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Calmer Abrams leads Longhorns to Sweet 16


Published: Mon, March 20, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.


Texas dismissed North Carolina State, 75-54.
DALLAS (AP) -- A.J. Abrams certainly got over those jitters that bothered him in his NCAA tournament debut.
In his second tourney game Sunday, the Texas freshman guard was only doing what his coach told him to do. Abrams was aggressive and took open shots, scoring 16 points as the Longhorns advanced to the Atlanta Regional semifinal with a 75-54 victory over North Carolina State.
"He was a little jumpy the other night and we got him for it," coach Rick Barnes said. "He had a great response. He definitely had a different perspective on things."
With Abrams and the starting backcourt of Daniel Gibson and Kenton Paulino playing the way they did, the dynamic inside duo of P.J. Tucker and LaMarcus Aldridge didn't have to dominate for Texas (29-6) to get into the round of 16 for the fourth time in five seasons.
Abrams was scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting in 18 minutes Friday against Penn. Gibson and Paulino were held without a point in the first half of that game, when the Longhorns trailed.
Fast start
But Gibson and Paulino got the Longhorns off to a fast start against N.C. State with their 3-point shooting. Then Abrams came through in two key stretches, including 10 points in the second half after Paulino picked up his third foul.
"He's the rookie, but he's one of the best players I've ever played with," said Tucker, the Big 12 player of the year. "He knows how to play the point guard position. He can move the ball around and get shots for us."
North Carolina State (22-10) was within 42-37 when Gavin Grant shuffled the ball to Cedric Simmons for a one-handed slam dunk with 15:45 remaining. After a timeout, Abrams hit a 3-pointer.
The Wolfpack then had four turnovers and missed two shots on their next five possessions before Tony Bethel's 3-pointer from the right corner bounced on the rim several times before falling.
Then it was Abrams' turn. He scored the next seven points.
"We knew he was a good shooter," Bethel said. "Because of their offense, their guards are going to get open looks. He knocked down some tough ones. He stepped up for them."
Standing ovation
Abrams hit a jumper at the other end and then added a 3-pointer. After his two free throws with 8:50 left put Texas up 56-40, he went to the bench to a standing ovation from the partisan Longhorns crowd as Paulino re-entered the game.
"I think I got over my jitters last game. ... I felt more comfortable," Abrams said.
Tucker, who is from Raleigh, N.C. but wasn't offered a scholarship by the hometown Wolfpack, still had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
And Aldridge, the league's defensive player of the year, had 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting with eight rebounds.
Cameron Bennerman had 16 points to lead N.C. State. Grant had 14 points and Simmons 12.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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