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Longhorns Win Third Big XII Title under Barnes

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Game Recap: This afternoon’s game was no prettier than the mid-week game with Nebraska, but in the end, it didn’t matter. The #9 Texas Longhorns outlasted the Okalahoma State Cowboys, 62-57, in an ugly, low-scoring, and physical affair. The victory gives Rick Barnes and the Longhorns their third conference title in the last decade and clinches the top seed in the Big XII tourney in Kansas City. Technically, it is a co-championship. However, Texas defeated Kansas in Austin, so no one should have any problems calling the Longhorns, Big XII Champions.

Led by DJ Augustin of the offensive end and Damion James on the glass and on the defensive end, the Longhorns led 33-27 at the half despite shooting just 31% from the floor. DJ did a great job in the first half of driving the basketball, getting fouled, and converting at the line, and DaMo seemed to grab just about every missed shot on either end. James had 10 rebounds in the first half and a career-high 18 for the game!

Oklahoma State came out of halftime with a 10-4 run to tie the game at 37. The Longhorns didn’t buckle, though, and had several opportunities to pull away during the second half. However, those chances were squandered by missed looks and turnovers.

The Cowboys pulled to within two, 51-49, on two made free throws by Byron Eaton before AJ Abrams, who was suffering through a miserable shooting game, canned two jumpers. His quick five points put the ‘Horns ahead 56-51 with just over a minute and a half left. OSU made two three-pointers in the final minute but clutch free throw shooting by Damion James (4/4) and AJ Abrams (2/2) sealed the victory and the conference championship.

The outcome was: Sublime. The more you step back and look at what this team just accomplished, the more impressive it becomes. Texas lost the best player in the country from last year’s team, was severely challenged by the losses of Matt Hill and Dogus Balbay to season-ending injuries, didn’t get their only legitimate offensive post threat on the floor until January, and just went 13-3 in one of the two best conferences in the country. Wow! This team, the one without any backcourt depth, the one with two sub-six foot guards, and the one with really only six regular contributors, just set a regular season record for victories with 26. Hats off to Rick Barnes and the basketball staff! The Texas basketball program has now won over 10 games in the conference in nine of Rick’s ten seasons in Austin. Under Barnes’ leadership, the Longhorns have become a consistently elite program that should be mentioned in the same breath as the Dukes, Carolinas, and UCLAs of the college basketball world.

Stat of the Game: Oklahoma State from behind-the-arc: 6-of-28 (21%) Remember not too long ago when opposing guards couldn’t wait to face the Longhorns, so that they could pad their stats from long-range? Remember when all the talk was about how the ‘Horns couldn’t afford to play two sub-six foot guards for 35+ minutes because teams were killing us from long-range? I remember, and it wasn’t so long ago. I don’t know when it change exactly but since about mid-season the ‘Horns have been played outstanding perimeter and this afternoon was no exception.

The Offensive MVP was: DJ Augustin. I know he’s said that he would like to come back, but I have to think that this was DJ’s final game in Austin. If it was, his performance this afternoon was a pretty good one to go out on. Although DJ did have five turnovers, a few weren’t his fault, and his assist total of three would have been much higher had his teammates been able to convert on a couple of really nice looks. For the game, Augustin led all scorers with 20 points on 6-of-14 from the floor, canned two three-pointers, sank 6-of-7 from the line, grabbed two rebounds, and had two steals in 37 minutes of action. There is always going to be a question about his height, but it’s hard for me to see him returning after leading the Longhorns to a Big XII title and, almost certainly, earning First Team All America honors.

The Defensive MVP was: Damion James. After DaMo grabbed the first three missed shots in the opening 90 seconds, two on the defensive end and one on the offensive end, it was obvious that he was going to have a big night. His effort on the glass continued throughout the game. James ended up with 18 total boards, 14 of which came on the defensive end. When you throw in solid perimeter defense when his man drifted outside and three blocks when he was challenged in the post, you get a complete defensive performance. Very nice work by DaMo.

The Freshman Evaluation tonight was: Inconsequential. Gary Johnson did bounce back from a terrible performance against Nebraska but still didn’t play well. Johnson played just 15 minutes, scored two points (both on free throws), and failed to grab a single rebound. The Longhorns did feel comfortable enough to go to Johnson late in the game, though, and Gary responded by drawing a foul and making his free throws. The Longhorns are going to need a stronger performance from Gary to a make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

I thought Barnes made a mistake for the second game in a row by not going back to Clint Chapman in the second half for additional minutes. Chap played five minutes in the first half and scored two points on a nice fade-away and blocked a shot. He did give up an offensive rebound and a put back, but I thought he deserved another chance.

BON's own txtwstr (Photo courtesy of

Alexis Wangmene played just two minutes and was called for two fouls. It was far from his best effort.

Three Things: (1) AJ: hot and cold. Abrams played 37 total minutes, 35 of which were awful on offense. AJ made just one of his first 13 field goals before knocking down two critical jumpers. The first came off a nice head fake and a single dribble, and the second came from about five feet beyond the arc late in the shot clock. AJ also added two more free throws in the final minute to help put the game away. So, AJ scored two points in his first 34 minutes but seven down the stretch. Some of his missed shots were forced, and he has got to do a better job of taking jumpers within the flow of the offense, but it was obvious that his confidence was still there when the Longhorns needed him the most.

(2) When are we going to hit on all cylinders? This afternoon it was DJ and Damion with AJ thrown in late. In other recent games, it’s been Connor and DJ or AJ and DJ, but rarely have all four scorers been ‘on’ in a given game. This team plays solid enough defense that they can overcome foul trouble to a starter or two or a cold shooting game by one or two starters and still beat most teams. They are probably good enough to win their first two games in the NCAA tournament in scenarios such as these. However, to make a Final Four or to win a national championship, more Longhorns are going to have to be ‘on’ than just one or two.

(3) This team is not built for the Big XII tournament. Texas played just six guys in the entire second half. The bench contributed a total of four points and four rebounds in 22 minutes in the entire game. This team can easily win two games in three days, which is what is required in the NCAA tournament. I’m just not sure they will be able to win three games in three days, which is what would be required in Kansas City. To me, the goal is NCAA tournament success and a trip to the Final Four in San Antonio. A conference tournament championship would be nice, but I won’t be disappointed, if we fall on Saturday and have an extra day of rest before the Big Dance.

Big XII Champions! Congratulations Rick Barnes! Congrats Longhorns!

Box Score

NEXT GAME: Big XII Tournament vs. Texas Tech or Oklahoma State – Friday 11:30 a.m. ESPN Plus & ESPNU