Durant-less 'Horns impressive with early wins and No. 4 ranking Print
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Tuesday, 04 December 2007 12:47
NCAAB Headline News


 AUSTIN (AP) -Ask Texas coach Rick Barnes if his Longhorns are better without Kevin Durant, he'll say that's the stupidest question he's heard.
``If we had 25 points and 11 rebounds (per game) right now, we'd be a better team,'' Barnes said Tuesday.
Agreed. But they couldn't be any more undefeated.
The Durant-less Longhorns (7-0) are No. 4 after Sunday's impressive road win at UCLA and are making up for his absence by scoring points from everywhere.
Last season's national player of the year is in the NBA now, but the Longhorns are playing like a wiser, more experienced team.
Texas starts three sophomores (guards D.J. Augustin and Justin Mason and forward Damion James) and two juniors (guard A.J. Abrams and forward Connor Atchley), and the players who sometimes watched Durant take over games are now the ones scooping rebounds, driving to the lane and popping long 3-pointers.
Even without Durant's points, Texas is averaging 84.4 and has a pair of wins over top 10 teams.
The Longhorns shot 64 percent in blasting then-No. 7 Tennessee 97-78 on Thanksgiving weekend, and James' dunk in the waning seconds in Los Angeles knocked off then-No. 2 UCLA 63-61. The Bruins are the highest-ranked opponent Texas has beaten on the road.
``They didn't flinch,'' Barnes said. ``I think they've shown they are fearless.''
All five Texas starters are averaging more than 11 points per game. Abrams, who set a Big 12 record with 120 3-pointers last season, leads the way at 18.7. Augustin, an All-America candidate at point guard, is averaging 17.7 points and 6.6 assists.
The biggest surprise has been the emergence of James as a consistent scoring threat. He averaged 7.6 points last season, but in two wins last week, he averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds to win Big 12 player of the week honors.
Barnes said he didn't know what to expect before the season started. He knew his team would be more mature, but injuries kept many of his players from practice before the first game.
The Longhorns also are without their top-recruit, Gary Johnson, who was supposed to be their best frontcourt scorer but has been held out with an unspecified heart condition. He's been allowed to practice but has not been cleared by doctors for games.
Early-season surprises are one thing. Now comes the challenge playing at a high level through December before the Big 12 season starts in January.
The Longhorns play Wednesday night against North Texas (5-1), with Oral Roberts, No. 9 Michigan State and Wisconsin also on the schedule this month.
``If we don't get ready to play, it will be right back to the proud peacock today, feather duster tomorrow,'' Barnes said.
 

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