After recovering from January’s season-ending hip injury, Texas sophomore LaMarcus Aldridge is picking up right where he left off.
Aldridge tries for his fourth straight double-double as the second-ranked Longhorns face No. 18 Iowa in the championship game of the Guardians Classic in St. Louis.
Aldridge averaged 9.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in his first nine games last season. He increased those totals to 12.7 and 9.0 in his final three contests before injuring his hip Jan. 15 at Nebraska.
He averaged 16.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in the Longhorns’ first two games this season, wins over Southern and Samford in the Austin Regional of the Guardians Classic. He was named MVP of the regional as the Longhorns outscored their first two opponents 166-89.
Aldridge continued his impressive play Monday, scoring 15 points and grabbing a career-high 14 rebounds in Texas’ 76-75 semifinal win over No. 13 West Virginia. He hit the game-winning shot on a put-back with 3.6 seconds left and then blocked the Mountaineers’ last-second shot.
“I don’t remember anything but getting the basketball and going up,” Aldridge said of his game-winner.
Aldridge leads Texas (3-0) with 11.7 rebounds per game this season and ranks second with 15.7 points. P.J. Tucker, who had 19 points and nine rebounds on Monday, is the team’s leading scorer (19.7).
Daniel Gibson hit six 3-pointers and had 20 points Monday for the Longhorns, who ended last season by losing eight of 14 after Aldridge suffered his injury and Tucker was declared academically ineligible on Jan. 20.
“This game was a test to see how good we are,” Tucker said. “There was a lot of adversity. We faced the adversity and won.”
Texas outrebounded the Mountaineers 41-22, but committed 24 turnovers which West Virginia turned into 24 points.
“Some of our passes were ridiculous,” coach Rick Barnes said. “To turn the ball over as many times as we did and win, we were fortunate.”
Iowa (3-0) upset seventh-ranked Kentucky 67-63 Monday to advance to the finals.
Greg Brunner, who scored 16 points in each of Iowa’s wins over Maryland-Eastern Shore and Colgate to earn MVP honors in the Iowa City regional, had 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Mike Henderson went 7-for-9 from the free-throw line and added 15 points for the Hawkeyes, who shot 50 percent in their first two games, but were limited to 38 percent (23-for-60) Monday.
“We beat a very good team tonight, and we did it by guarding,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “They guarded us well, too. These are two good defensive teams, for the third week of November.”
Adam Haluska, averaging 13.0 points entering Monday, had nine on 2-for-9 shooting, while Jeff Horner managed only five points on 1-for-10 from the field.
However, Mike Henderson picked up the slack with 15 points.
“Both teams played defensive games and when you play a defensive game it’s not going to be the prettiest thing out there,” Horner said.
Iowa has won both of the previous meetings between the schools, including an 82-80 victory on Nov. 23, 2004 in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational.