Posted by Ryan Clark at 12:44PM

Texas Longhorns (1-2) vs. Washington Huskies (3-1)
Imperial Arena | Paradise Island, Bahamas
Tip: 6 P.M. CT | TV: AXS (find your channel)
Vegas: Texas -3 | KenPom: Texas, 81-76 (66%)

In last night’s first round action at the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Texas Longhorns fell behind early against a Top 25 Texas A&M squad, and could never quite dig completely out of the hole. Despite multiple runs in the second half to get within one possession of the Aggies, Texas was repeatedly stifled by dagger threes and big plays from Texas A&M. As a result, the Longhorns fell into the loser’s bracket, setting up a rematch with Washington.

This is the second time the Longhorns and Huskies will play in less than two weeks, with both games coming outside of the United States. Texas has played its three games in three different countries and traveled more than 16,000 miles so far this season, with the Huskies logging more than 14,000 miles of their own.

The theme song for the first Texas/Washington game was “Yakety Sax”
(Photo credit: Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

The first meeting

The season opener, at Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, was a painful affair. Both teams played very sloppy basketball and found it difficult to adjust the new emphasis on calling textbook fouls that had been ignored in years past. The teams combined for 62 fouls and shot 88 free throws in a game that rarely had a few clean possessions strung together.

After a very slow start from both teams, Washington eventually built a small first-half lead Texas managed to eliminate by the break. The Huskies again slowly built their lead throughout the second half, holding a nine-point edge with just over 11 minutes to play. Isaiah Taylor and Demarcus Holland combined for the next 15 Texas points, as the Longhorns trimmed the deficit to just one point with five minutes left.

It was a nip-and-tuck one-possession affair for nearly the entire remainder of the game, including a pair of lead changes, but a missed transition three and a missed second attempt by Javan Felix near the one-minute mark proved to be Texas’ last gasp. The Longhorns failed to score in the final 2:09 of the game, and the Huskies iced it away at the free-throw line for a 77-71 victory.

Texas was plagued by an inability to secure defensive rebounds and loose balls that seemed to be right within their grasp, particularly when they needed stops down the stretch. The Huskies reclaimed 49% of their missed shots on the day and turned that into 21 second-chance points. Although the Longhorns have a bigger, stronger frontcourt, the quickness and athleticism of the young Washington team proved invaluable when chasing down the ball.

Shot selection was also a major issue for the Longhorns, with the team frequently settling for very long threes without any attempt at dribble penetration or ball movement. Washington plays a pressure defense — which resulted in quite a few fouls during the season opener — and it seemed that the Longhorns were frustrated enough to take open shots whenever they presented themselves, regardless of whether or not those shots actually should have been taken in that situation.

On paper, Texas was the clear favorite heading into the first game. They played a very poor game and were still in a position to win in the final minutes, but ultimately came up short. The Longhorns are still favored by both Vegas and Pomeroy in tonight’s game, albeit by a smaller margin than the first time around. If Texas can improve on some of its very frustrating shortcomings from the Pac-12 China Game, they should be able to enact revenge tonight.

Keys to the Game

1) Attack against the pressure – The Husky defense has proven that the high foul count in Shanghai was not an outlier, as indicated by their season free-throw rate of 51.5%. That statistic means that Washington gives up more than one free throw for every two field goal attempts, a rate that is currently 301st out of 351 Division I teams. In yesterday’s game against Gonzaga, the Huskies actually posted a defensive free throw-rate of 91.7%, which is nearly one free throw given for every shot.

Washington sent Kendal Yancy and Texas to the line frequently
(Photo credit: Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)

Texas found success against Washington when Taylor attacked, and they also found some very nice drives from Eric Davis and Demarcus Holland last night against Texas A&M when their ball movement gave the guards just enough space to blow by with a quick first step. Texas must not be frustrated by Washington’s pressure defense again tonight, and need to drive the ball immediately when they have an angle on the defender. When that angle isn’t there, quick ball movement will find them elsewhere, and will provide another opportunity for a slash to the rim.

In addition to earning extra trips to the line, relying on the backcourt may also help the Texas bigs, who have had issues establishing position without picking up offensive fouls. Rather than focus on pounding the ball down low and relying on Cameron Ridley and company to fight for position, repeatedly slashing to the rim should open things up for the bigs on dump-offs underneath, and hopefully keep them from riding pine thanks to offensive fouls.

2) Clean up the defensive glass – While the Longhorns clawed back against Washington in the second half of their first meeting, it seemed like every defensive stop was scuttled by a rebound that was snatched right out of a Texas player’s hands. Much of the Washington offense in their first four games has come from second-chance points, thanks to an offensive rebounding rate that is currently 5th-best in the nation.

Since many of the lost defensive rebounds seemed to be a result of being outworked or out-hustled, and not a result of repeatedly being out of position, it’s likely that Texas can make some improvements in that department tonight. The Huskies are not a great shooting team, and with so many freshman, they’ve also made some poor shot choices. If the Longhorns can win back more of the defensive boards tonight than they did in Shanghai, it will make a serious dent in Washington’s scoring chances.

