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February 20, 2010

No. 15 Texas may have lost Balbay in win over Tech


Texas left Lubbock with a much-needed win over Texas Tech on Saturday. But the Horns also left with what appears to be one less player for the foreseeable future.

Rick Barnes said he believes a left knee injury to Dogus Balbay suffered with 14:51 left in the first half "is pretty serious."

Balbay will have an MRI on Sunday. Balbay told reporters after the game he heared "a pop."

Even though J'Covan Brown had a sleeve on his left knee, UT basketball spokesman Scott McConnell said during the game Brown was not nursing an injury of any kind.

After the game, Barnes indicated he'll play people in Balbay's absence who bring energy to the floor - definitely sounding more alarms about trying to get J'Covan Brown to conform to Barnes' way of thinking.

Brown, who hit two free throws with 3.7 seconds left to ice Texas' 71-67 victory over Tech, played only 5 minutes in this game despite the injury to Balbay.

Brown didn't get into the game until the final 2 minutes of the first half. He played a little in the middle of the second half and then for the final 59.8 seconds of the game.

So two games after Brown was inserted into the starting lineup and sounded like a guy who wanted to lead the team, Brown is now a bit player with more boot camping to do apparently.


AGGRESSIVE START

Loved the mindset of Barnes to start the game against Texas Tech. He started off pressing and trying to push the tempo, and the Horns quickly grabbed a double-digit lead that would grow to 15 in the first half.

Barnes started Justin Mason, a senior from Amarillo who has always seemed to play well against Texas Tech, in favor of J'Covan Brown, along with Dogus Balbay, Dexter Pittman, Avery Bradley and Damion James.

Pittman suffered a blow to the head (from Damion James) just 1 minute into the game and went to the bench. Alexis Wangmene came in for Pittman, who returned midway through the first half.

Pittman struggled with foul trouble, which limited his minutes to 14. He ultimately fouled out. Pittman finished with 7 points on 2-of-2 shooting, including 3-of-3 from the FT line with 4 rebounds, 3 turnovers and 5 fouls.

Balbay landed awkwardly on a drive (he appeared to step on a Tech player's foot) and wrenched his left knee at the 14:51 mark of the the first half. He did not return and was on crutches with an aircast on his knee after the injury.

Barnes subbed in Jai Lucas for a lengthy period of time after Balbay's injury, including UT's run to a 25-10 lead (the Horns' biggest of the game). But Barnes did not look to J'Covan Brown until the final 2 minutes of the first half.

Gary Johnson was a monster in this game for Texas, playing well from start to finish (22 points on 7-of-12 shooting, 8-of-10 from FT, 9 rebounds and 2 fouls)

Damion James was the only other Horn in double figures (12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, 2-of-5 from 3-pt, 0-of-3 from FT, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover and 3 steals.

Johnson and James were the stars of the game. Johnson was great all game and needed to be because James was on the bench with foul trouble for much of the first half.

James, however, hit a huge answer basket with 2:02 left to put Texas up 69-63 after Tech had gone on a 7-2 run to chop down an 11-point Texas lead. James also had the huge rebound on Okorie's miss with 10 seconds left.

F Clint Chapman, however, deserves some kudos for a valuable 7 minutes in the game, scoring 4 points on 2-of-4 shooting, including a put-back, with 2 rebounds and a 1 steal.


DEAD LEGS LATE DON'T DOOM TEXAS

Brown's lack of action became a bigger and bigger factor as the game wore on because Barnes chose to play Justin Mason, Avery Bradley, Damion James and Gary Johnson for most of the second half.

The reason Tech was able to cut an 11-point Texas lead (67-56) with 4:16 left to 2 points (69-67) is because Texas had dead legs and went cold late.

But Brown came in with 59.8 seconds left and Texas clinging to the 69-67 lead. Justin Mason missed a jumper, and Damion James rebounded the miss and was fouled by Nick Okorie with 25.8 seconds left.

James missed both free throws, and Tech rebounded the ball. The Red Raiders had a chance to hold for the last shot, but Okorie missed a good look at a 10-footer with 10 seconds left, and Damion James grabbed the rebound and quickly got the ball to J'Covan.

J'Covan was fouled with 3.7 seconds left, and he hit both. John Roberson of Tech, who played sparingly because of a rib injury, attempted to draw a foul on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. But his shot missed and no foul was called.

Texas won despite a cold afternoon from its backcourt. Justin Mason was 3-of-11. Avery Bradley was 4-of-14, and Jordan Hamilton was 1-of-8 for a combined 8-of-33 shooting (24.2 percent).

It was another game for Texs in which the assists (14) and turnovers (16) were upside down. But the Horns wiped out Tech on the boards 43-22. Jordan Hamilton matched a career-high in rebounds with 7.


OTHER NOTABLES

--Justin Mason matched a season-high with 5 assists and matched Avery Bradley with a team-high 38 minutes. (I still think Bradley needs some more rest so he's not out of gas come March.)

--Damion James played in his 135th consecutive game, setting the UT record and passing Brian Boddicker (134, 2001-04) and James Thomas (134, 2001-04).

--James made his 133rd career start, improving on his school record and moving alone into second place on the Big 12 all-time list (137, Aaron Miles, Kansas, 2002-05)

--James registered his 15th double-double this season and the 52nd of his career, which is just three shy of the UT record (55, LaSalle Thompson, 1980-82).


UP NEXT: Oklahoma State (19-7, 7-5) at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Austin on ESPN2. The Cowboys beat Baylor today 82-75 in Stillwater, going nuts from the 3-point line (14 of 25, 56 percent).

Big 12 leading scorer James Anderson had 31 points for OSU, including 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range with 12 rebounds.

Dogus Balbay was crucial in shutting down Anderson in the second half of a Texas victory over OSU in Stillwater earlier this season. (Anderson went for 24 in the first half, and Balbay helped hold him to 4 points in the second half.)

Texas (21-6, 7-5) would still be the No. 6 seed in the Big 12 Tournament if the season ended today.




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