Hoops: Horns Collect Another Top Five Win

LaMarcus Aldridge came through in the clutch to help Texas secure a 58-55 win over No. 3 Villanova Saturday at the Erwin Center. The sophomore center scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half of a back-and-forth contest to give the No. 8 Longhorns their sixth-straight victory.

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Texas (14-2) had trouble finding Aldridge down low for much of the game, but once the big man got his hands on the ball, he took over and gave the Horns the frontcourt presence they needed after F Brad Buckman left with an ankle sprain early in the game.

The Longhorns proved vulnerable to small lineup opponents earlier in the season, with loses to guard-heavy Duke and Tennessee last month, but Texas fixed the perimeter problem Saturday and limited the previously one-loss Wildcats to just 17-of-63 (27.0 percent) shooting from the field.

The Texas defense also shut down Villanova’s long range threat, holding the ‘Cats to a mere 7-of-31 (22.6 percent) shooting from behind the arc. Villanova came into the contest with an impressive 43.0 shooting percent from three-point land.

"Because of what we were able to do these past few weeks, we are a more confident team," said coach Rick Barnes. "We know we are able to play different types of styles."

Forward P.J. Tucker grabbed a team-high nine boards while scoring eight points, and G Daniel Gibson finished with 10 points, including a pair of clutch free throws to put the game out of reach with just six seconds left. Guard Kenton Paulino, who has helped his team turn things around since the back-to-back loses by setting new career highs with 18 and 20 points in the previous two games, added 13 points.

"He never flinches," said Gibson of Paulino. "At crucial times like tonight, we trust him."

With Texas hanging on to a one point edge with 40 seconds remaining, Paulino drained a bank shot to allow the Horns to hold on to the lead.

"At first, I was just going to take the open shot, but the defender moved in on me," said Paulino, "so I pump-faked, stepped in, and was able to hit one off the glass."

The game quickly reached a 6-6 tie in the first half after Aldridge scored on a jumper and lay up, and Gibson made a lay up of his own. Buckman then fired off six straight points in the paint as part of an 8-0 Texas run.

Villanova stole the lead with seven minutes left in the first half, but G A.J. Abrams scored his only two points on the afternoon with a pair of free throws, and Tucker tipped in a loose ball to put Texas back on top.

After a 7-0 Villanova run gave the ‘Cats a six-point advantage, Paulino responded with two long distance shots, and the Horns entered the break trailing by just two points.

Texas stayed two points back after the first seven minutes of the second half, with both teams taking turns at making field goals. Gibson followed with a three pointer to ignite an 8-2 Texas streak. With the Horns up three, Paulino drove to the lane for two points and tacked on the free throw to put Texas ahead by six points with less than eight minutes to go.

Villanova sunk consecutive three pointers to inch to within one point of Texas with less than four minutes remaining, but Aldridge answered with nine points to close out the three-point Texas victory.

With the win in the first-ever match-up between the two schools, Texas has now won its last five games against Top 10 opponents when playing at home.

"Overall, this team has gotten a lot better," said Aldridge. "Everybody has worked really hard. If some guys go down, we know that others will step up."

The Horns return to conference play Tuesday vs. Texas Tech in the Erwin Center.

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