Texas trips up Big 12’s top-scoring team

Will Anderson

ven when their shots aren’t falling, these Longhorns are hard to beat.

No. 7 Texas (18-3, 6-0 Big 12) shot 55 percent from the field and made only 11 of 26 free throws in the second half but held on to defeat Missouri 71-58 Saturday night at the Erwin Center.

The 11th-ranked Tigers (17-4, 3-3) weren’t any better, shooting 33.9 percent from the field for the game. It was the lowest point total of the season for the conference’s top-scoring offense.

“I think they're one of the hottest teams in the country and tonight I think they showed why,” Missouri head coach Mike Anderson said about Texas.

Texas’ Jordan Hamilton led all scorers with 18 points. Gary Johnson finished with 15, surpassing the 1,000-point career benchmark at Texas when he hit a jumper with 5:41 to play in the first half.

But it was Texas’ defense that kept it in the game. The Longhorns once more held an opponent to its lowest point total of the season, after limiting Oklahoma State to 46 on Wednesday and Oklahoma to the same amount on Jan. 15.

“We’re a good defensive team. That’s pretty much it,” said Texas forward Gary Johnson. “I think good defense beats good offense on any given night.”

They got one block, from Tristan Thompson, and seven steals, creating eight points off turnovers and six more on fast breaks.

The Longhorns also outrebounded their opponents 41-31. The Tigers’ second-best rebounder, Laurence Bowers, left the game after suffering what appeared to be a head injury ten minutes into the contest.

“That is probably seven less rebounds and 11 or 12 less points,” said Missouri’s Kim English. “He was definitely missed.”

Texas opened with a 10-0 run that had “the fastest 40 minutes in basketball” looking slow. Trying to live up to its self-proclaimed motto, Missouri ran a full-court trap most of the night, but the Longhorns were usually able to beat it with ball movement. The Tigers ended up with just two fast-break points.

"They were averaging 23 points off turnovers coming in, so it also places a premium on taking care of the ball," said Texas head coach Rick Barnes.

The Longhorns built a 38-27 lead heading into halftime.

For how fast Texas started the game, poor shooting and turnovers allowed Missouri to shrink the deficit back within single digits in the second half.

"It may have been the toughest game we've been through all year," Barnes said. "When you have an 11 or 12 point lead against Missouri, it is not enough because they can be so explosive with their offense."

A 3-pointer from Missouri's Michael Dixon cut the difference to seven with 10:40 left in the game. But J'Covan Brown and Cory Joseph both hit jumpers to put Texas up by 11 and the Tigers never threatened the lead again. The Longhorns pulled away to reach 6-0 in Big 12 play for the first time in program history.

“We made a couple runs at ‘em but we just couldn’t quite get over the hump,” Anderson said. “We didn’t play some of our best basketball."

In addition to limiting Missouri's scoring, the Texas defense held the Tigers to their lowest field-goal percentage, 3-pointer field-goal percentage (0.22) and assists (6) of the season. It took over five minutes for Missouri to score in the first half.

"It was a really good win for us against a team that doesn't quit," Barnes said.