December 17, 2008

Rick Barnes: Texas Southern post-game thoughts

To complement Ketch's BIG review of UT's 88-72 victory over Texas Southern, I was able to catch up with Rick Barnes after the game. Here are some of his post-game thoughts:


On Justin Mason, who had 6 assists and 0 turnovers while scoring 8 points and grabbing 4 rebounds ...


"He plays harder than anybody, but transition-wise, he's got to get back. That's a hard habit for him to break because he's always been sort of a kamikaze guy going to the offensive boards.

"He's getting caught in part of the transition he's making at the point. It's hard - and some of it is my fault - because I've told him if A.J. shoots it from the top of the key, he can go to the boards, but if A.J. shoots it from the corner, he can't. He has to get back. That's hard for him to shake that down, but he works so hard, he'll figure it out."

On freshman G Varez Ward, who had career highs in assists (7) and points (12) in 28 minutes, while also adding 5 rebounds and a steal with 2 turnovers ...

"He's got to play the role that Justin played for us a year ago. He's got to go to the offensive glass and get us some extra possessions. And he will because he's smart and intelligent and understands the game. As a freshman, he carries himself pretty good."

On getting outrebounded 30-25 by Texas Southern ...

"We don't have everybody getting it done the way we need to right now. Defensively, we had some breakdowns. We'll get it right because these guys care.

"I don't know what people expect when we play against teams like Texas State or Texas Southern. They come in and let it all hang out. Our guys don't take teams lightly. They don't. But I think people believe we're going to play perfect, and we're not because we're still trying to get this thing going.

"Still not sure what we're going to get from everybody. The good thing about it is where we are right now. But we still don't have some key guys playing up to the level they are capable of."

On senior C Connor Atchley, who has struggled with inconsistency this season ...

"He made a really silly foul for his second foul in the first half and got himself on the bench. I thought Connor's demeanor for the most part was really good. But that foul was silly. Dexter (Pittman) has had trouble with that. Someone will grab a rebound and Dexter will stay down there and fall over someone and pick up a bad foul. We can't have either Dexter or Connor taking themselves out of the game with a silly foul."


On Damion James (3-of-9, 7 points, 2 rebounds) and Gary Johnson (0-of-4, 1 point and 2 rebounds) ...

"I don't think Damion (James) or Gary (Johnson) played particularly well. We can live with missed shots. It's on the defensive end where we're having some breakdowns. They're trying, but they are not very efficient. They are jumping around.

"There's a fine line between playing hard and playing out of control. And right now I think they are out of control defensively in terms of trying to be overly aggressive. They're just jumpy. I'd rather have that in some ways than the other, but by now Damion shouldn't be like that. I know he's playing a new position, and Gary needs to keep getting better.

"Damion has to learn to rebound from the perimeter. It's harder to block a guy out coming in like that. But I do think Damion still lets a little of what happens on the offensive end affect him on the defensive end."

On sophomore F Alexis Wangmene ...

"He's having his (season-ending) surgery Wednesday (on his right knee)."

On who will be on the floor in the final four minutes of a close game. Against Texas Southern, it was A.J. Abrams, Varez Ward, Justin Mason, Dexter Pittman and Damion James ...

"Everyone may assume it's going to be Damion and Gary and Justin, Connor and A.J., but it wasn't tonight. Those spots are going to be earned. We're not just going to give those spots away."

On Damion James' rebounding ...

"He's making it a lot harder on himself right now than he needs to. We try to point out to he and Connor how many rebounds should have been their rebounds. He's never been a great blockout guy.

"In the Villanova game, the first three possessions were a direct result of him not blocking out. His guy either got it, scored it or tipped it. It's a mindset. If he doesn't realize it, he'll spend more time (on the bench). I know he had two or three in his hands tonight and just lost them."

On Justin Mason having 15 assists and 0 turnovers the last two games and 28 assists and 3 turnovers in the last four games ...

"He's feeling more comfortable there. What's remarkable is he was the one who changed the energy level in the second half. We had our hands down and needed to get it going, and he just upped the intensity and took it to a different level.

"The only thing I want to see him do is add a pull-up jumper from 7 or 8 feet instead trying to get all the way to the rim in traffic. He's also got to recognize what defense the opponent is in. And sometimes the best thing he can do to get everyone involved is drive it, draw the defense and then dish."

MY TAKE: With Michigan State and Wisconsin up next, Texas has to get its transition defense under control. Barnes says most of the issues are the result of Justin Mason having to fight his instinct to go to the offensive glass and instead get back on defense when a shot goes up. Michigan State and Wisconsin are also two, big-time rebounding teams, so Texas will have to pick it up after allowing Texas Southern to shoot 57.7 percent, including 50 percent from 3-point range (5 of 10) and outrebound UT, 30-25.

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