Tale Of Two Halves: Texas 63, Missouri 51

<P>Texas followed a season-low 18.8 percent shooting performance in the first period with a season-best 70.6 percent showing from the floor to upend Missouri, 63-51, at the Erwin Center Saturday. Texas' fourth win in five games begs the question:<I> are we there yet? </I>

Texas' NCAA Tournament calling card now stands at 19-8 and now, at 8-6 in Big 12 play, is guaranteed no worse than a .500 conference mark for the season. But it took a 17-0 run on the heels of two scoring droughts in the first period (totaling 10:14) to keep this one from becoming a Bubble-busting upset.

"I told them (at halftime) that I didn't think it was possible for us to shoot the ball any worse," said coach Rick Barnes said after his club went 6-of-32 from the floor during the first 20 minutes of play and trailed 25-24.

The Burnt Orange crystal ball says Texas probably punched its Dance ticket Saturday but would seal the deal by notching just one more 'W' to hit that symbolic 20-win plateau. The loss snapped a four-game win streak for the Tigers, who saw their record fall to 14-14, 6-8 in Big 12 play. Missouri coach Quinn Snyder is now 0-7 against Texas.

Senior G Kenny Taylor was a quiet assassin, contributing a game-high 20 points off the bench (including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc). Taylor had all of one bucket at intermission before launching the second half running of the Horns.

"The second half we just had to look at each other and we had to come together as a team," Taylor observed. "We couldn't let the game slip away. We had to come together as a team. We had to play with intensity and win."

Texas took just 17 shots in the second period, hitting 12, while the Tigers were 9-of-30 from the field following intermission. All told, the Horns went 18-of-49 (36.7 percent) for the game while holding the visitors to 33.3 percent (18-of-54 FG). Texas hit 10 more free throws than Missouri even attempted. Texas was 21-of-30 from the charity stripe while the Tigers went to the line just 11 times, hitting seven. The Horns outrebounded Missouri, 38-35. Meanwhile, it was a rare game where Texas collected more turnovers (19) than it surrendered (14).

Junior F Brad Buckman was saddled with foul trouble throughout the contest, finishing with four points and four boards. But senior C Jason Klotz emerged as the Man of the House, recording his team's only double-double (just the third of his career) with 15 points (6-of-12 FG) and 10 boards.

"Jason was terrific," Barnes said. "The first four or five minutes of the second half, when we had both Jason and Brad on the floor, was crucial. Jason was a man. He went to work out there."

Missouri's game plan was to extend its defense in an effort to keep freshman G Daniel Gibson from getting into the flow of the offense and, for 20 minutes, it worked to near perfection. Texas misfired on 26 of 32 FG attempts in the first 20 minutes of play. (We'll understand if you want to skip this part and proceed to the second period.) The only way the Horns hung around was by hitting 10-14 foul shots and playing sound defense. Missouri didn't fare much better (9-of-24) from the field.

Texas was guilty of two turnovers on its first two possession and then misfired on five of its first six FG attempts before Gibson's trey from the top of the key put the Horns up, 5-2. Freshman G Jason Horton's shot from outside the line and sophomore G Thomas Gardner's three-ball was part of an 8-0 Tiger run as Texas trailed 14-9 with 12 minutes remaining until halftime.

"Coach said we came out flat and with no energy," Klotz said. "We had two quick turnovers. They looked like they wanted the game more in first half. (Barnes) said, 'Whoever wants this game the most and plays the hardest will win this game.'"

Buckman picked up his second personal with 13:27 and Barnes benched him for the rest of the half. The Horns then went 5:01 without a FG. Here, Texas had opened 4-of-18 from the field and you're wondering if the Horns would have 20 points by intermission. Kenny Taylor's trey ended the scoring drought but then Sydmill Harris was whistled for an intentional foul as Gardner slammed it home. Junior G Jimmy McKinney hit both foul shots to stake an 18-12 Missouri lead.

Mizzou junior F Kevin Young picked up his third personal with 5:54 remaining. Jason Klotz sank two FTs before pulling down a defensive board at the other end. He then went strong to the hole, finally awakening the 10,614 in attendance. Senior G Jason Conley quickly silenced the Longhorn faithful with his three-point shot from the right wing to make it 23-18 Missouri. Gibson fouled Horton as he released the ball outside the line but he bricked all three freebies.

Texas went the final 5:13 without a FG but both Dion Dowell and Kenny Taylor sank foul shots to pull Texas within one at 25-24. Harris had a chance to give Texas a halftime lead but clanked both foul shots with three seconds left.

Determined to put arguably the season's worst period of basketball behind them, the Horns came out smoking after intermission.

"Coach had some words of encouragement (at halftime)," Klotz quipped, "and we got pumped."

Gibson ignited the fuse with a steal on MU's first possession, dishing the ball to Dowell for a rafter-rousing slam.

"That was a big play in giving us the type of energy we knew we had to have in the second half," Barnes said.

Taylor knocked down a trey before Texas forced a shot clock violation. Missouri called for time after Klotz drained a wide-open jumper to post a 31-25 Texas lead.

Buckman was quickly whistled for his third personal with just 3:35 eclipsed in the second period and was replaced by freshman F Mike Williams. Klotz intercepted MU's alley-oop pass, resulting in his nuthin' but net jumper from just outside the free throw line and a 35-25 Longhorn lead. At this point, Gibson's advice to teammates was, "Let's just get the ball to Jason and feed off of him." Gibson's coast-to-coast lay-up capped a 17-0 Texas run (going back to the final 1:38 of the first period) as the Horns upped their margin, 37-25.

Sophomore C Linas Kleiza's lay-up broke the MU scoring drought while McKinney's three-pointer cut into the Texas lead, 39-30. Gibson's trey pushed the margin back into double digits at 42-30. But Buckman took a seat when he was called for his fourth personal, scrapping for a defensive board, with 11:18 remaining. Klotz's traditional three-point play, drawing C/F Kalen Grimes' fourth foul, built a 47-33 Longhorn lead.

The Tigers got right back in it, however, swishing three straight treys to make it a 49-42 ballgame. Taylor's trey made it a 54-44 contest before Gardner answered with a three-ball of his own. Buckman checked back in with 5:26 remaining before Gibson sank a pair from the charity stripe. Taylor's trey as the shot clock expired was the dagger as the Longhorn lead stood at 60-49 with 1:54 remaining. The Tigers could only foul the rest of the way as the Horns kept their Tournament hopes alive.

Texas will battle Oklahoma in its final home game of the season, 8 p.m. (CST) Monday on an ESPN national 'Big Monday' telecast.

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