Whew, that was way too close. Texas led out of the gates 8-0, by as many as 15 points in the first half, by seven at halftime, and by as many as 14 points in the second half. However, the Longhorns needed a stop on Texas Tech's last possession to escape Lubbock with a much needed victory.
The 71-67 victory puts the 'Horns at 7-5 in Big XII play and still alive, albeit a longshot, for a top four finish in the conference.
Texas won despite losing Dogus Balbay in the first half to what appeared to be a serious knee injury. Texas won despite Damion James being limited to just five minutes in the first half with two fouls. Texas won despite Dexter Pittman getting knocked out of the game in the first half by an inadvertant right cross from James and then playing limited minutes (14 min) because of foul trouble before eventually fouling out.
With the injury and foul trouble, Texas needed the bench to step up. Gary Johnson more than stepped up--he was the best player on the floor this afternoon. Gary was a beast on the glass and was clearly the 'Horns' go-to player on offense. Johnson scored a career-high 22 points, grabbed at eight boards, and sank 7-of-8 from the line. With all the struggles this season, it has been easy to overlook Gary's play. Other than James, Gary has been our most consistent player in conference play.
Matt Hill and Clint Chapman also both responded with solid minutes off the bench.
Other quick notes:
Justin Mason played nearly the entire game (38 min) and most of it after the Balbay injury at the point guard spot. Mason battled all game on the glass and on defense and should be applauded for his efforts. That said, Barnes was probably asking too much of him. Justin is far from a true point guard and is too limited laterally to turn the corner on offense or stay in front of his man on defense.
J'Covan Brown barely played. He definitely struggled in Columbia on Wednesday, but must have really played poorly in practice on Thursday and Friday to receive so few minutes today. With Balbay's return looking unlikely, Texas will desperately need solid play from J'Covan to go anywhere in the Big XII or NCAA tournaments.
In addition to the strong play from Johnson, Texas won this game on the defensive glass. Texas outrebounded Tech 44-30 and limited Tech to just four second chance points.
Last point, I will never ever be dissatisfied with a road win in conference play. This definitely wasn't the prettiest game and ended up being much closer than it should have been. There are clearly areas that still need to be improved (clutch free throw shooting, finding shooters in the halfcourt, running our offense against a zone, limiting turnovers, etc). However, it was a win. A road win. A road win in conference play. Those are to be celebrated.
Post your own thoughts here. Txtwstr will be around later with more analysis.
NEXT GAME: vs. Oklahoma State -- Wednesday, February 24th 8 PM ESPN2