The Horns were hot from three-point range (11-of-24) in shooting over the Buffaloes 2-3 zone and their 7-0 center David Harrison. The big guy led all scorers with 18 points (7-of-14 FG, 4-of-6 FT) and a game-high nine rebounds. Yet the evening belonged to Texas' guard tandem of Paulino and Harris, as head coach Rick Barnes opted for a smaller, quicker lineup as the visitors from Boulder began to show signs of wear and tear down the stretch (must have been the altitude).
Paulino's 13 points (4-of-6 threes, 1-2 FT) are a career high for the sophomore while Harris tallied double figures (4-of-5 FG, 2-of-2 FT) for the first time since the December game against Wofford. Granted, Barnes has the deepest bench in the Big 12. But Harris, a three-point specialist, is the 11th man in Barnes' rotation primarily because of his defensive lapses.
"Sometimes I feel pressure to score when I'm on the court," Harris said, "but Coach told me not to worry about hitting shots, just to focus on my defense and rebounding."
Texas shot 29-of-63 from the floor (46 percent) and 45 percent from beyond the arc. Senior G Brandon Mouton added 11 points (5-of-16 FG) and a team-high seven rebounds while senior F Brian Boddicker contributed 10 points (3-of-5 FG, 2-of-2 FT).
Texas is now in a three-way tie for first in the Big 12 with Kansas and Oklahoma State. The Horns' home win streak now stands at, umm, one as Wednesday's win was UT's first game in the Erwin Center since the Cowboys ended a string of 25 home wins on January 24.
Boddicker's trey gave Texas a 12-10 advantage in a game that saw five lead changes and three ties during the first six minutes of play. His tip-in built the Longhorn lead, 21-12, to complete a 12-2 run with little more than 10 minutes remaining until the break. After Harris went strong to the hole, senior C James Thomas' turnaround jumper gave Texas its first double-digit advantage, 25-15.
Senior G Michel Mirandais' three-pointer cut into the Longhorn lead, 30-24 before Texas answered with freshman F P.J. Tucker's jumper, followed by senior G Royal Ivey's shot from beyond the arc to rebuild the margin at 38-27. But Colorado found its stroke following an ice-cold start, draining 7-of-9 FG to close the first half. Harrison's slam-dunk and Mirandais' fall-away jumper in the final 46 seconds completed a 9-0 Buffalo run fueled by three straight Texas turnovers. Texas led 38-35 at intermission despite hitting 56 percent from the field (15-of-2), including 40 percent from three-point range (4-of-10).
To be sure, part of head coach Rick Barnes' extended tongue-lashing in the locker room had to do with better ball handling and turning up the defensive pressure in the final 20 minutes. Indeed, the Horns committed just one second half TO. Texas held CU without a FG during a critical stretch of 6:44 to put this one on ice. Meanwhile, Texas tallied 19 points off 18 Buffalo turnovers to avenge last year's upset loss at Boulder.
Texas began to pull away following a Paulino trey, 48-40. Mirandais quickly answered with a three-pointer but Ivey's third steal of the second half set up junior C Jason Klotz's turnaround jumper to make it a 50-45 contest. Harris hit consecutive treys as Texas rebuilt its double-digit lead, 60-49.
Senior G Blair Wilson got in on the three-point barrage to trim the Texas lead, 65-57, with 7:17 remaining. But Colorado would not tally another FG until there were just 36 ticks left in regulation. The Buffs committed four turnovers and went 0-5 from the field during that span. Paulino's third trey of the second, followed by Boddicker's three-pointer, gave Texas its biggest lead at 73-59 with 3:41 left.
Colorado won the battle of the boards, 38-31, but had no answer for Texas' bench. The Buffs ended up shooting 22-of-54 from the field, including 6-of-14 threes, while connecting on 13-of-15 FT attempts. With the loss, CU falls to 12-7, 4-4 in Big 12.
Now, the old-fashioned Hate Fest against No. 22 Oklahoma is on tap for high noon (CST) Sunday at the Erwin Center in a CBS telecast.