Five-to-One Ratio Favors Texas
Saturday, March 29, 2008
HOUSTON, March 28 -- Brook Lopez seemed intent Friday night on proving one player could trump five, and for a moment it appeared he just might. Somehow, with a burnt orange crowd roaring around him, Lopez pulled the Stanford basketball team within one point of Texas one unstoppable hook shot at a time.
While the second-seeded Longhorns never found an answer for the 7-foot Lopez, they never had to. Texas turned a taut game into an 82-62 blowout with a balanced attack led by spectacular sophomore guard D.J. Augustin in a South Region semifinal at Reliant Stadium.
Texas (31-6) held third-seeded Stanford without a field goal for more than nine minutes in the second half, using the drought to unleash a 22-3 run that lasted until less than four minutes remained. Lopez finished with 26 points, but his teammates never provided the support Augustin received. Three other Longhorns scored in double figures, led by the 18 of forward Damion James.
Augustin made shots fit for a game of "horse" -- launching a shot with absurd arc over Fred Washington; driving the baseline and sinking a twisting, reverse layup over Lopez -- while coolly commanding Texas's attack.
"He's pretty much the best point guard in the country," Texas guard A.J. Abrams said. "I would have to put him up there."
And Augustin's opinion?
"I'm not worried about that," Augustin said. "As long as we're winning, that's all that matters to me."
The final scene -- Texas players hugging one another -- belied how close the game once was. Texas led by 12 in the first half, but the Cardinal (28-8) charged back behind Lopez. When Landry Fields drained a three-pointer with 12 minutes 52 seconds remaining, Stanford pulled to within one and Coach Rich Barnes called timeout.
Texas had used new defenses to try to stop Lopez, but none of them had worked; Lopez had scored 24 of Stanford's 51 points. In the huddle, Barnes gathered his players.
"Hey, look, we're going to do what got us here," Barnes told his players. "We're going to get aggressive."
Moments later, Augustin outraced two Stanford players for a loose ball at midcourt and turned it into a layup. Lopez did not score a field goal the rest of the game, and Stanford did not convert one until 3:27 remained.
"I started forcing up shots," Lopez said.
Texas unleashed the 22-3 run to push the lead back to 20. James punctuated the onslaught with a two-handed dunk over Robin Lopez, Brook's twin brother, bringing the partisan crowd to its feet. The Longhorns hardly needed it, but they enjoyed a home-court advantage playing 147 miles from their Austin campus.
Texas rarely is included amongst the nation's preeminent basketball programs, but the Longhorns reached their second region final in three years, and they are a win away from advancing to their second Final Four in six years.
Their recent success also includes the player of year awards won last season by Kevin Durant. In Augustin, they have another, less-heralded potential candidate.
"When we give it to him," Barnes said, "we know he's going to make something happen."