Hoops: Horns Earn A Share Of Big 12 Title

On senior day at the Erwin Center, a sophomore stole the show. Daniel Gibson scored 22 points to lead the Horns in a 72-48 victory over Oklahoma on Sunday, giving Texas a share of the Big 12 regular season title and the No. 1 seed in this weekend's Big 12 Tournament. League co-champ Kansas is the No. 2 seed while the Sooners are No. 3.

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With the win, Texas completed the regular season with 25 wins, a new school record.

In Brad Buckman and Kenton Paulino’s last home game, No. 6 Texas (25-5, 13-3) rebounded from a three-point loss to Texas A&M during the week and showed on Sunday why A Tale of Two Teams is a fitting description of Texas this season.

"Sometimes I’m not sure how we can be a different team at different times," said coach Rick Barnes, "but that’s part of the game. They got done what they wanted to get done."

After shooting just 34.2 percent from the field on Wednesday, Texas showed its other side by shooting 48.2 percent from the floor against vs. the No. 19 Sooners (20-7, 11-5).

When Gibson was not draining perimeter shots or driving to the basket, he was dishing the ball off, as the guard knocked down four three-pointers and finished with a team-best six assists.

"My teammates told me to be as aggressive as I could," said Gibson, "and I went out there with a killer instinct. Anyone who is guarding me, I’m going to take it to them."

Family, teammates and fans cheered for Texas’ two seniors in a short ceremony just before the opening tip.

"All I heard before the game is clapping from the fans and teammates, and you know they have always been there for you," said Buckman. "It was an incredible feeling."

Buckman played in true character on his special afternoon, fighting hard on the court and helping his team in ways not often reflected in a box score. Entering his final home contest ranked fourth in school history with 157 career blocks, it just seemed fitting that Buckman tallied his final Erwin Center stat with a swat in the game’s winding minutes.

Buckman finished with nine points and seven rebounds, and Paulino, his senior counterpart, scored five while helping the Horns build a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover margin on the afternoon.

Since coming to Texas, Buckman and Paulino have guided the Horns to a 96-31 (.756) overall record, including a 59-4 (.937) mark in home games.

Oklahoma struck first with a three pointer following the opening tip, but Gibson answered right back with a trey of his own. After Texas built a small lead when Tucker and Paulino scored on lay ups and Aldridge added a jumper, the Sooners tied the game at 10 after five minutes of play.

Shortly after, the Horns broke the tie and grabbed a lead they would not give up for the rest of the game. Gibson started the Texas run with a long range bucket and followed it up with another three-pointer. The Horns added to the five-point edge when Gibson fell to the court but not before distributing the ball to Paulino, who drained a three-pointer.

After Oklahoma came back to within four points, Texas closed out the half with an 11-5 run when G A.J. Abrams followed up a long-distance Gibson score with two three-pointers of his own to help the Horns trot into the locker room with a ten-point lead and a roaring home crowd behind them.

Abrams went on to finish with 11 points after coming off the bench, including three scores from behind the arc.

"(Coach Barnes) has been telling me to take open shots," said Abrams. "My teammates did a great job of driving and kicking, and I just knocked them down."

Texas came out fast from the break, with Buckman nailing a three-pointer and Aldridge tacking on a field goal to put the Horns ahead by 16. After swapping baskets for the next six minutes, Gibson and Abrams again traded off three-pointers to give the Horns a comfortable 22-point lead.

With six minutes to go, Texas fired off six straight points before Buckman and Paulino subbed out of the game to a standing ovation, and the Longhorn bench closed out the large win.

After the game, Texas players hoisted up their new Big 12 regular season championship trophy.

"It feels good to hold that trophy," said Gibson. "We knew after Wednesday that we would have to just bounce back and keep improving. Now we have to focus on the Big 12 Tournament."

For the seniors, the game provided a bittersweet way to leave Austin behind.

"A win like this is an incredible way to go out," said Buckman, "but I don’t want it to end just yet."

Top-seeded Texas will face the winner of Thursday's No. 8 Texas Tech-No. 9 Kansas State game on Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

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