After missing all of last season with a knee injury and the 2008-09 opener because of an eligibility issue, sophomore guard Dogus Balbay hit the court for the first time in a Texas uniform in the Longhorns’ 76-51 win over Tulane Tuesday night.
Box Score Coach Barnes calls him a pit bull. You and I call him Dogus.
And although his collegiate debut may be unremarkable on paper, it was enough to please his two biggest critics: his coach, and himself. Sophomore guard Dogus Balbay made his first appearance in burnt orange Tuesday night after being sidelined for an extended period of time with a knee injury and a one-game suspension for his (unpaid) participation on a Turkish pro team. Balbay finally got his turn at point guard and spent 26 minutes on the floor in No. 7 Texas’s 76-51 win over the Tulane Green Wave at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.
“I think it was good to get my first game out of the way,” Balbay said. “In the beginning I was kind of nervous but the fans were great and my teammates helped me out.”
Although Balbay was 1-for-4 from the field with no rebounds, Barnes was busy focusing on the positive.
“(Balbay) had only one turnover in 26 minutes. We’ll take that all night long” he said. “His first time he came in with a pit bull attitude and he wanted to make an impact. He played better out there than I have seen him play in a long time.”
After last Friday’s win over the Stetson Hatters (seriously), Barnes made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the pace of his offense. The Horns continued to struggle against Tulane as they turned the ball over 19 times and hit 48.2 percent from the field despite hitting the locker room at halftime with an even 50 points.
“The intensity, the effort was good, nineteen turnovers is unacceptable,” Barnes said of his team’s performance. “That’s the one thing that gets me. It doesn’t matter how many points we score.”
Senior A.J. Abrams got the start at point guard and put up 15 points of his own, including all nine from his team’s 3-for-13 effort from behind the arc.
Damion James paced the offense with eight rebounds and 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting but he didn’t stand out too much. Texas had five players score double digits with Gary Johnson, Connor Atchley and Dexter Pittman all joining the club. Atchley was 4-for-4 from the free throw line, Johnson logged a career-high three steals and Pittman kicked in six boards.
“We don’t have a selfish guy on the team,” James said post-game. “But right now our defense is helping us in the game.”
The Longhorns’ strong defense showed up again and dried up the Green Wave’s shooting game, limiting Tulane to 31 percent from the field 25 percent behind the arc. Kevin Sims, the Wave’s leading scorer, went 4-for-9 and put up 11 points.
Texas jumped to an early six-point lead before Sims tied things up with a lay-up barely four minutes in. Tulane failed to jump ahead and the Horns climbed their way to a 42-25 lead at halftime before Texas started the second half with a 21-2 run that finally ran the Wave aground.
Freshman guard Varez Ward suffered an ankle injury in practice and had to miss the action. He is listed as day-to-day.
Next week Texas travels to sunny Maui, Hawai’i to participate in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Their first game is scheduled to be against Saint Joseph’s on the 24th. You can watch it on ESPN2 at 2 p.m.