3) Take advantage of Washington’s mistakes – In addition to bad shots, the Huskies have also made quite a few mistakes this year by just playing too quickly. The youngsters have thrown tons of errant passes in transition, with a fair number resulting in turnovers. They also tend to continue pushing when the break isn’t there, resulting in forced shots against a set defense. The poor shot selection is also a hidden form of turnover, as when the defense can win the rebound, those types of shots often lead to runouts the other way.

Washington had an incredibly rough start in Shanghai thanks to that sloppy play and an inability to finish some easy looks. Texas was unable to take advantage, however, and allowed Washington to claw their way to a lead midway through the first half. There will likely be quite a few freshman mistakes made by the Huskies tonight, so Texas must capitalize on them this time around. Whether that means extending a lead or charging back from a deficit, this Texas team cannot afford to stall out when Washington is giving them extra possessions.

Posted by Ryan Clark at 6:22PM

National Broadcasts (All times Eastern)

West Virginia Mountaineers (13-4, 3-2 Big East) at #12 Georgetown Hoyas (12-4, 2-2) | 7 PM, ESPN
The Hoyas are looking to start piling up wins in conference play now that the toughest stretch is behind them. Despite the league placing eight teams in the top twenty-five, the next six games for Georgetown include only one ranked opponent. The Mountaineers, unfortunately, have no such luck. After traveling to face Georgetown tonight, they will take on Pitt and Louisville before the end of January. For two teams stuck in the middle of a packed conference, this could very well be a turning point.

#18 Purdue Boilermakers (14-4, 3-2 Big 10) at #21 Minnesota Golden Gophers (16-2, 4-2) | 7 PM, ESPN2
Michigan State’s home loss to Northwestern has cracked the door open in the Big 10, and these two teams are the ones best positioned to take advantage. Sure, the Golden Gophers had their own loss to the Wildcats on Sunday, but they have the privilege of only playing the Boilermakers once — and having home court in tonight’s match-up. The Spartans, who now lead the conference by only one game, still have two-games on tap with Purdue. If Minnesota can hold home court tonight, they could reap the rewards as the other contenders knock each other off.

St. Louis Billikens (11-6, 2-1 Atlantic 10) at Temple Owls (9-7, 1-1) | 8 PM, CBS College Sports
If you’re fortunate enough to get this channel, you might be disappointed that the A-10 game on the air tonight isn’t Dayton’s visit to Foggy Bottom. But if you happen to tune into this contest between two of the conference middle-tier squads, you’ll be treated to the play of star Dionte Christmas, who is leading the way with 21 points and six boards.

St. Mary’s Gaels (17-1, 4-0 WCC) at San Diego Toreros (12-7, 4-0) | 9 PM, ESPN2
The WCC has quietly built itself into a power conference at the top, with Gonzaga still statistically ranked as one of the best teams in the land. But it’s the emergence of St. Mary’s and San Diego that have made the league stronger. San Diego crashed the NCAAs last year with a win in the conference tournament before shocking the country with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Meanwhile, the Gaels have earned all sorts of pub with their Australian pipeline, which has brought previously unheralded players such as Patty Mills and made them stars in the states. While this may seem like an unimportant game to the casual viewer, it’s actually a must-win if either team hopes to challenge the Zags this year.

#13 UCLA Bruins (14-3, 4-1 Pac-10) at Washington State Cougars (11-6, 3-2) | 9 PM, FSN
After stumbling early in the season against Michigan and Texas, the Bruins have quietly plugged along, having won ten straight games prior to Saturday’s overtime loss to Arizona State. The loss dropped the Bruins into a three-way tie for the league lead with Cal and Washington, who they will face this weekend. Ben Howland’s team can’t afford to look ahead to that match-up, though, as guard Taylor Rochestie lit up Oregon this weekend to the tune of 30 points. And the Cougars will certainly be fired up in front of the home crowd, as they hope to exorcise the demons of an eight-game losing streak to the Bruins.

USC Trojans (12-5, 3-2 Pac-10) at Washington Huskies (13-4, 4-1) | 11 PM, FSN
Coach Tim Floyd has brought a frustrating brand of defense to Los Angeles, which has turned the Trojans from a conference also-ran to a contender in just a few seasons. Never was that defensive transformation more apparent than Thursday night, when USC absolutely shut down Arizona State’s National Player of the Year candidate James Harden. The super soph, who has averaged 22 points per contest, was stifled by the Trojans, going 0-for-8 from the field and finishing with only four points from the line. USC will have to spread out that solid defense tonight, though, as the Huskies run a balanced attack with four players averaging double-digits in scoring.

ESPN Full Court

Not a lot to choose from on the pay package tonight, but if you want to be the guy who predicts the 14-seed upsets come March, you might get some added intel from this set of games.

Vermont Catamounts at Hartford Hawks | 7:30 PM, ESPNFC1

UW-Milwaukee Panthers at Valparaiso Crusaders | 8 PM, ESPNFC2

New Mexico State Aggies at Boise State Broncos | 9 PM, ESPNFC4