Minnesota vs Texas

Abrams lights it up from outside as Texas advances

CBSSports.com wire reports

East Regional | Edge: Duke-Texas

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- A.J. Abrams' 3-point shooting was a key reason Texas got within a game of the Final Four last season. Now the Longhorns are moving on again thanks to the senior's latest long-range shooting flurry in the NCAA tournament.

Abrams hit eight 3-pointers and scored 26 points to help Texas beat Minnesota 76-62 in the first round of the East Regional on Thursday, helping the Longhorns win their NCAA opener for the fourth straight season.

Damion James added 18 points and nine rebounds for the seventh-seeded Longhorns (23-11), who hit 11 of 20 3s overall to put their recent struggles behind them. Texas had lost seven of its past 14 games dating to late January, a frustrating finish to a regular season that began with the Longhorns in the top 10.

It all began with Abrams, who had a run of six straight 3s to blow open a close game and give Texas a comfortable lead midway through the second half against the Golden Gophers (22-11). He finished one shy of a career high for made 3s and looked so relaxed that he heard questions afterward about how he manages to stay so calm in the postseason.

Even he didn't really have an answer.

"I guess I'm just kind of a laid-back person," he said. "I don't let the excitement just overwhelm me. I guess that's what it is. But I know these games are high stakes."

Abrams picked up where he left off in last year's four-game NCAA run, where he averaged 20 points and shot 50 percent from behind the arc. That included a pair of 6-for-10 performances from 3-point range in the first two wins.

"I'm not sure we've had a guy that's been defended the way he has all year," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "He's gotten the attention of every opponent. I know they game plan for him. When he starts getting separation and gets his feet and his balance, yeah, he's one of those guys where you're surprised when he misses."

Lawrence Westbrook scored 19 points for the 10th-seeded Gophers, who were making their first tournament appearance since 2005. It was also Minnesota's first NCAA bid under Tubby Smith, who left Kentucky two seasons ago to rebuild the struggling Big Ten program.

Minnesota got off to its best start in more than 30 years at 16-1, but closed the season by losing 10 of 16.

The Gophers got the start they wanted Thursday, jumping to a 10-point lead in the opening 3½ minutes, but the Longhorns hung around until Abrams found his range and turned the game into an impressive shooting display.

"Once they got the big lead, I think some guys lost composure a little bit," said Damian Johnson, who had 13 points for Minnesota. "When a guy like Abrams catches fire, that can be trouble for anyone and I think that's what gave them momentum."

He missed three of his first four deep tries, but started finding his range late in the first half before getting free on a screen from Connor Atchley and making a 3 just before the horn for a 39-35 halftime lead.

That turned out to be the first of six in a row, including a run of 3s on four straight possessions. After making the first two, Abrams fooled Blake Hoffarber into going airborne with a pump fake, then took a dribble to his right and coolly made the 3 from right in front of the Texas bench. Then, after a pair of missed shots by Minnesota, Abrams took a pass and launched another one over Devron Bostick that swished through the net.

That capped Abrams' personal 12-0 spurt and pushed Texas' lead to 59-44 with 10:57 to play. Minnesota didn't get closer than 12 points the rest of the way.

"It's like I've been saying: experience goes a long way," Abrams said. "You can't teach that. We just executed on the offensive end. We created some offense with our defense, and if we continue to do that, we'll be tough to beat."

Abrams' eight 3s were the most allowed by Minnesota all season, and followed a frustrating inability to defend the perimeter during the Gophers' late-season slide. It marked the ninth time in the last 16 games that Minnesota had allowed an opposing team to shoot at least 40 percent from behind the arc.

The Gophers had allowed that just three times during their 16-1 start.

"We didn't get our hands up," Smith said. "With a good shooter, you've got to get your hands up. You can't have your hands down. You've got to make him put it on the floor. We never made him."

Dexter Pittman added 17 points and 11 rebounds for Texas, which shot 47 percent and took a 41-30 rebounding edge that led to 15 second-chance points.

Minnesota shot 41 percent from the field.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
All day: A.J. Abrams hits more 3s than Minnesota has allowed in a game all season. (US Presswire)
All day: A.J. Abrams hits more 3s than Minnesota has allowed in a game all season. (US Presswire)
Minnesota #10352762
Texas #7 «393776
MN:Lawrence Westbrook 19 Pts
MN:Paul Carter 7 Reb
MN:Al Nolen 5 Ast
TX:A. Abrams 26 Pts
TX:D. Pittman 11 Reb
TX:V. Ward 4 Ast

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A. Abrams
L. Westbrook
Minnesota Golden Gophers
L. Westbrook, G328-141-431119
D. Johnson, F255-112-230213
A. Nolen, G250-24-42544
J. Abu-Shamala, G-F233-50-02216
R. Sampson III, F-C151-32-23244
P. Carter, F191-54-57236
D. Bostick, G151-40-01002
C. Iverson, F-C141-20-04022
D. Joseph, G131-50-03002
B. Hoffarber, G121-31-21014
T. Busch, G-F40-00-00010
J. Williams, C30-00-00010
K. Payton, GDid Not Play
Totals 22-5414-1929122062
Texas Longhorns
A. Abrams, G409-190-021226
D. James, G-F306-154-692318
D. Pittman, C307-123-4110217
J. Mason, G270-10-03210
C. Atchley, F-C101-11-24033
V. Ward, G262-43-63417
D. Balbay, G192-30-03325
C. Chapman, F-C80-20-13010
G. Johnson, F80-00-02010
H. Smith, G20-00-00020
M. Hill, F-CDid Not Play
A. Wangmene, F-CDid Not Play
Totals 27-5711-1940121876
Big Ten
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Michigan St.10-820-1550
Ohio St.7-1117-1590
Penn St.6-1215-18101

Big 12
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
W. Virginia12-628-924
Iowa St.12-624-1121
Oklahoma St.9-920-1340
Kansas St.8-1021-1457
Texas Tech6-1218-14123
Other games
Butler 71 Final
LSU 75
Nridge 70 Final
Memphis 81
Tx A&M 79 Final
BYU 66
N Iowa 56 Final
Purdue 61
RAD 58 Final
NC 101
MD 84 Final
California 71
Chatt 47 Final
UConn 103
Miss St 58 Final
Wash 71
Michigan 62 Final
AMER 67 Final
Akron 64 Final
BING 62 Final
Morg St 54 Final
Oklahoma 82
VCU 64 Final
W Ky 76 Final
Illinois 72