BIG 12 CHAMPS!
I don't care if we are supposed to call them co-champs. We are Big 12 Champions. The only team with the same conference record was sent rudely back to Lawrence last weekend in a 25 point blowout. The Horns were almost as good on Sunday afternoon. #7 Texas (25-5, 13-3) ran away from the #17 Sooners (20-7, 11-5) 72-48 in front of a sellout crowd at the Erwin Center. As with most wins this season, Texas won with defense.
Our zone looked great again. The guards took away dribble penetration. We closed out quickly on open shooters and didn't allow second chance points. For the game, OU shot a respectable 42% but attempted and made fewer shots than the Horns. The big difference was three point shooting. OU made just four three pointers off fifteen attempts. Michael Neal, the deadliest three point shooter in the Big 12, made just two from long range. Texas, on the other hand, was hot from behind the arc making nine threes. Another huge difference was turnovers. Our long and active defense forced 14 Sooner turnovers and converted those into 14 Texas points. Texas was just as good protecting the ball on offense as they were stealing it on defense. We had just seven turnovers as a team and only allowed two points off turnovers. Our staring backcourt had eight assists and no turnovers and AJ Abrams added another five assists against just a single turnover off the bench. The Horns also dominated second chance points 13-6 and fast break points 14-6.
The story of the game was the resurrection of Daniel Gibson. This was DGib's best game of the year. I know he scored more at Baylor, but this was a better all around performance. On defense he harassed Neal all game holding him to just six points. On offense, Daniel was unstoppable. He finished with a game high 22 points on 8/15 shooting from the floor. He hit four of nine from three point land. That means he made four shots by driving to the basket. Someone check but that might be a season high in two pointers. Gibson also contributed a game high six assists. On back to back to back possessions in the second half, Gibson made a lay up, then another, and then dished the ball to Lamarcus Aldridge for an easy slam. This was the Daniel Gibson that was National Freshman of the Year last year. This was the Gibson that had NBA scouts projecting him as a first round selection. This is the Daniel that we need to show up in order to win the national championship.
Texas looked better from the start. They played with the intensity that we have seen game after game at home but that is sometimes lacking on the road. Our defense was particularly impressive. For most of the afternoon, it was difficult to tell whether Coach Samson was more frustrated by the officiating or by his player's constant mistakes. Either way it doesn't matter. Samson pulled his starters in the second half for their lack of effectiveness. He put them back in only to be disappointed with their play again. OU's starters were yanked for good with about four minutes left in the game. They had great seats for the final exits and subsequent standing ovations for Longhorns seniors Brad Buckman and Kenton Paulino. Both had solid finishes to their careers. Buckman had nine points, seven rebounds, and an assist. Paulino contributed five points, two rebounds, and two assists.
The Horns clinch the #1 seed in the Big 12 tournament. We will play the winner of Kansas State and Texas Tech at 11:30 AM CST on Friday. I still don't think a #1 seed is likely unless a few other teams falter, but we are assured a #2 or at worst a #3 seed in the NCAA tournament and a trip back to Dallas.
When we play like we did against OU and Kansas, there is not a team in college basketball better. If we can repeat those performances through March, we will definitely make the Final Four and could realistically win the national championship.
Congratulations Rick Barnes and the 2005-2006 Big 12 Champion Texas Longhorns.