The No. 7 Texas Longhorns (3-0) beat St. Joseph’s (1-2) 68-50 in the opening round of the EA Sports Maui Invitational. The game certainly wasn’t pretty the whole way through, but Texas got an early lead and once again stepped up on the defensive end to secure the win.
This game was all about turnovers, in both a positive and a negative sense for the Horns.
Texas forced 18 turnovers from St. Joseph’s, which is an impressive number but actually under the Longhorns’ season average of taking away 22. To put that in perspective, if a single team were to average 22 turnovers a game, they would be ranked 336th in the nation (11th most out of 347 teams).
But Texas also gave up 16 turnovers of its own, including five from Justin Mason and three apiece from Damion James and Varez Ward.
Texas also shot 42.9 percent (24-of-56) for the game, but one element on the offensive end that did look better was free throws. In the first two games of the season, the Horns had averaged an abysmal 51 percent from the line, but Monday Texas hit 14-of-19 free throws (73.7 percent).
The most dangerous weapon on offense for Texas was guard A.J. Abrams. He’s been the Longhorns’ most consistent shooter and against St. Joseph’s lit it up once again, scoring 17 points. Abrams hit 4 of his 7 three-point attempts and is shooting an even 50 percent (12-of-24) from behind the arc on the season.
Abrams also kicked in five rebounds, second most on the team behind Gary Johnson, who put up his first career double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 boards. Damion James also scored 14 points and pulled down four boards of his own.
Texas set the tone defensively from the get-go. The Horns ran out to a 13-2 lead to start the game, but even more impressive than the points Texas was getting was the lack of even attempts by St. Joseph’s. The Hawks were not able to take a single field goal for the first 2:31 of the game and did not make one for the first 4:53, at which point they were trailing 15-4.
The Longhorns had their issues on the offensive end, but didn’t let up on defense to keep a healthy margin throughout the contest, never trailing in the win. Texas has yet to trail at any point of any game this season (120 minutes of play).
On Tuesday at 6 p.m. CST, Texas takes on No. 8 Notre Dame, thanks to the Fighting Irish’s 88-50 win over Indiana in their first round match-up. The game broadcast will be on ESPN.