Texas crushed A&M twice this season, winning by 21 in Austin and by 20 in College Station. The Longhorns jumped up 5-0 quickly and it appeared to be business as usual. But the Aggies went on a 14-2 run to take a 14-7 lead of their own.
"We knew coming in it's not going to be a blowout or win by 20, because they're playing to play in the (title) game tomorrow," said Texas forward Tristan Thompson. "So we knew they were going to come out and play the best game ever. And that's what they did."
The Longhorns quickly recovered, and buoyed by a wonderful first-half performance by guard Cory Joseph, who scored 10 points, and Jordan Hamilton, who put in nine, the Longhorns went into the locker room with a 30-24 advantage.
Texas appeared to break the game open with an 11-2 run in the second half, aided by a pair of J'Covan Brown three-pointers. That burst put Texas up 52-41 with 9:31 left. But Khris Middleton hit on a three-point play, starting a 9-2 run of their own, with the Aggies pulling to within four at 54-50.
But Hamilton dropped in a three-pointer and Thompson hit on a hook shot, giving the Longhorns some breathing room. The game was no closer than seven points the rest of the way, with Texas building its biggest margin — 14 points — on a Gary Johnson jumper with 33 seconds left.
"Really, another game that we had to grind it out," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "We had some foul trouble, but I thought there were some guys that really, especially in the second half, came in and really did some good things."
Hamilton continued his run of strong play, scoring 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Joseph didn't score in the second half, finishing with 10, but his impact was absorbed by Brown, who scored 13 second-half points and 15 overall. Thompson had 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Texas (27-6) will represent the state in the Big 12 Championship game, where a Lone Star State team has never won. The Longhorns are 0-4 in the title game, including three losses to the Kansas Jayhawks, their Saturday opponent. The Longhorns did defeat the Jayhawks earlier this year, snapping a long Allen Fieldhouse winning streak.
Tip off is set for 5 p.m.