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James, Pittman lead way as Texas crushes UC Irvine in Longhorns' opener

AUSTIN, Texas -- When the freshmen looked nervous, No. 3 Texas had the luxury of a strong senior class to take control and lead the way.

Damion James had 21 points and 15 rebounds and Dexter Pittman scored 21 to lead the Longhorns to a season-opening 89-42 victory over UC Irvine on Sunday.

Those two had flirted with going to the NBA after last season, but returned to play with one of the nation's top freshman classes.

And in the first game with such high expectations, it was senior steadiness that carried the day.

"We knew we had to set a tone. We had to show them how it was done," Pittman said. "We weren't trying to steal the show."

Texas coach Rick Barnes sprinkled the freshmen through the lineup and the start was a bit ragged. Freshman J'Covan Brown started at point guard and finished with 13 points, but had no assists and five turnovers. Two of the turnovers came in the first 2 minutes.

Barnes said he could see the nervous energy the night before the game.

"J'Covan Brown wore us all out before the game," Barnes said. "I've never seen a guy as amped up. Ever."

Avery Bradley, considered the top player among the freshmen, got in the game 4 minutes in, but misfired on his first couple of shots and didn't make his first basket until a steal and dunk with 3:26 left in the half.

Bradley won the McDonald's All-America dunk contest in high school but kept his first college slam pretty simple without any showboating.

The early miscues forced Pittman and James to make sure Texas (1-0) didn't fall far behind and they scored 15 of Texas' first 18 points. Aided by the Texas mistakes, UC Irvine led 19-18 before the freshmen finally shook off their jitters.

Brown started the big run with a 3-pointer and Jordan Hamilton's 3 a couple of minutes later made it 26-19. James and Pittman dunked before another 3-pointer by James put Texas up by 20.

"We know how good they are. They're going to be great," James said. "You can't throw a freshman in there and expect them to just go to the top."

Brown's second 3-pointer with 48 seconds left made it 42-21 at halftime.

UC Irvine had no way to match up with the 6-foot-10, 290-pound Pittman, who scored at will on 10-of-11 shooting. Pittman scored Texas' first two baskets after halftime and his dunk off a steal by Justin Mason put the Longhorns up 57-29.

Texas shot 57 percent for the game and outrebounded UC Irvine 49-30.

"I've seen him on TV. He's a load inside," UC Irvine coach Pat Douglass said of Pittman. "It's a stretch to remain positive. This was a tough assignment."

Once the game was in control, the freshmen looked much more comfortable. Brown finished with four 3-pointers and Hamilton and Bradley showed off with two flashy dunks.

Hamilton finished with 12 points and Bradley scored 10.

"At the end of the game, those young players were out there for a long time," Barnes said. "They probably have a great appreciation for just how hard it is and how hard the older guys play to sustain it."

Zack Atkinson scored 10 points to lead the Anteaters (1-1).

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