far. They have great guards and great inside players. They've already showed they were well-balanced against North Carolina but I think they compare to Duke. I think they're more athletic than Duke and can do more things to people. I'm sure we'll be asked these questions all year because we're one of the few crazy teams to play all three schools.
On Jai Lucas: We didn't have a whole lot on him, but we knew him from his days past and knew what kind of player he was. He has the blood line to be a great player. Nothing he did tonight really surprised us.