'Horns Rip Tech 96-71

AUSTIN, Texas--Texas has been through the Big 12 tournament enough times to know what's at stake late in the regular season: a first-round bye that no tournament champion has done without. <p> <br>

Brandon Mouton scored 25 points as the Longhorns coasted past Tech 96-71 Tuesday night to pull into a four-way tie for third place in the league standings with Tech, Oklahoma State and Missouri.

The top four teams in the league will earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament. No team has won the tournament without one.

With just one game left in the regular season, Texas owns the tie-breaker over Tech with two wins over the Raiders this season. The Longhorns grabbed a 74-71 overtime victory in Lubbock back on Jan. 14.

The Longhorns have won 11 in a row over their in-state rivals and avoided a three-game losing streak, what would have been their longest of the season, with the win.

"There's definitely a sense of urgency," Mouton said. "We have to play every game like it's our last, a championship game."

Texas (18-10, 9-6 Big 12) looked primed for the league tournament with 10-of-16 shooting from 3-point range and a dominating 39-18 rebounding advantage. The 25-point win was Texas' largest in league play this season.

Andy Ellis led Tech (20-7, 9-6) with 17 points. The Raiders shot 53 percent for the game but couldn't compensate for the Longhorns ability to grab seemingly every ball off the rim.

"They just absolutely buried us on the boards," said Tech coach Bob Knight. "The difference was just so monumental."

It was also a complete turnaround from Texas' last game at home, an 85-80 loss to Oklahoma State last week in which the Longhorns were outrebounded by 20.

"We knew we had to get to the glass," said Texas center James Thomas, who scored 18 points and grabbed a game-high eight boards. "Our main objective was just to go down and get physical."

Texas was just as effective shooting the ball, hitting 57 percent from the floor as Sydmill Harris chipped in 14 points and Royal Ivey added 12.

Mouton hit 5-of-6 3 pointers. Texas point guard T.J. Ford, who leads the nation in assists, dished out 10 more against the Raiders.

Texas never trailed and led 45-32 on Thomas' tip-in at the buzzer to end the first half. The Longhorns held a 26-7 rebounding edge by halftime and never let up.

The Longhorns opened the second with a 13-6 run with a 3-pointer by Mouton and took its first 20-point lead at 63-43 on Harris' 3 with 12:41 to play.

While his players are focusing on earning the bye in the league tournament, Texas coach Rick Barnes said he hasn't even discussed it with them.

"I guess it's important. I just told them it makes a difference in being 10-6 instead of 8-8," Barnes said.

"It just looks a lot better."

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