Texas improved to 13-3 overall and 3-0 in conference play with a dominating, 80-69, win over Oklahoma (9-6, 1-2). Overall, the performance was much more impressive than the eventual eleven point margin. Texas led by 79-52 as Kevin Durant departed for the final time with just over four minutes left in the game. Oklahoma continued to fight hard throughout the game and closed with a 17-1 run against a Texas lineup of mostly bench players who lacked talent and cohesiveness.
Texas is now 10-0 at home and one of just three Big 12 teams still undefeated in conference play. Kansas and A&M are the others. The Horns have won five straight and eight of their last nine but now must go on the road for three straight: at Oklahoma State, at Villanova, and at Nebraska. The Horns have dominated three bottom level conference teams in the last two weeks. The next three games will really show if this is a top 15 team or a team that just beats the teams we are supposed to.
After the last two games, I wasn't sure I could be more impressed with Kevin Durant. Well, I am. Durant was completely unguardable again this afternoon. He dominated the first half, scoring on the low blocks, on fadeaways, in transitions, and off missed shots. Durant's scoring slowed down somewhat in the second half with the game well in hand but his presence on the glass improved. He finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds, both of which are game highs. I will say it again, Durant is the best player in the country.
I agree with PB, AJ Abrams was absolutely fabulous. He showed that he was not just a catch and shoot guard. In the first half, he faked the three, put the ball on the floor once, and pulled up for a gorgeous fifteen footer. In the second half, he knocked down another jumper from the elbow after a beautiful curl move to free himself just enough. The defender was left trailing and forced to foul. Abrams delivered not just the jumper but the foul shot as well. Abrams was an outstanding 7/11 from the floor (including 5/7 from three) for 20 points. He also added four rebounds and two assists, including a one-handed bullet pass to KD under the basket for an easy dunk.
The third starter who played solidly was Justin Mason. Mason was all over the floor on defense. His block just after halftime led to an Abrams three and got Texas started on a 14-2 run that more than iced the game. Justin is just a terrifically smart basketball player. He plays solid man to man and help defense, rebounds so much better than his size would indicate, and takes high percentage shots on offense. This afternoon he had 14 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and a blocked shot in just 29 minutes. With all the KD and Augustin hype, it is easy to overlook Mason's significant contributions.
DJ Augustin is just as deserving of praise as the three above. Our offense is one of the most efficient in the country, and there is no bigger reason why than Augustin. He is so calm and collected. Oklahoma went to a 3/4 court press in the first half, Augustin patiently attacked and took care of the basketball. Oklahoma went to an extended 2-3 zone in the half court. Augustin adjusted and moved the ball around the perimeter to open shooters. Oklahoma went man. Augustin easily beat his man off the dribble and finished near the rim our kicked the ball to an open teammate. There really isn't a defense that he has trouble with. This afternoon, Augustin had 10 points, three rebounds, one steal, one blocked shot, and six assists to just one turnover. Barnes simply can't ask him for anything more. If the season ended today, Augustin would probably be 1st Team All Big 12. That is really something for a freshman point guard.
A couple of other notes:
-Despite the horrible weather in Austin, 13,130 fans showed up to produce the best crowd of the year.
-Despite shooting 68% in the first half, Texas led by just 10 points at the break. Nine first half turnovers and solid ball pressure by the bigger OU guards really slowed down the Horns' scoring near the close of the half.
-As PB mentioned, our starting five are outstanding but our bench leaves more than a little to be desired. I thought Barnes did a great job stealing minutes with JD Lewis and Connor Atchley in the first half, but the talent gap between those two and our starters is painfully obvious. With Craig Winder, Dexter Pittman, and Matt Hill all seeing minutes in addition to the other two, the last four minutes of the game were embarrassing.
-The post defense of Atchley and Hill must improve and improve quickly. Oklahoma State fields probably the best frontcourt of any team in the Big 12. Tuesday night will be huge test for those two guys off the bench and for Damion James as well.
-The rematch in Norman with an available 6'11" Longar Longar will be a much more interesting game.
Next Game: at Oklahoma State Tuesday 8 PM (ESPN2)