Horns Handle Pressure, Beat Missouri 88-68

Kevin Durant, timely three point shooting, and solid first half defense combined to lead the #25 Horns (12-3, 2-0) to an easier than expected twenty point victory over Missouri (11-4, 0-2). Texas was especially impressive in the first half. The Horns held Missouri to just 34% shooting in the opening twenty minutes and led 44-26 at the break. Although Missouri made a brief run mid way through the second half, the victory was never in jeopardy.

As expected Texas limited turnovers (15), controlled the glass (39-27), and rode the unmatched talent of Durant to their second straight conference win.

The Horns were sloppy with the basketball at times during the first half, but their defense saved them. Missouri was ice cold and careless with the basketball for the first twenty minutes. The Tigers shot only 2/10 from behind the arc in the first half and failed to make Texas pay for their turnovers.

For the most part, Texas handled the Missouri pressure well. In the Tennessee game, Augustin triggered the inbounds pass after made baskets. His height and on the ball pressure led to countless turnovers. Coach Barnes changed strategies for this game. Durant passed the ball in after Missouri baskets and helped Augustin attack the Tiger pressure. At 6'9", Durant could easily see over his defender and was more adept at handling the defense.

Another key to the victory was the Horns domination on the glass. Texas did a great job rebounding Missouri misses which limited the Tigers to just 13 second chance points. Missouri was cold from the outside, did not get second chance opportunities, and did not convert Texas' mistakes into points. This was just the recipe for a twenty point home win. The Tigers looked more like an NIT bound team than an NCAA tournament bound team tonight.

Kevin Durant is playing on a different level right now. He is not just the best player on the court every game. He is one of the five best players in the country. Without him, Texas would struggle to win eight Big 12 games. With Durant, we should compete for the conference title and depending on the continued development on the defensive end, could make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Tonight he scored at will from the elbow, the low block, and the free throw line.

KD finished with game highs in points (34) and rebounds (13) and was utterly unstoppable. DJ Augustin again took care of the basketball (just two turnovers in 37 min) and contributed 13 points, six assists, and two steals. AJ Abrams followed up another first half of foul trouble with a solid second half performance to finish with 16 points (4/7 from three) and three assists.

While not scoring in double figures, Justin Mason played solidly. Justin had eight points, four rebounds, two assists, and three steals in 36 minutes. Damion James showed flashes of unbelievable athleticism mixed with mind numbing clumsiness. James had seven points, five boards, three blocks, an assist, and a steal before fouling out.

JD Lewis scored six points on two threes and grabbed three rebounds off the bench. He was pressed into action in the first half after Abrams picked up his second foul. Lewis also had three turnovers in 15 minutes. Connor Atchley had a game more reminiscent of the Connor of last year than the one we have almost come around on this year. Atchley looked slow and confused against the Missouri ball pressure. He added two points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

Other than the brief lapse of focus in the second half, the Horns played well against a decent team. The pressure defense wasn't really a factor and Texas punished the Tigers with their superior talent on the boards. Rick Barnes should be pleased with where this team is two games into conference play. The Horns will look to improve to 3-0 on Saturday afternoon against the hated Sooners.

Next Game: vs. Oklahoma (9-5, 1-1) Saturday 2:30 PM (ABC)

--AW--

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