Hoops: Aldridge Bucket, Block Seal 'W'

LaMarcus Aldridge delivered Texas a come-from-behind, last-minute 76-75 victory over No. 13 West Virginia in the semifinals of the Guardians Classic tournament Monday night when the center followed up a G Kenton Paulino miss with a putback with 3.6 seconds left. On the final play, the Mountaineers drove to the basket down by one but Aldridge swatted away a lay-up attempt by WVU F Mike Gansey to secure the Texas win. The Horns (3-0) advanced to the tournament finals tomorrow night vs. Iowa.

The sophomore center finished with 15 points and obviously came up big in the clutch, but Gibson paced the Horns with 20 points, including a 6-of-12 performance from behind the arc, despite coming into the night averaging just five points per game. Forward P.J. Tucker added 19 points and Brad Buckman totaled 12, while Aldridge racked up 14 rebounds.

At times sloppy ball-handling vs. WVU's zone defense led to 24 Texas turnovers (9 from Gibson, with just two assists), a stat that would typically point to a loss, but the Horns owned the boards, pulling down 41 rebounds to the Mountaineers' 22.

"Some of our passes were ridiculous," head coach Rick Barnes said. "To turn the ball over as many times as we did and win, we were fortunate. They're an older, veteran team in midseason form."

Barnes went with mainly with his veterans, relying heavily on his five starters (Gibson, Paulino, Tucker, Buckman and Aldridge), particularly down the stretch.

Early on, Gibson caught fire, connecting on two quick three pointers. After an Aldridge field goal, West Virginia answered back to even the score at 10 until another Gibson trey put Texas back on top 13-10.

The sophomore guard proved to be Texas’ main offensive weapon in the half, nailing five-of-seven three pointers and finishing the frame with 17 points. His hot streak ended later in the half, though, and the Mountaineers took a 37-31 lead with four minutes remaining after mounting a 9-0. The Horns chipped away at the lead when Aldridge followed up a Tucker miss and Buckman added a two pointer late in the half, but West Virginia answered right back with a trey at the buzzer for a 40-35 edge over the Horns.

Despite out-shooting the Mountaineers with a 46.7 field-goal percentage in the half, Texas’ 14 turnovers proved to be the difference at the break.

The second half started much like the first, with Gibson draining a three pointer. The game went back and forth from then on, with West Virginia going on an 8-0 run following Gibson’s trey. But a Buckman dunk then started a 13-0 Texas run that put the Horns ahead 51-48 with 15 minutes left. Paulino connected on the three pointer capping off the scoring drive that gave Texas its first lead of the half.

With a 7-0 run, West Virginia regained the edge and held on to the lead over the next few minutes until a Tucker hook shot tied the game at 67 with under four minutes remaining.

Texas entered the final two minutes with a 72-71 lead after Buckman tipped in Gibson’s missed three pointer and Paulino drained one from behind the arc. After West Virginia tacked on four quick points to go back on top, the Mountaineers missed three free throws that kept the game in UT's reach. Tucker followed up a missed shot with a lay in to put the game back in Texas’ favor with a minute left until Aldridge’s last-second field goal closed out the win.

While defense and bench points played significant roles in Texas’ success before the game, neither proved to be as big of factors in the win Monday. The bench totaled just two points in the game, after coming into the contest averaging more than 20 points per contest. On the defensive side of the ball, Texas let West Virginia shoot 46.8 percent from the field and allowed Mountaineer Gansey to rack up 28 points. But, due to Aldridge, Gansey came up two points short of the win.

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