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Horns Dominate Sooners, Sit Atop Conference

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Game Recap: The #7 Texas Longhorns (23-4, 10-2) grabbed first place in the Big 12 after a 62-45 win over the hated Oklahoma Sooners. The Horns have now won seven straight games and stand a full game above Kansas (losers in Stillwater this afternoon) for the Big XII lead. The blowout win was also a 40 minute example of how far this team has come under Coach Barnes this season. Texas has evolved from a guard and perimeter dependent offensive team who hoped to just outscore their opponents to a balanced, defensively solid ball club that can score and win in a multitude of ways.

The Horns won this one with defense and rebounding and in the four minutes on each side of halftime. Texas was up just 21-17 with four minutes in the first half, despite holding the Sooners to under 25% shooting from the floor. AJ Abrams was ice cold while Connor Atchley and Gary Johnson were largely invisible after picking up two fouls each. However, Texas has surprisingly developed into a deep ball club. DJ Augustin began to attack the basket late in the first half after Damion James had led the scoring with mid-range and three-point jumpers earlier. Texas closed the first half on an 11-4 run and opened the second half with a quick 6-0 run to put the game away. The Longhorns led by as many as 24 points at 58-34 with just five minutes left, before OU cut into the lead slightly by finally making some outside jumpers.

Augustin continued his impressive play with a strong second half attacking the rim and distributing the basketball off the drive. Atchley and Johnson rebounded in the second half with strong minutes and Abrams finally got on the board with five second half points.

Alexis Wangmene may have also played his most complete game as a Longhorn. Wingman had five points, seven rebounds, two blocks, and played physical and effective post defense in his 16 minutes. Earlier in the year, this team would have struggled mightily with Connor and Johnson on the bench in foul trouble and AJ cold from the outside. Today, they simply did not. Wingman, Chapman, and even Dexter Pittman all provided valuable minutes off the bench as the Horns cruised to the top of the conference.

The outcome was: More Dominating than Expected. With Longar Longar back in the OU lineup, Blake Griffin in crimson and cream, and the possibility of the Horns looking ahead to Monday nights’ match-up with Kansas State, I expected a much closer game. Despite Texas shooting just 37% from the floor and a horrible 10% from behind the arc, this game wasn’t even close, and the Texas defense and depth were the reasons. OU shot an embarrassing 26% from the floor and was held to a season low in points. Additionally, Texas outrebounded the Sooners 44-40 for the game despite the fact that OU picked up five offensive rebounds on their first possession.

I haven’t heard the exact quote about rivalries but many of you have mentioned it: DJ said something like, "We don’t consider A&M or OU our rivals. We consider Kansas to be our top rival." Facts don’t lie: Texas has now won five straight against OU and 10 of the last 13.

Stat of the Game: Points in the paint: Texas 32, OU 14. Ouch! That is incredible considering the make-up of both teams. Gary Johnson has definitely evolved as Texas’ best low post scorer, but the offensive arsenal extends much deeper these days. WingMan scored a couple of times in the paint, Connor can score with his back to the basket, James and Mason are excellent slashers, and DJ has significantly improved his decision making of when to finish and when to dish off his drives to the hoop. This team no longer lives and dies with the three-pointer and that is a critical improvement and a testament to the player development of Coach Barnes.

The Offensive MVP was: DJ Augustin. For the second game in a row, DJ was terrific. In fact, he was so good, he was able to sit for a good four minutes in the second half as the game was well in hand. Numbers: 19 points, (8-for-14 field goals, 1-of-3 threes, 2-for-2 FTs), four rebounds, three assists, and two turnovers in 35 minutes. His assist total would have been even higher had Chapman and James converted on a couple of nice dishes. DJ’s ability to beat his man off the dribble and get into the lane was the biggest reason for the 'Horns 11-point halftime lead.

The Defensive MVP was: Everyone. Connor had two blocks, as did James and Wingman. Chapman added another block off the bench. AJ had three steals and played solid perimeter defense all game long. Johnson battled on the low blocks even though he was giving up three or four inches in height to Griffin and Longar. All in all, Texas rotated well, fronted well, denied passing lanes well... they did everything well on defense, no matter who was on the floor.

As mentioned above, OU shot 26% for the game. That doesn’t happen because of a single defender. This was a team effort, and a dominating one at that.

The Freshman Evaluation tonight was: Solid. Wingman played his best game as a Longhorn. While his offensive moves are still not sharp, he plays solid defense, rebounds, screens, hustles, and knocks down his free throws. Coach Barnes couldn’t have asked for much more from him this afternoon.

Clint Chapman played just five minutes and got muscled around some on both ends but he battled hard and is definitely benefiting each time he sees the floor. He obviously needs time in the weight room and more practice time. However, the skills and upside remain apparent. If James turns pro, the continued development of Chapman and the return of Matt Hill will go a long way to determining how deep and eventually how good this Texas team will be next season.

Three Things: (1) Texas won without AJ’s scoring. Abrams was just 2-of-11 from the field (0-of-6 from three) and scored just five points in 36 minutes. You know what? It didn’t matter. Augustin, James, and the Texas bench carried the load on offense and everyone stepped up their game on the other end. Fran Frachilla likes to talk about how Texas is so much better when AJ is knocking down shots. While this is true, the Longhorns proved that they can still beat good ball clubs even when AJ is not hot.

(2) Damion James with another double-double. I gave the offensive MVP nod to DJ. It could have just as easily gone DaMo’s way. Damion scored 13 points and grabbed 11 boards for his 12th double-double of the season. His mid-range jumper off a dribble or two has become a thing of beauty and due to his leaping ability, completely unblockable. James has also become a rebounding machine, and now has eight or more boards in each of the last seven Texas games, all Longhorn victories.

(3) An outright Big XII title is on the line in Manhattan. The Horns now stand alone at the top of the conference standings at 10-2. With KU’s surprising loss in Stillwater, the Jayhawks fall a game back at 9-3. Kansas State is 8-3, with a game at Baylor tonight. If the Horns win at Kansas State on Monday, which will be very difficult, to say the least, they would have a very good chance to win out, win the Big XII outright at 14-2, and be in fantastic position for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. I said before the season that 12-4 would be a solid conference run. Well, we are at least a full game ahead of that now. A conference title is within reach.

Box Score

NEXT GAME: Away vs. Kansas State – Monday 2/25 8:00 p.m. ESPN