Texas guard A.J. Abrams is still struggling with his shot. Luckily for the Longhorns, other offensive options are stepping up.
After Damion James and Justin Mason came up big in the second half of a Big 12 road win, the 14th-ranked Longhorns hope to continue to get balanced production as they try to extend their home dominance of conference rival Texas A&M on Saturday night.
Abrams helped Texas (13-4, 2-1) win nine of its first 10 games, averaging 20.9 points and shooting 44.7 percent from the field—47.4 from 3-point range.
The senior guard, however, hasn’t been able to find the range lately. He’s been held to 12.3 points per game during the Longhorns’ disappointing 4-3 stretch, shooting 29.1 percent from the field and 26.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Abrams was 3-for-10 and finished with 11 points last Saturday, but James scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half and Mason had 12 of his 15 after halftime as Texas pulled away for a 71-49 win over Texas Tech.
“We consider ourselves the big-time players,” said James, who also had eight rebounds as the Longhorns outrebounded the Red Raiders 40-33. “We were able to do that today. Got a lot of movement. That allowed us to go in and get a lot of offensive rebounds.”
Mason matched a career high with 10 boards, while forward Gary Johnson added 15 points and seven rebounds in his first start of the season. A similarly balanced performance for the Longhorns on Saturday could help them get their 21st win in their last 22 home games against the Aggies.
Texas A&M (15-4, 1-3) has lost six straight in Austin since its 80-74 upset of then-No. 24 Texas on Jan. 23, 2002.
To snap that skid, the Aggies will likely need a better offensive showing than they delivered Monday. After putting up a solid fight in a 69-63 loss to No. 6 Oklahoma last Saturday, Texas A&M shot 32.7 percent and didn’t have a player score in double figures in a 73-53 loss at Kansas.
“I thought at times our effort was pretty good, (but) a lot of times I didn’t think it was great,” said coach Mark Turgeon, whose team has lost three of four following a 14-1 start. “We didn’t get many loose balls. We had a lot of guys not play well.”
That was also the case when these teams met in Austin last season. Josh Carter, the Aggies’ leading scorer with 13.1 points per game this season, led A&M with 11 as the then-No. 22 Aggies shot 30.2 percent in a 77-50 loss to the seventh-ranked Longhorns.
Abrams was held to nine points and 2-for-8 shooting in that game, but James had 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
While that was a disappointing blowout loss for the Aggies, they can be encouraged by their play in an 80-63 home victory over the 10th-ranked Longhorns last season. Carter had 19 points and 10 rebounds, while Abrams was limited to eight points and 3-for-13 shooting.