Texas hosts rival Texas A&M

Texas hosts rival Texas A&M

The #14 Texas Longhorns will look to move to 3-1 in Big 12 play Saturday night at 7pm in Austin. The opponent will be the hated rival Texas A&M Aggies. While Texas is ranked in the top 15 and coming off a win and a week of rest, the Aggies are going in the other direction having lost three of their first four conference games.

The #14 Texas Longhorns are well rested having had a week off since last Saturday's 71-49 win over Texas Tech. That also means Texas is as healthy as they have been in several weeks as players have had time to improve nagging injuries and in the case of Connor Atchley, a fairly serious injury.

The Longhorns enter Saturday night with a 2-1 record in Big 12 play and 13-4 overall. With a conference opening win over Iowa State two weeks ago, the Longhorns improved their Big 12 home winning streak to 13 games and will put that impressive streak on the line Saturday night on ESPNU against an Aggie team that will come in with something to prove after being blown out Monday night at Kansas 73-53.

The Aggies (15-4, 1-3) have faced a very tough schedule to open Big 12 play at Oklahoma State (lost 72-61), Baylor (won 84-73), Oklahoma (lost 69-63) and at Kansas.

The program, which starts five players recruited by former head coach Billy Gillispie, has struggled immensely in conference play.

In the four games, Texas A&M has averaged a shade under 15 turnovers per game, has a negative rebound margin and has averaged just 65.3 points per game. In road losses to Oklahoma State and Kansas, the Aggies have turned the ball over 36 times to just 14 assists, shot 8-35 from three and averaged 57 points per game.

For Texas, the play of Gary Johnson in recent weeks and the much-improved play of point guard Dogus Balbay off the bench have been key.

Johnson, who is averaging 11.1 points and 7.2 rebounds on the season, moved into the starting line-up in Lubbock and responded by scoring the Longhorns first six points of the game. In total, the sophomore forward scored 15 points and pulled down seven rebounds in his first start of the season.

Balbay has stepped up his play considerably in Big 12 play averaging 5.3 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in three games, including 7.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game in the last two. The sophomore has averaged 4.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists (7.5/1 Assist/TO ratio) and 1.8 steals in the four games in which he has played 15 or more minutes.

The Longhorns hold a 130-83 advantage all time against Texas A&M, including 16-5 in the Rick Barnes era.

The winner of Saturday night's game will pick up 0.5 points in this year's State Farm Lone Star Showdown. Texas, who won three of the first four years, holds a 3.5-1.5 lead heading into this weekend's action between the two universities.

The game is set to tip-off at 7pm central and will be televised on ESPNU.

A Look at the Coaches

Rick Barnes, who is in his eleventh season at Texas, coaches the Longhorns. Barnes has a career record of 462-231, including 260-97 at Texas. Barnes is 122-41 in Big 12 games at Texas.

Mark Turgeon is in his second season as the head coach in College Station. Turgeon has a career record of 193-134, including 40-15 at Texas A&M. The Aggies are 9-11 in Big 12 play under Turgeon.

A Look at the Numbers

Texas shoots 43.6% from the field, 32.5% from three and 65.2% from the free throw line.

The Aggies convert 43.3% overall, 34.1% from the three point line and 71.2% from the foul line.

The Longhorns surrender just 39.1% shooting and own a +5.2 rebound advantage.

Texas A&M surrenders 42.0% defensively and checks in with a +4.3 rebounding margin.

The Longhorns are committing 12.2 turnovers per game, while the Aggies are turning the ball over 12.6 times per contest.

The Longhorn Starters

G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (7.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists)

G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (17.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists)

F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (14.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals)

F Gary Johnson 6-6 So. (11.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks)

F Connor Atchley 6-11 Sr. (6.0 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks)

Key reserves include 6-0 sophomore Dogus Balbay (1.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists), 6-1 freshman Varez Ward (3.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists), 6-10 sophomore Matt Hill (1.3 rebounds), 6-10 junior Dexter Pittman (8.5 points and 4.4 rebounds) and 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.6 points and 1.9 rebounds)

The Aggie Starters

G Donald Sloan 6-2 Jr. (11.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists)

G Derrick Roland 6-3 Jr. (5.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists)

F Josh Carter 6-6 Sr. (13.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists)

F Bryan Davis 6-8 Jr. (10.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks)

F Chinemelu Elonu 6-10 Jr. (10.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and1.6 blocks)

Key reserves are 5-11 sophomore B.J. Homes (9.1 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists), 6-8 freshman David Loubeau (4.6 points and 3.5 rebounds) and 6-0 freshman Dash Harris (1.6 points and 1.8 assists).

Keys to the Game

The Longhorns will first have to come ready to play against a hungry team that will give Texas their best shot. With the time off to rest and get a little healthier, expect the Longhorns to come out with a bounce in their step.

Saturday is a game in which the Longhorns must block out the Aggie big men. Both Bryan Davis and Junior Elonu have the ability to hurt Texas on the offensive glass. Texas has to not only put a body on the long armed forward, but also be sound, keep the feet moving and keep them on their back for an extended period of time.

The Aggies are a struggling offensive team at this point and rely heavily on a motion offense that has sputtered as of late. If a team can limit or take out Josh Carter, the Aggies struggle mightily to score the ball for long stretches.

Defending Carter is all about positioning before the catch. Carter is experienced in using screening action to create space for a mid-range and three-point jumper. Because Carter has a longer release than some, close defense on the catch can limit his capabilities. In the mid-range he will look to a fall away to create the space needed to get a clean look.

Carter simply can't be rotated off on penetration. If Sloan or Roland look to put the ball on the floor, force mid-range jumpers, but do not rotate off of Carter as that is Texas A&M's best offense.

Elonu is one of the more improved players in the Big 12. While he doesn't have a refined offensive game, his length and quickness off the floor provides him scoring chances. He shoots just 65.1% from the foul line, so easy scoring chances should be hard fouls and trips to the stripe.

Bryan Davis is a sneaky player along the baseline and is comfortable in that area. He finds a way to use his length and scrappy play to score the ball in the paint. On the defensive end, he uses his length to change a number of shots. He does a good job of staying on the ground and using his length for the most part. Like Elonu, Davis shoots under 66% from the free throw line and he must be put in a position to have to earn his points.

For the Texas point guards, Dash Harris will pick one's pocket if the ball isn't dribbled tightly. If a player turns his back to Harris, he reacts quickly and looks to make the steal.

Along with Carter, B.J. Holmes off the bench is a quality catch and shoot player. At 5-11 and not blessed with elite quickness, a under control close out with extended arms can limit his success.

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