Hoops: Horns Withstand Aggie Surge

Despite a second half Texas A&M comeback effort, Texas held on to defeat the Aggies 83-70 with the help of F P.J. Tucker and his eighth double-double of the season Saturday at the Erwin Center.

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Tucker’s team-high 25 points and 12 rebounds paved way for an 18-point Longhorn lead, but the Aggies (13-7, 3-6) kept fighting and came within six points before No. 7/8 Texas (19-3, 7-1) put the game away late in the contest.

Texas struggled to contain Texas A&M F Joseph Jones, who piled on 31 points with his Texas counterpart C LaMarcus Aldridge sitting out with foul trouble. Jones’ 31 points is the most scored by an Aggie in Austin since 1963.

"LaMarcus is the one guy who can guard Jones," said Kenton Paulino. "I give Jones a lot of credit for a great day, but having LaMarcus in foul trouble really hurt."

With Aldridge only playing six minutes in the first half, Brad Buckman and Tucker stepped up to help the Horns to the big early lead, but it did not come easy.

"Jones was a load down low," said Buckman. "He is so physical that we had to bang with him and do anything we could to keep him away from the basket."

Texas finished 21-of-41 (51.2 percent) from the field, thanks in large part to the play of Paulino. The senior guard racked up 19 points, including three from behind the arc, while finishing a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line and adding four assists and three steals.

"Paulino settled in today," said coach Rick Barnes. "He told me the other day he needed to do a better job of running the team, and I think he did a better job today."

Texas came into the contest having held 10 of its last 11 opponents to below 40 percent shooting, but the Horns’ defense allowed the Aggies to finish 24-of-51 (47.1 percent) from the field on Saturday.

Where the Texas defense had its problems, it made up for off the glass, out-rebounding the Aggies 36-19. Texas has out-rebounded its opponents by at least 10 boards in more than half the games this season.

Tucker started things off for the Horns, scoring on a hook shot and following up his own miss with a lay up to help the Horns jump to a 10-2 advantage. After the teams exchanged buckets for the next couple of minutes, G A.J. Abrams and Buckman got on the board with a three pointer a piece to put Texas ahead by 10. Abrams came off the bench to finish with six points, all from long range, and Buckman totaled 11 points and seven boards on the day.

With five minutes left in the first half, Texas players took an afternoon siesta and let the Aggies fire off three straight field goals before heading into the locker room. Jones scored Texas A&M’s first 11 points of the second half while forcing Aldridge deeper into foul trouble.

"We told him all year to play more disciplined," said Barnes. "It’s just a bad habit of him reaching. He is too good a player to let that happen."

With Texas struggling to put the ball in the hoop other than from the charity stripe, the Aggies inched closer and brought the lead down to just eight after an 11-1 Aggie run mid way through the period.

Texas A&M fans in attendance let their presence be known, finally raising to their feet and cheering loudly during the run, before Buckman brought the Longhorn fans back into the game with a break away dunk. Following the highlight play, Aldridge joined Buckman in the late-game scoring barrage, by tacking on four of his five points in the final few minutes before the Horns left the court with a 13-point victory.

"We had a chance to fight back and make a game out of it but we just couldn’t get over the hump," said Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie.

The scoreboard showed a relatively easy win for Texas, but all who watched the game up close saw a hard-fought battle.

"They played really hard, which is not anything we didn’t expect," said Barnes. "It’s almost March, so I don’t think any of them are going to be easy."

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