Hoops: Horns Beat Aggies Inside And Out, 77-57

When sophomore G <B>Kenton Paulino </B>misfired from three-point range in the first half of Texas' 77-57 win over Texas A&amp;M Wednesday, no one was more pleased than head coach <B>Rick Barnes</B>. That's because his No. 11/12 Longhorns went nearly 12 minutes without attempting a shot from beyond the arc on a night when the game plan was to (finally) establish low post presence.

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But that's before junior G Kenny Taylor's barrage of treys broke the game wide open midway through the second half. His four three-pointers during a span of 3:09 was part of a 15-2 Texas run as the Horns raised their record to 18-4, 9-2 in Big 12. The Baylor transfer contributed 18 points (5-11 FG, 4-4 FT) off the bench in 18 minutes of action.

"Kenny Taylor started feeling it," Barnes said. "When he does, you have to ride it, even though we really wanted to work the ball inside."

Starting in place of sophomore F Brad Buckman, freshman P.J. Tucker made his (inside) presence known early and often. His jumper 13 seconds into the contest gave Texas a lead it would never relinquish. The freshman hit all five of his first half shots and finished with 14 points (7-of-9 FG), nine rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes.

"We wanted to establish inside presence early," Tucker said. "Brandon (Mouton) gave me some excellent passes down low. That gave me some real good looks, so I took them."

Mouton, meanwhile, is heating up just as the season enters a critical four-game stretch that begins, and ends, with trips north of the Red River. On the heels of his career high 29 points at Iowa State Saturday, Mouton led all scorers with 20 points (8-of-13 FG), two steals and one block.

As has been the case all season, the Aggies hung tough in the first half despite shooting just 29.2 percent (7-of-24) from the field. Antoine Wright's jumper cut the Texas lead, 20-19, with 6:24 remaining until intermission. The Aggies would not hit another FG the rest of the half. Neither did Texas after Tucker's lay-up spotted Texas a 29-19 lead with 3:31 remaining. Texas A&M would hit five-of-six FT to close out the half as Texas took a relatively unsatisfying 29-24 lead into the lockerroom.

"We came out on fire in the second half," Mouton said. "Everyone was talking about defense (at half time). We came up with a stop on their first possession. That started the momentum in the second half."

Texas' post players also did a better job of setting screens during the final 20 minutes, allowing ball handlers to get separation and better looks at the basket. The Horns also forced 19 turnovers overall, resulting in 22 points, while controlling the points in the paint (34-22).

"We were very soft following halftime," A&M head coach Melvin Watkins said. "We got pushed around. They beat us to the spots. They were very aggressive."

Senior C James Thomas' steal setting up senior G Royal Ivey's lay-up energized most of the 10,273 in attendance as Texas began to distance itself from the Aggies with 14 minutes remaining. A pair of Taylor FTs gave Texas its largest lead, 66-42, with 8:02 left on the game clock.

With eight rebounds, Thomas is now just one board shy of tying LaSalle Thompson's career mark (1,027) set in 1982. Both Thomas and senior F Brian Boddicker set a new school record with 123 consecutive games played.

Texas shot 53.8 percent from the field (28-of-52) while holding the Aggies to 36.7 percent (18-of-49). One of these days, Texas' spotty FT shooting (16-of-28, 57 percent) is going to cost it a game. Oh, yeah. It already has. As expected, the conferences two best rebounding teams played it evenly with Teas holding a 34-30 edge on the boards.

As the UT student section chanted "Worse than Baylor," the Aggies fell to 0-11 in Big 12 play, 7-15 overall. Texas has now taken 30-of-33 from their in-state rivals, dating back to the 1988-89 season.

Texas travels to Norman for Saturday's rematch with Oklahoma (8 p.m., CST, ESPN broadcast)

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