Looking For a Boost

Texas lost two straight to end 2007, but it's about to get a major boost for the start of the new year.

Star freshman Gary Johnson is expected to make his debut for the 14th-ranked Longhorns on Wednesday night when they host TCU.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Texas –20.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on Texas –20.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Texas has lost back-to-back games since an 11-0 start, but the presence of Johnson should be a major plus. The Longhorns' star recruit was detected with an unusual heart condition during a standard physical in the summer and has been held out of action.

He's been cleared to play, but neither the school nor Johnson will reveal the exact nature of the heart problem.

"I feel it's a gift being able to play again," Johnson said Monday when he talked with reporters for the first time. "Right now I'm taking it as that, trying to take every minute as a gift on the court."

Johnson was cleared to practice in early September and wore a monitor every day that tracked his heart rate and how quickly it recovered from stress. Doctors, meanwhile, were busy gathering information about Johnson to make a determination whether he could play.

"He's done everything we've asked him to. He's practiced hard," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "He's had the best medical care in the world."

Johnson is a Houston native who averaged 26 points and 13 rebounds last season as a senior in high school. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound forward will wear his heart monitor during the game, and is expected to replace guard Justin Mason in the starting lineup.

Texas could use Johnson after being outmuscled a bit in its last two games, including Saturday's 67-66 loss to Wisconsin. The Longhorns were outscored in the paint 36-28 and allowed Badgers center Brian Butch to finish with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

"We have to bounce back from these two losses," Texas guard D.J. Augustin said. "This will show our true character, how we come back from this situation and get ready for our next game."

Texas has not lost three straight non-conference games in the same season since starting 0-4 in 1998-99 in Barnes' first season.

The Longhorns are meeting TCU (8-3) for the first time since 1995-96 - the final season of the Southwest Conference. Texas has won the last nine home meetings with TCU and seven of the last eight overall.

The Horned Frogs have been in three different conferences since and are trying to end a 10-game road losing streak dating to last season. They have dropped all three road games this season - all to Texas opponents, including a 70-65 loss at Rice on Saturday.

TCU jumped out to an early 13-2 lead and led by 15 points at halftime before allowing 50 points over the final 20 minutes. Kevin Langford scored 14 points as the Horned Frogs had a four-game overall winning streak snapped.

The Horned Frogs are 1-47 all-time against ranked opponents on the road.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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