Big man key in Longhorns' win
Aldridge stepped up against Penn after a rough Big 12 tourney
March 21, 2006, 5:00 am·
On a Friday night in which Penn's motion offense and stingy defense were textbook definitions of a team effort, there was one Texas player whose game literally stood head and shoulders above everyone else's on the floor.
With both his physical presence and his game-high 19 points, Longhorns forward LaMarcus Aldridge became the focal point of his team's offense over the course of 40 tough minutes against Penn. And when the night was over, the 6-foot-10, 237-pound center was one of the main reasons why Texas was able to pull out a 60-52 win over the Quakers.
Aldridge was particularly dominant early on. He scored eight of his team's first nine points, and was the only Texas player to make a field goal in the first 10:36 of the game.
The Dallas native was also instrumental midway through the second half, when he made layups on consecutive Texas possessions sandwiched around a missed three-pointer by Penn senior guard Eric Osmundson.
That stretch turned a 34-31 Longhorns lead into a 38-31 advantage in just over 30 seconds, setting the pace for the second half. It also succeeded in waking up the Texas crowd, which had spent much of the game until then sitting on its hands.
Yet afterwards, Aldridge said that he never felt like he had to put the team on his shoulders.
"I don't ever look at it as I have to carry the team -- I just felt like I was doing well at the time," he said. "Coach always says that if someone gets hot, keep going to him, and I felt like I was hot."
That was not the case during the Longhorns' last trip to Dallas for this year's Big 12 Conference Tournament. After scoring 20 points and pulling down 16 rebounds in the second round against Texas Tech, Aldridge scored only nine points on 3-of-10 shooting in the semifinals against Texas A&M.;
He played even worse in the championship game the next day against Kansas, scoring a meager five points on three free throws and one basket on five attempts.
That led to some rather pointed questions for Texas coach Rick Barnes about Aldridge's play at the team's pregame press conference last Thursday. But the next night, Aldridge answered his critics in a big way.
"I'd like for him to make all of his shots every night and do everything right," Barnes said. "LaMarcus has always tried to learn from what he didn't do well."
Barnes praised Aldridge's aggression in the post, and his ability to beat Penn's stingy -- but clearly undersized -- defense.
"He knew he was going to get double-teamed, or they were going to come from some different angles to run at him," Barnes said.
In both the literal and figurative senses, Aldridge's ability to rise above the other players on the floor was a big reason why the Longhorns were able to gut out their win.