Hoops: Horns blow past Buffs

Even in the first few seconds of Texas' contest against Colorado on Saturday, it was immediately clear that it was <B>T.J. Ford&#146;s</B> day.

After grabbing the opening tip, the Horn freshman dashed past the Buffalo defenders and quickly collected one of his trademark assists as he found James Thomas for a lay-up. Less than 20 seconds later, the phenom point guard again outran his opponents down the floor and hit Brandon Mouton who nailed a three-pointer from the corner.

Four more Ford assists later and Texas had raced to a 23-10 lead in the first eight minutes of the game, while Colorado’s defense never seemed to catch up as the Horns held on for a 104-95 win.

Ford garnered nine assists in the first half but only hit for two points in that twenty minutes. After the break, Ford exploded out of the gate for 20 points to give him 22 on the day, a career high.

"I just took what the defense gave me," Ford said. "When I was passing the ball my teammates were getting easy lay-ups, and when they adjusted, I adjusted also."

If Ford was the catalyst, credit for the victory also goes to posts James Thomas and Deginald Erskin, plus guard Royal Ivey, for running the floor and wearing out the Buffs in transition.

Sophomores Thomas and Ivey each hit for 18, while the junior Erskin scored 16. Both Erskin and Ivey achieved a career high in points on the day.

While Colorado outrebounded Texas and shot a better percentage from the floor, the Buffaloes could never get a solid run going, as they never came closer than ten points after those first eight minutes until just before the final gun.

"We knew that their big men weren’t in that good of shape, so we tried to outwork them in the transitions," said Thomas, who had a game-high 11 rebounds to give him his sixth double-double on the year. "Trying to wear them down, that was our main deal."

One of those big men who appeared winded in the game was the Buff’s seven-foot center David Harrison. Harrison, a contender along with Ford for Big 12 Freshman of the Year, averaged 14.3 points and 6.9 rebounds per game coming in and exploded for 18 second half points, but guarded largely by Thomas, Harrison only mustered one shot while committing three fouls in the decisive first half.

One of the most telling statistics of the game was the turnover battle. Colorado gave the ball away 17 times and Texas took advantage, scoring 20 points off those turnovers. The Horns only had six total turnovers leading to just six CU points.

Texas head coach Rick Barnes attributed the win to the mindset of his players.

"The biggest thing was being aggressive," Barnes said. "We wanted to run the floor. We wanted to get their post guys in as many pick and roll situations as we could so we could get them out and open up the lane. We wanted balance and we got it."

The 104 points the Horns tallied was the most in Barnes’ tenure in Austin and no one was more responsible than Ford, who collected his fifth double-double of the year. Barnes considers Ford the leader of the team despite his first-year status.

"I’ve said all along that T.J. can shoot the ball, and he’s a better shooter than he gives himself credit for," the Texas head coach said. "He’s involved, he’s got great vision, and he really shot the ball with confidence. I think he means so much to his teammates because they really look to him."

Texas (16-7, 7-3) next hosts league-leading Kansas Monday night at 8 p.m. in an ESPN Big Monday match-up.

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