Hoops: No. 11 Texas Goes Postal Against Centenary

On a night when Texas held a single-digit halftime lead while its three shooting guards combined for a chilly 9-of-26 from the field, head coach <B>Rick Barnes</B> directive at intermission sounded as much like a golden oldie as it did second half strategy: Please Mister Postman! Get involved in the offense!

As such, centers James Thomas and Jason Klotz helped deliver the mail by establishing post presence, setting screens, grabbing boards and converting the kind of point-blank shots that weren't falling for Longhorn guards in blowing past Centenary, 94-59, at the Erwin Center Saturday.

"Our post players have to want to be involved," Barnes said. "They have to demand the ball. If they don't do that, the perimeter guys start getting into the flow. We took shots early that we didn't need to take. We got better ball movement in second half."

Texas launched 16 treys in the first 20 minutes, hitting six, to fashion a nine-point halftime lead. But Thomas started a 7-0 run after the break with a pair of free throws and just his second bucket of the evening. The senior finished with 13 points, six rebounds and one block. Klotz, who did not play in the first half, added nine points, two blocks, one steal and one board in just nine minutes of work.

For the second time in three tries this season, freshman F P.J. Tucker was Texas' leading scorer, contributing 15 points (7-of-10 FG) and four rebounds in 22 minutes off the bench. Tucker has scored in double figures in each of his first three ballgames and is the first freshman in Texas history to record consecutive double-doubles to start his career.

Centenary G Rickey Evans led all scorers with 17 (6-of-15 FG, 3-of-3 FT). But Texas broke this one open with its second half post play plus 44 points from its bench. The Horns shot 65 percent from the field (19-of-29) after the break to finish at 51.4 percent (36-of-70) for the game.

"I thought we had better effort (in the second half)," Barnes said. "We ran harder and we played harder."

Defensively, Texas held the Gents to 25-of-63 FG (39.7 percent) and came up with 11 steals and six blocked shots. The Horns also controlled the boards, 44-34.

Senior G Brandon Mouton (4-of-10, but 1-of-7 in the first half), junior G Sydmill Harris (3-of-10) and junior G Kenny Taylor (2-of-6) never found their shooter's touch. Point guard Royal Ivey, however, turned in his most solid performance of the young season. The senior finished with 10 points (4-of-7 FG, including 2-of-3 treys), five boards, four assists and a career high five steals.

Ivey's second trey of the night gave Texas its first lead of the game, 14-13. Harris followed with a three pointer at the 14:02 mark, while sophomore F Brad Buckman's bucket from beyond the arch spotted the Horns a 20-15 advantage. The sophomore contributed 9 points (4-of-7), 9 boards, two steals and one block in 21 minutes

The Gents regained the lead, 24-23, following junior G Josh Thibodeaux's trey with 9:48 remaining. But Taylor nailed a trey of his own to put the Horns back up, 26-24, a lead they would never relinquish.

Harris' bucket pushed the Texas lead to double-digits, 37-27, with 3:29 left in the half. The Gents hung tough, drawing within six in the closing minutes. But in a half where Texas rained treys, junior G Edgar Moreno's old-fashioned three-point play capped the scoring with seven seconds left. The JUCO went strong to the hole, grabbing an offensive board after F Brian Boddicker misfired from beyond the arch, drawing the foul on the putback.

The Horns took a 42-33 lead into the locker room, but no one was satisfied.

"Our first half was not typical of Texas basketball," Mouton said, who attributed his team's spotty play to poor shot selection and lack of defensive intensity. "We got away from what we do a little bit, especially myself. A great team shrugs it off and continues to play the game."

Mouton drained a three to push the lead to 49-33 and to cap a 7-0 run with 90 seconds eclipsed from the second half. Texas extended its defense and pushed the Gents farther out from the rim as Centenary went nearly seven minutes without a FG. During that stretch, Texas found its half-court offense en rout to a 17-2 run that saw Klotz drain his first career three-pointer with 15:19 remaining.

Mouton's slam, off a dazzling dish from Ivey brought the Erwin Center to its feet as Texas opened up a 20-point lead, 62-42, at the 12:55 mark. Late in the game, Tucker delighted what remained of the 7,479 in attendance with his solid inside presence and strong moves to the hole. His lay-up with one minute remaining gave Texas its largest lead at 92-55.

Texas, ranked No. 11 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today (coaches) polls, upped its record to 3-0. Centenary, a former independent in its first year in the Mid-Continent Conference, saw its mark fall to 1-2.

Texas next faces Wofford 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 4 (Fox Sports Southwest telecast) before heading to Madison Square Garden, Tuesday, Dec. 9 to face nationally-ranked Arizona, 8 p.m., (CST) in the Jimmy V Classic (ESPN telecast).

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