Texas snapped a four-game losing streak to the Cowboys to upend the only team to win in Austin in nearly four seasons. More important, it was the kind of signature win that the NCAA selection committee will remember when Tournament seeds are announced in early March. No. 11/15 Texas improved to 14-3 on the season (3-1 Big 12) while No. 5 OSU fell to 13-2 (3-1 Big 12).
Gibson provided precisely the kind of monumental boost that Texas needed most, considering the program was coming off a week where freshman C LaMarcus Aldridge was lost indefinitely with a hip injury suffered Saturday at Nebraska and where it was disclosed that leading scorer and rebounder P.J. Tucker may be out for the season for academic reasons.
"Freshmen normally don't have a game like that against us," OSU coach Eddie Sutton said. "He was just tremendous, not only in scoring but to get 10 rebounds is amazing for a point guard."
Head coach Rick Barnes said that what impressed him most about Gibson's game was his 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Gibson also registered three steals in 31 minutes.
"A couple of times they came after him and tried to hurry him up but he was able to maintain the ball and do what he did," Barnes noted. "Today, I could tell he had a real calmness about him and he played terrific."
If there was a game ball awarded to the game's MVP, however, Barnes said he would have given it to the entire team. Tucker finished with 15 points and four boards in 23 minutes while G Kenton Paulino was an efficient 4-of-5 from the field for 10 points.
"It was a great team effort," Barnes said. "There wasn't one guy who played tonight who didn't make some contribution to this win."
Likewise, Gibson modestly deferred credit to his teammates.
"A lot of players stepped up and made big plays for us tonight," he said. "They showed a lot of heart. This can be a real confidence boost for us as we keep going through our Big 12 season."
If only Texas could bottle its performance from the free throw line after hitting a season-best 89 percent (25-of-28) of its foul shots.
"Getting there was a huge factor tonight," Barnes said. "It was really important. It helps you at times when you're bogging down and things aren't going as you need them to."
Things generally went Texas' way, as the Horns stuck with a 2-3 zone throughout the contest and held the Cowboys to 38 percent (24-of-63) from the field. Texas was hot-and-cold but finished shooting 42 percent (24-of-63) for the night. Texas outrebounded OSU, 36-29.
Senior C Jason Klotz started in place of Aldridge, finishing with six points, four boards and two blocks.
"I can't put a timetable on it because we really don't know," Barnes said of Aldridge's recovery. "We just have to wait and see. I guess time will tell."
Meanwhile, Tucker's eligibility status remained undisclosed.
"I can't really talk about it," Tucker said. "There's nothing to talk about right now."
Added Barnes: "I have no idea. I don't have anything to say because I don't know."
This we know: Texas served notice that OSU wasn't going to come into its house and win for the third time in four seasons when it launched a 15-0 run during a span of 5:21 late in the first period. From that moment, the Horns would never trail.
The Cowboys opened up a 10-7 lead as Texas was guilty of five turnovers during the first five minutes. F Ivan McFarlin's three-point play gave OSU a 13-9 advantage. A Paulino layup narrowed the Cowboys lead, 15-13, while a pair of Brad Buckman free throws knotted the affair with 10:29 remaining. Buckman came up with a steal on the other end, leading to an assist on Daniel Gibson's fastbreak layup to spot Texas a 17-15 lead. Paulino's bucket on the inbound pass capped a brief 6-0 Longhorn uprising.
Joey Graham's jumper at the top of the key resulted in the game's second tie at 19 apiece. Gibson's free throws kept it in a dead heat, 21-21, with 7:34 left until intermission. Gibson's fastbreak layup off a Cowboy turnover gave Texas its third lead of the contest. It also was indicative of the kind of aggressive, dribble-penetration that Barnes has been demanding of his guards.
"(Gibson's) jump shot is lethal," Barnes conceded. "I don't mind him shooting that jump shot but I don't need him shooting two steps behind the NBA three (-point range). He thinks he can make them all."
G John Lucas answered with OSU's first trey to reclaim the lead, 24-23. With Texas nursing a 25-24 advantage following G Kenny Taylor's first FG, F Joey Graham (OSU's leading scorer at 19 ppg) was whistled for his third personal and took a seat with 6:05 remaining. The Cowboys would misfire on their next seven shots as Taylor's jumper ignited a 15-0 Longhorn run.
Powerful freshman F Mike Williams gave Orangebloods a taste of things to come as he battled for position, grabbing the offensive board and going up strong for the putback to extend the Longhorn lead, 27-24. Gibson then thrilled the Erwin Center crowd with a Jordan-esque jumper in mid-flight for a 30-24 Texas margin. Sydmill Harris and Gibson then connected on consecutive treys to give Texas its largest lead of the first half, 38-24 (all of this with Tucker logging bench time). Lucas' second trey ended the Longhorn stampede to make it a 38-27 ballgame. Texas took a 39-27 lead into the locker room after Gibson completed the scoring by hitting one of two from the charity stripe.
Buckman picked up his third personal just 2:23 into the second period as the Cowboys opened with a 10-0 run to narrow the Longhorn lead, 39-37. Graham was whistled for his fourth personal with 14:39 remaining but Texas was mired in a six-minute scoring drought. Tucker took the lid off the bucket as he battled down low and went strong to the hole to end the Cowboy run.
"Coach Barnes told us it was gonna be a 40 minute game no matter what," Gibson said. "He told us to keep playing hard throughout the whole game."
A pair of Terrence Crawford free throws narrowed the Longhorn lead, 39-37, at the 13:03 mark. But the senior forward fouled out 41 seconds later. Long story short: OSU is a ridiculously talented club with legitimate Final Four aspirations but is bereft of front-court depth.
"You can't let Texas catch the ball down in the low post as much as we did," Sutton said. "That got us into foul trouble."
When Crawford took a seat, the result was a 10-2 Longhorn run highlighted by consecutive treys from Paulino and Gibson. Texas regained a double-digit lead at 49-39.
"I'm not sure anybody in our league has the kind of three-point shooters that they do," Sutton added.
Daniel Bobik's shot from beyond the arc quieted the crowd but Tucker answered with a three-point play at the 9:01 mark to maintain the 10-point cushion, 54-44. Gibson's baseline steal drew Graham's fifth personal, as OSU's leading scorer (19 ppg) left the contest with 12 points at the 8:23 mark. This one, however, was far from over. Lucas' trey narrowed the Longhorn lead, 60-55. Lucas knocked down another trey following Gibson's jumper and a pair of Tucker FTs to make it a two-possession game, 64-58, with 3:53 left.
It was about this time that Barnes huddled his team and said, in essence, "Don't be looking at the clock. You've got to love this. You've got to want to stay here and play all night if you have to."
But Paulino virtually sealed the deal with his second trey of the evening. The Horns forced a turnover in the paint on OSU's next possession and then grabbed two critical offensive boards before Gibson knocked down a pair from the line, extending Texas' lead to 69-58 with 1:20 left. All the Cowboys could do was foul a Longhorn team that was nearly flawless from the charity stripe. Bobik's trey completed the scoring as Texas raised its record in ESPN 'Big Monday' home games to 9-1.
Texas travels to No.18/21 Oklahoma on Saturday for a 2:45 p.m. contest on CBS.