Texas wins going away, 102-78, in Boulder to improve to 11-3 and 1-0 in Big 12 play. Rick Barnes has never lost a Big 12 conference opener. The Horns, other than Kevin Durant, weren't overly impressive in the first half but punished the Buffs with the three pointer and an improved defensive effort to extend a three point half time lead to double digits very quickly.
Behind a strong performance from Richard Roby (30 pts), Colorado was able to hang with the Horns for the first twenty minutes by shooting over 54% from the field, scoring easy points in transition, and competing well on the glass. Texas wasn't awful in the first half either scoring 51 points, but they fell asleep too many times in transition and gave up too many easy looks in the paint after dribble penetration.
The second half was a masterful performance by the Horns. Texas shot an amazing 8/12 (67%) from behind the arc in the second half, 61% from the floor, shut down Colorado's transition game, and dominated the glass (49-27 overall). This game was over about six minutes into the second period.
Kevin Durant was absolutely unbelievable. If he has made a few easy ones late in the second half, he could have easily scored 50 points. Even with the few misses, he tied a freshman record with 37 points, including two monster SportsCenter worthy dunks. It wasn't just dominance on offense though. Durant pulled down a game high 16 rebounds and blocked one shot as well. Durant was basically unguardable the entire game scoring from behind the arc, on the drive, in transition, and at the line. Forget about Big 12 Freshman of the Year or even Big 12 Player of the Year. It is time to start talking about Durant's chances at National Player of the Year. He is that good folks.
We also witnessed Damion James' best game as a Longhorn. James got a few shots in the paint to drop early and finished with a career high 15 points. Even more important than his scoring, James was again active on the glass (9 rebounds in 24 min) and played solid defense.
With the awesome performances by Durant and James, it would be easy to overlook yet another solid game by DJ Augustin. Augustin is most poised freshman point guard I've seen since Mike Bibby at Arizona. DJ finished with 15 points, 9 assists to just one turnover, and four steals. Augustin really ran the offense well: he consistently finds the player with the hot hand and rarely makes a poor decision on the dribble drive. As someone mentioned in the comments last week, Durant is the best player on the floor but Augustin is the future of UT basketball. I can't wait to see his development over the next few seasons.
AJ Abrams again had a slow first half scoring just two points but was crucial in the Horns' early second half run that put this one away. Abrams finished with 15 points (6/12) and knocked down all three of his three pointers after the break. The only starter who didn't stand out numerically was Justin Mason. Mason finished with just five points, four rebounds, and three assists but played solid defense.
Overall, this was a solid and encouraging win for the Horns. On offense, Durant couldn't have been more dominant or more involved. Meanwhile, DJ looks like a maestro at the point guard spot, breaking down defenses and limiting turnovers. The Horns were also physical and aggressive on the glass. For the game, the Horns had 20 offensive rebounds and were +22 in rebounding margin. On defense, the Horns clamped down in the second half (38% for CU from the floor) after a forgettable performance in the first half.
The performance in the second half in Boulder was almost as impressive as the first half performance in Knoxville. Even though Colorado is awful, Texas played fantastic basketball over the last 20 minutes. If the pieces start to fall into place like they did this afternoon, then there is no limit to where this team can go. The football season may be over but excitement remains on the 40 Acres.
Next Game: vs. Missouri Wednesday Jan. 10th 7 PM