If anyone was worried about the Longhorns coming out sluggishly after Christmas break, those fears were assuaged early. After Cory Joseph and Akeem Ellis exchanged threes, Texas scored the game's next 13 points, with Joseph supplying nine of the Longhorns' 16 points in a 16-3 opening.
But Coppin State settled down, buoyed by a strong half (6-of-12) from behind the arc and went into halftime trailing by just 13 — 41-28 — despite 10 first half points from Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton and another nine from Joseph. Ellis and Michael Harper combined to hit 5-10 three-pointers in the half and scored 23 of Coppin State's 28 points.
The Eagles continued their hot run from deep in the second half, scoring the first eight points to cut the lead to 41-36. After Hamilton helped stretch the lead to 46-38, Jordan Lee hit a difficult fading jumper and woofed at a Texas player, getting a technical.
But Hamilton missed both free throws and an ensuing three-pointer, and Tristan Thompson missed two more free throws. That meant the lead was just 48-42 when Tony Gallo went nuts. Gallo drained three-pointers on three consecutive possessions, with the last resulting in a four-point play and tying the game at 52-all with 12:44 left.
"They made shots," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "We didn't. We missed some shots and they were feeling pretty good."
Rather than fold, the Longhorns responded with a nice drive-and-dish from J'Covan Brown that set up a Thompson dunk. Brown followed the assist with a three-pointer, and Hamilton converted a three-point play that gave Texas some breathing room at 60-52. Texas continued to roll from there, capping a 22-4 run with another three from Hamilton that made the game 74-56.
The lead swelled to as many as 22 when Hamilton hit a turnaround bank shot for an 83-61 edge, and the Eagles never closed any closer than 14.
Hamilton paced all scorers with 24 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Thompson scored a career-high 22 and led Texas in rebounding with nine boards. Brown scored 17 points and had six assists, serving to spark Texas in the second half.
"J'Covan probably would have had 12 assists today … if guys like myself would have converted," Thompson said.
Gallo led the Eagles with 22 points, 20 of those in the second half. Harper finished with 18 and was shut out in the second half excepting a three-pointer when after the game was decided.
The Longhorns outrebounded the Eagles 47-17, and grabbed 22 offensive boards. Afterward, Coppin State coach Ron Mitchell was asked what we saw in Thompson.
"Sneakers," Mitchell quipped. "(He was) just tough physically; he killed us inside.
"We had nobody to defend that," Mitchell said.
The Longhorns have just two games left before the start of conference season, and Thompson said the team did a great job of coming together.
"I thought we broke out today, and we wanted to end 2010 right," Brown said. "We've got to bring that to the next part of the season."