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January 9, 2010

Avery Bradley goes off in Texas' Big 12 opener


Here's a BREAKDOWN from the Longhorns' (15-0, 1-0) Big 12 opening, 103-86 victory over Colorado (9-6, 0-1) on Saturday in front of 10,823 at the Erwin Center.

--The story of the game was the in-the-zone performance from freshman G Avery Bradley, whose minutes just keep going up (he played 36 minutes Saturday after playing 36 mins at Arkansas on Tuesday).

--The guy just continues to get more and more comfortable. He got off to a hot start, and just kept it going, hitting 12 of 14 from the field, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range for 29 points to go along with 9 rebounds.

--Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik said he was so concerned about the inside scoring of Damion James and Dexter Pittman that his players failed to get out on Bradley quickly enough.

"We had to pick our poison," Bzdelik said. "We knew all about Bradley's talent. We tried different ways to defend him. We never got to him quite in time, and he got into a pretty good comfort zone."

--Bradley's 36 minutes in Texas' 96-85 victory at Arkansas included assisting on Texas' last three baskets in a game that was only a 2-point margin for UT with 1:50 left.

--"It's all about confidence," Bradley said. "If you have confidence in yourself and confidence in your shot, you'll make those shots. Now, it's on to the next game."

--Bradley earlier in the season wasn't looking for his shot as much as he is right now. He said there was a reason for that.

"Our team was building chemistry and our chemistry is so strong right now," Bradley said. "We all have confidence in each other, and today they had confidence in me. They saw I was making shots, so they started looking for me. It shows anyone can have those games."

--On the defensive end, Bradley held CU leading scorer Cory Higgins to 15 points, below Higgins' average of 18.4 points per game. (Higgins went off on Texas last year, scoring 34 points in an overtime victory by Texas up in Boulder.)

"I had never seen him play until today, and I noticed he's a real good player," Bradley said. "For my team, I had to play well on both ends of the floor and give my all. And then if I'm tired, someone else will come in. That's just how a team works."

--Texas coach Rick Barnes said, "The thing that you have to be impressed with Avery for a young guy is how hard he plays. That's one of the hardest things for a young guy to understand: being able to play hard and sustain it.

"He's getting better defensively by the day. We actually told him, 'We need you in games, so you are going to have to control your aggressiveness on defense.' Avery works at it, and I think he'll be the first to tell you he's learned a lot up to this point, but he's got a long way to go."

--Texas needed Bradley Saturday because Colorado's screening, motion offense made it difficult for Dexter Pittman to be a factor. Pittman played only 12 minutes and scored only 4 points with 1 rebound and 3 turnovers with 1 block.

--After the game, Rick Barnes said Pittman was frustrated because he felt like the three personal fouls he picked up, including two in the first half, were touch fouls called because Pittman was just so much bigger than his defenders, who flopped and were holding him.

--"Dexter came over to me and said, 'What am I doing wrong?'" Barnes said. "I don't blame him. He is entitled to raise his arms without it being a foul."

--Colorado shot 53.6 percent from the floor, but the Longhorns dominated the rebounding battle (39-23) and made the Buffs pay for every mistake or missed shot.

--Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik said his team lost the game because Texas' defensive pressure forced 15 turnovers that Texas converted into 17 points. Texas also outscored CU in second-chance points 22-6, in large part because UT dominated the offensive glass (18-6).

--"We knew coming in we'd have to take care of the ball and have to do a very good job on the defensive boards," Bzdelik said. "To give one of the nation's elite teams 39 points off turnovers and second-chance points is just way too many."

--Texas' size was too much for CU as the Horns dominated in the paint 44-32. Texas also beat CU down the floor in transition over and over again.

--Damion James is showing the country that he no longer rides the ups and downs that have been a part of his career the first three seasons. James has been playing at a consistently high level.

--James was huge against Arkansas, taking over that game in the final two minutes and scoring 6 of his team's final 10 points to break open a neck-and-neck game. James finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds in that one.

--James had 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting with 14 rebounds in 28 minutes against Colorado, including 6 offensive rebounds.

--If there's a nitpick with James' game it was his free throws: 1-of-5. That's not going to cut it. James hit 8-of-10 free throws in that thriller with Arkansas, and coaches feel like he'll hit them when needed.

--The unsung hero for Texas the last nine games continues to be Gary Johnson. In that span, he's averaging 10.3 points on 66.1 percent shooting, hitting 75 percent of his free throws (18 of 24), 4.1 rebounds and 19.2 minutes per game.

--Johnson was 5-of-7 from the field, 6-of-9 from the foul line for 16 points with 3 rebounds in 28 minutes.

--If there's one nitpick to Johnson's game, he could rebound better. It was a point of emphasis in the off-season for him to "go get" rebounds instead of just trying to box out his man.

--Jai Lucas has come along and added some offense and some better-than expected defense. Oddly enough, his arrival as an offensive threat has sort of coincided with a slump by J'Covan Brown.

--The last four games, Brown has been locked in a shooting slump. In that span, he's 10 of 40 shooting (25 percent), including 4 of 20 from 3-point range (20 percent).

--Jai Lucas in the last five games, meanwhile, is hitting 68.2 percent of his shots (15 of 22), including 9-of-14 from 3-point range (64.3 percent). Lucas is averaging 8.4 points with 8 assists and 5 turnovers.

--J'Covan Brown reversed one recent trend on Saturday by having 5 assists and 0 turnovers. In the three games prior, Brown had 3 assists and 9 turnovers.

Barnes was really upset with Brown after a behind-the-back pass that resulted in a turnover in the tight game at Arkansas. So Barnes was pleased with the assist-to-turnover ratio from Brown against Colorado.

"That was a big improvement because those games of 'my bad' are overwith," Barnes said, who is getting tough with Brown about taking better care of ball. "We're not waiting around to see if you get it. You either get it now, or you're going to come out and think about it a little bit harder.

"The same thing with defense. I thought (J'Covan) worked harder today to really get better. I thought his defense was really good. On one shot, he got fouled, and the official came over to me and said, 'I missed that. I really missed it.' And I thought J'Covan handled himself well there because he did get fouled.

"But he stopped playing some, and that's why I took him out of the game. I told him you're going to get fouled and not get the call some, but you can't stop playing. But I thought he worked hard to try and improve the things we talked about."



BONUS NUGGETS:

--Texas improved to 15-0 for the first time in 77 years (1932-33 season).

--UT won by a margin of 10 or more for the 14th in 15 games.

--Bradley's 29 was a career-high, topping the 20 he scored against North Carolina.

--Bradley also had a career-high with 9 rebounds, topping the 4 he grabbed vs. North Carolina.

--J'Covan Brown's 5 assists were a a career high, topping the 4 he logged on two other occasions.

--Jordan Hamilton played a career-high 29 minutes vs. CU and reached double figures in scoring (12 points on 3-of-9 shooting, including 1-of-4 from 3-point range while hitting 5-of-6 FTs) for the ninth time this season.

--Gary Johnson recorded season-highs in points (16) and minutes (28).

--Justin Mason made his 116th career start to move into 5th place on the UT all-time list. He is three shy of Travis Mays (119 - 1987-90) for fourth place.


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