Offensively, the Longhorns were "feeling it" by connecting on 50 percent (27-of-54) of their shots from the field, including 14-of-21 (67 percent) from beyond the arc. Junior G Kenton Paulino was Texas' second-leading scorer with 16 points, including three-of-four three-pointers.
"I'm not sure any of them were bad (shots)," said head coach Rick Barnes said after raising his record against Tech to 13-1. "When Daniel Gibson and Kenton Paulino get going, they're pretty good from behind the line."
Sticking primarily with a 2-3 zone but occasionally mixing in man defense, Texas held the visitors to 37 percent from the floor (25-of-68). The No. 13/16 Longhorns improved their record to 15-4 (4-2 in Big 12 play). Tech fell to 11-5, 3-2 in league play despite G Ronald Ross' game-high 29 points (10-of-18 FG).
The Red Raiders entered the game boasting the conference's best FG percentage (48 percent) but were just 10-of-40 from the floor during the first 20 minutes of play. The result was that the Red Raiders "played from behind" during the entire ball game, which TTU coach Bobby Knight said keyed the outcome. That, and a three-point barrage courtesy of Gibson and Paulino during a two-minute stretch midway through the second period, kept the visitors at arm's length. It opened up Texas' largest lead, 65-49, with 8:23 remaining.
"They had a really good shooting stretch there," Knight said. "Basically, we were playing basket for basket but ours were twos and theirs were threes."
Knight was visibly upset following the game, clearly venting to Barnes when the two met in front of the scorer's table, but it had nothing to do with the final score. The General refused to comment on the nature of the conversation but Barnes said Knight was bothered because spectators had "crossed the line" in heckling him. Barnes did not specify what Longhorns fans said to Knight.
"The thing that bothered me is I know he wouldn't let people say that sort of thing about me," Barnes said. "I know for a fact that he would stop the game because I've seen him do it.... The years he has put into the game and the longevity of his career should earn him respect. Fans can't cross the line. I want people to think our fans are first class."
Junior F Brad Buckman pulled down a career-best 14 rebounds, eight points and two blocked shots in 25 minutes of work.
"We knew they were a team that liked to attack and score," Buckman said. "We just crowded the paint, disrupted their shots and our zone worked great."
Other than Buckman, Texas' recent reliance on zone defense has not translated well into pulling down rebounds. For the second consecutive game, Texas failed to control the offensive glass. Tech collected 21 offensive boards compared to ten for Texas. (Both squads, however, registered 17 second-chance points). Overall, the visitors outrebounded the Longhorns, 45-33.
The Horns committed 15 turnovers, but just one in the second half.
"We have so many turnovers in the first half," Barnes said. "It gave them more shooting opportunities. Our post guys were working hard and we were able to kick the ball out and get some open threes."
Kenny Taylor's jumper, on the heels of Gibson's shot from beyond the arc, sparked an early 7-0 Texas run as the Horns grabbed a 9-3 lead. The Horns were guilty of five turnovers during the five minutes of play as Devonne Giles' traditional three-point play cut the Longhorn advantage, 12-10. Gibson's second trey of the contest, followed by Mike Williams' putback, made it a 17-10 ballgame. Giles' bucket brought the Red Raiders back within two, 17-15, before Klotz battled for an open look in the paint to power strong for the FG. Taylor responded with his first trey of the contest to open up a 22-15 lead.
Gibson was whistled for his second personal and spent the final 6:50 of the first period on the bench.
After the visitors drew within three, Taylor knocked down another three-ball to launch a 7-0 Longhorn run. Buckman's tip in spotted Texas its first double-digit lead, 29-19, with 4:58 remaining. But the Red Raiders ended the period with a 6-0 run as Texas went the final 3:22 without a bucket. Jarius Jackson's three-pointer made it a 32-25 ballgame at the break.
The Red Raiders were all of 10-of-40 (25 percent) from the field during the first 20 minutes of play while the Horns were 13-of-26 (50 percent), including 5-of-8 three-pointers. Texas' 14 turnovers during the opening period were virtually offset by Buckman's 11 rebounds in his first 13 minutes of play.
The loudest sustained cheer of the contest (up to this point) occurred when the Rose Bowl champion Longhorn football team was honored at halftime. QB Vince Young proudly carried the shiny hardware onto the hardwood as Rose Bowl highlights flickered across the Jumbotron.
Gibson opened the second period as he did the first, draining a trey to push the Longhorn lead back to double-digits at 37-27. After Klotz and Ronald Ross exchanged a pair of FTs, Buckman knocked down a trey from the right wing to give Texas a 42-29 advantage. Jarius Jackson, however, followed with a three-pointer of his own.
The welcomed sight for Orangebloods was Williams' gradual emergence from the offensive hesitancy that resulted in Barnes benching him for most of the second half at OU Saturday. The freshman scored on a jam to make it a 44-32 game at the 16:21 mark. Nearly five minutes later, Williams drew the third foul on Giles but powered for a shot in which the ball wedged momentarily between backboard and rim before dropping through. Williams finished with eight points and five rebounds in 23 minutes.
Texas led 53-43 with 11:54 remaining, but that only set the stage for the offensive barrage from three-point range. Paulino drained three straight from the left wing while Gibson added another NBA-three to open Texas' largest lead at 65-49.
"The ones they made in that stretch weren't gimme shots," Knight said. "Those weren't wide-open shots that they had. Those kids are good shooters. That's the strength of this (Texas) team."
But the Longhorn lead nearly evaporated as quickly as it was built. Ronald Ross followed his jump shot with a pair of treys as part of 12-3 Tech run. Suddenly, it was a two-possession game at 68-62 with 5:06 remaining. Buckman missed the back end of a one-and-one before Gibson's trey from the left wing gave Texas some breathing room at 72-63. A pair of Giles FTs, however, made it a five-point game for the first time since Tech's opening bucket of the second period.
Paulino answered with a pull-up jumper before Gibson sank a pair from the charity stripe to spot Texas a 76-67 advantage with 1:45 left. Paulino connected on all four foul shots down the stretch before Ross' trey completed the scoring at 80-73.
Sophomore F P.J. Tucker sat on the bench in street clothes for the first time since being declared academically ineligible for the remainder of the season.
Next up for the Horns: Texas faces a pivotal game at No. 6 Kansas, Saturday, January 29, at 8 p.m. in an ESPN2 broadcast.