Long Beach St.-Texas Preview

Texas has won each of its first six games by double digits, but

coach Rick Barnes is still striving to make his emerging team even

better.

Before a pair of marquee matchups later this month, the

second-ranked Longhorns have a good opportunity to work on their

game with three straight home contests beginning Monday night

against Long Beach State.

Texas is off to its third 6-0 start in five seasons, but the

Longhorns have been especially impressive this time around, winning

by an average of 26.2 points. They boast one of the nation’s top

defenses, limiting opponents to 52.3 points and 32.4 percent

shooting.

Barnes, however, wasn’t completely pleased with his team’s

effort during a 77-59 win at Rice on Nov. 29. After jumping to a

17-point lead in the second half, Texas allowed the Owls to get

within five with 7:22 remaining. The Longhorns buckled down and

allowed only five points after that.

Texas applied that lesson in Thursday night’s 69-50 win over

visiting Southern California, forcing a season-high 17 turnovers

and allowing the Trojans to shoot 30.4 percent.

“Everything starts with defense,” point guard Dogus Balbay

said.

However, the Longhorns’ struggles at the free-throw line

continued with a 19-for-34 performance, which dropped their season

percentage to 62.2. They were also held to less than 42.0 percent

shooting for the second consecutive game.

“We did the things that we talked about doing,” Barnes said.

“Offensively, we missed some shots, but if we made some more free

throws, we’d feel better about our shooting.”

Barnes’ team, though, will have this game and matchups against

Texas State on Dec. 12 and Texas-Pan American on Dec. 15 to work

out those kinks.

That improvement could prove crucial in the week before

Christmas. Texas will face No. 10 North Carolina on Dec. 19 at

Cowboys Stadium, a game that’s expected to draw 75,000 fans. Three

days later, the Longhorns will host No. 9 Michigan State.

One player who seems to need little help is Damion James, who

rebounded from an eight-point performance against Rice with a

team-high 19 on Thursday. He’s leading the Longhorns with 16.0

points and 10.0 rebounds per game.

James was 2 years old when these schools last met on Dec. 14,

1989. Long Beach State’s Lucious Harris, who would later play 12

seasons in the NBA, hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for an 89-87

victory in Austin.

The Longhorns, however, will face an inconsistent 49ers team

Monday.

Long Beach State (4-3) suffered an 85-62 blowout to No. 8 West

Virginia in its 76 Classic opener on Nov. 26. The next day, its

rally fell short in an 87-79 loss to No. 19 Clemson despite three

players recording double-doubles.

The 49ers, picked to win the Big West Conference, ended the

tournament with their first-ever win over UCLA, 79-68 on Nov.

29.

Sophomore forward T.J. Robinson, the team’s leading scorer and

rebounder, averaged 25.0 points and 14.0 rebounds over the final

two games of the Classic. Robinson has registered 16.4 points and

10.0 rebounds per game this season.

Sophomore guard Larry Anderson, a preseason all-conference pick,

totaled 15 points and went 3 for 12 from the field during the

tournament.

Texas and Long Beach State have split their six all-time

meetings with the Longhorns winning two of three at home.