Rivalry Renewed

The Longhorns and the Razorbacks hadn't played in 15 years, but from the intensity of Wednesday night's game, you'd think the rivalry never took a break. Texas won the back and forth thriller, 80-76, on a big night for freshman sensation Kevin Durant.

Kevin Durant dominated the game, but it was another freshman who gave the Longhorns their final heroics.

With Arkansas leading 76-75 and :22 seconds on the clock, Texas inbounded the ball and tried to get it underneath to their leading scorer. But with Durant surrounded, freshman guard Justin Mason drove right down the center of the lane.

"There were other options, but they came out in zone and that blew it up, so I just took it," said Mason.

Mason had a career-high seven assists in the game, but took the ball himself for Longhorns' final shot of the night. Mason got the shot and the foul as the ball rolled in and the Erwin Center exploded. The defensive focus of the Razorbacks had been on Durant all night and it opened up the lane for Mason's drive.

"They weren't really focusing on me throughout the game, so I guess I caught them by surprise," said Mason.

Arkansas head coach Stan Heath was as surprised as the rest of those in attendance when Mason made the winning bucket for the Longhorns.

"I don't think anybody in the building thought he was going to get it," said Heath. "He made a great drive. He made a great play. That play, plus us not making our free throws, put Texas in the driver's seat."

Down two, Arkansas still had a chance, but Razorback guard Gary Ervin missed both of his free throws with five seconds remaining. Kevin Durant converted his final two free throws to give Texas the 80-76 victory. There was some tension when the big man went to the line because Durant, after only missing four free throws all season, had missed four during the game.

But the final two fell. Durant said that he knows he can shoot better than he did on Wednesday night.

"I think I blacked out on the free throw line," said Durant, shaking his head. "I focus too much on the free throw line to be missing, but luckily I got those last two."

He may have had some minor struggles from the line, but Durant gave Arkansas fits all night, inside and out.

"We didn't have much of an answer to Durant, I'll tell you that," said Heath. "He's a match-up nightmare."

Durant finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds against constant defensive pressure.

It was an impressive night offensively for Durant, but Texas head coach Rick Barnes points out that he's still having his struggles on the defensive end on the floor. Although Durant has his defensive struggles, Barnes says that he's working hard on completing his game.

"Everybody's going to go at Kevin Durant, but he's going to get better," said Barnes. "He'll learn from it. He's smart. I give him a hard time about his defense because it bothers him and when it bothers him he gets angry and when he gets angry he gets good."

Texas continues its non-conference tilt on Saturday, Dec. 23, when the Horns go on the road to face Tennessee. Both the Longhorns (8-2) and the Volunteers (9-2) are athletic running teams and Barnes says the game should provide some fireworks for the fans.

"Transition will be the key word in that game," said Barnes. "It's going to be a fun game to watch because both teams get up and down the floor."

The game will be a 11 a.m. on ESPN.

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