NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- A.J. Abrams is in the zone for Texas (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) and D.J. Augustin is finding him.
Abrams had career bests of 31 points and nine 3-pointers and Augustin added 25 points and 10 assists to lead the Longhorns to a 102-87 victory over New Mexico State in the semifinals in the StubHub! Legends Classic on Friday night."They are just great players," New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said of two Texas guards. "They are both NBA players. They played like and they have been playing like it. We didn't have an answer for them tonight."Connor Atchley added 15 points and the Longhorns (4-0) hit 16 3-pointers in a wide-open contest that paired schools that played a first-round game in the NCAA tournament in March."We obviously have a lot of confidence in what A.J. and D.J. can do," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "Justin [Mason] knows how to play with them and I thought D.J. was really good in the second half when they were making a push. He was able to have answers. Those two guys are a big part of what we do."Jonathan Gibson had 21 points to lead New Mexico State (2-3) in the game at the new Prudential Center. Justin Hawkins added 19, Paris Carter had 14 and Hatila Passos 13 for the Aggies, who never overcame an early 21-point deficit that resulted from early trouble handling Texas' pressure defense.Texas will play the winner of the second game between West Virginia and No. 7 Tennessee for the title on Saturday.Abrams hit 9-of-12 from long range, five days after he set career highs with 30 points and eight 3-pointers against Arkansas Monticello."I just give credit to my teammates," Abrams said. "D.J. draws a lot of attention and the type of point guard he is, he is always going to find the open man. I'm doing a good job of reading the screens, coming off them and knocking them down."Abrams came within one of the school record for 3-pointers, set by Al Coleman against Kansas State in 1997. The junior guard might have tied or broken the mark but he had to leave the floor for a couple of minutes with 10:54 to play when he seemingly developed a cramp in his right calf."You know you are a great shooter when people are surprised when you miss," Barnes said of Abrams. "We are with him. We think every time he shoots it, it can go in."It marked the second straight game that Texas has scored at least 100 points. It is 93-9 in those contests.The Aggies shot almost 61 percent from the field in the first half and still trailed 57-46.The difference was Texas' pressure defense and its ability to hit the 3-pointer. The Longhorns forced 14 turnovers and hit 11-of-19 from long range, with Abrams tying a school record with six in the half. Overall, the Longhorns scored 43 points off 19 turnovers."If his first four or five shots were heavily contested, who's to say he makes nine tonight," Menzies said of Abrams long-range shooting. "Next time, if we ever get a chance, that will be something we try to do."Abrams hit three 3-pointers and Mason had two and a layup in a 23-3 spurt that turned an 8-7 deficit into a 30-11 lead that the Longhorns never lost.New Mexico State made a couple of runs in the second half but each time they got close, Abrams and Augustin stepped up. Augustin scored 20 points in the final 20 minutes.The two also combined on a 9-0 run after New Mexico State got within 62-55 with 16:12 to play. Augustin hit two jumpers and Abrams made a 3-pointer."We came out slow and they came out gunning," Hawkins said. "They were making shots and we weren't doing the things we were supposed to do. They capitalized on them. That's what good teams do."