Hoops: Buckman Sparks Horns in Big 12 Opener

<B>Rick Barnes</B> said there are no secrets to it, hard work brings success. <B>Brad Buckman</B> agrees. But for the sophomore forward, there's another ingredient. The less he thinks, the better. So Buckman's Saturday night career-best performance in scoring (16) and in blocks (5) in UT's 79-57 win over Baylor came from a lot of recent hard work and as little thinking as possible.

"I've been struggling early on and I've done a lot of work," Buckman said. "It just all came together. I felt more comfortable around the basket and shooting. I just felt a lot more comfortable this game because I didn't have anything on my mind. I thought straight the whole time."

"He's worked hard over the last three or four days and he's worked all year putting a lot of extra time in," Barnes said. "I don't have a problem with Brad shooting jump shots because I think he can make some threes, but this team right now needs him to have a presence inside."

Although three of Buckman's six field goals came from the perimeter, he also contributed offensively inside with three field goals in the paint plus three trips to the foul line after working in the lane. He also pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.

Despite Buckman's work on the boards, the smallish Bears outrebounded the Horns 33-32. That delighted Baylor head coach Scott Drew and equally concerned Barnes.

"We've got to rebound the ball from the post positions," said Barnes, who then pointed to P.J. Tucker's single rebound in 20 minutes of playing time. "If P.J wants to play the minutes he's been playing, he's gotta rebound the ball. P.J.'s gotta do a better job of that and defensively."

Tucker did manage 13 points on the offensive end despite being held scoreless till just over three minutes before the half. Nine other Longhorns scratched the score sheet, but only Buckman and Tucker reached double figures.

James Thomas played just 14 minutes, scoring three points, but he did grab six rebounds. After the game, Barnes revealed that the senior center just learned earlier Saturday that a close friend -- "the guy was like a brother to him" -- had been killed yesterday. "James has been working hard and I hate it for him because he's really put a lot into it and we need to get him out there and we need to get his minutes up, but mentally, he was struggling tonight."

Brandon Mouton totaled eight points -- highlighted by a soaring alley-oop jam in the game's final minutes -- three assists and four turnovers in 25 minutes.

Texas shot 50 percent for the game (26 of 52) while the Bears hit 39.7 percent from the field (23-58). The Horns turned the ball over just nine times, five below their season average.

The Horns jumped out to an 8-zip lead over the first three-and-a half minutes of the game, but the Bears quickly pulled back within five at 10-5 with a dunk from Tommy Swanson. Texas flirted with pulling away early, opening up several nine point leads, but with just over six minutes to play in the first half, short-handed Baylor and its five scholarship players again pulled to within five at 24-19.

Former Bear guard Kenny Taylor, though, checked in and, despite being hobbled by injuries to both ankles, nailed a three-pointer from the right corner to spark his current team. Taylor finished with five points in 13 minutes. Although Baylor answered Taylor's three with a banked three of its own, the Horns controlled the rest of the half on the offensive end, scoring on eight of nine possessions to take a 42-28 lead into the break.

Tucker, the Horns' season leader in scoring, didn't get on the board till just over three minutes to play in the half, but he scored seven straight points to help push the Longhorn advantage to double digits. Royal Ivey capped off the first half scoring with a couple of free throws and then a steal of the ensuing Baylor inbound pass for a half-ending putback of his own miss. Ivey scored all nine of his points in the first half.

Six-eight forward Harvey Thomas almost single-handedly kept Baylor in the game over the first 15 minutes, pouring in 12 of his game-high 19 points before going to the bench with his third foul with just under four minutes to play before the break.

"Harvey Thomas is gonna be one of best players in this league," the Texas head coach said. "He's a hard guy to guard."

Corey Herring lit it up for the Bears in the second half, scoring eight points in a three minute stretch, but not before the Horns had turned a 14-point halftime lead into a 54-30 advantage at the 12:16 mark of the second half. Baylor (5-9, 0-1) cut it to 15, 72-57, with a little over two minutes to play, but didn't score again.

The Horns (9-2 overall, 1-0 in Big 12 play) take on No. 4 Wake Forest (11-0) at the Erwin Center on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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