Texas (9-3) started the game 2-for-13 shooting, had five early turnovers and found themselves down 13-12 to the Centenary Gents (5-8).
That's right. The Gents.
Even with 5:50 remaining in the first half, the Horns only held a 25-20 lead. Each of the Longhorns' best had their mental hiccups and it seemed freshman Kevin Durant was the only player who could put points on the board. The 6'9" wingman had 13 points and 8 rebounds in the first twelve minutes of play, but even he had 3 key turnovers early on. Most of the team's early turnovers were coming on strips that were turning into fast break points.
"Maybe you'll get caught by surprise one time, but it shouldn't happen twice," said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. "What I found most disappointing tonight was the turnovers."
With a flurry of shots, Texas, went on a 22-9 run to end the first half and had control of the game, at least at that point. Durant finished with 21 points and 17 boards. It was his 10th game this season with 20+ points and his 17 rebounds tied a Texas freshman record (LaSalle Thompson, against SMU and Houston in the 79-80 season; Chris Mihm, against Texas Tech in the 97-98 season).
"I just want to come out and play hard and do whatever my team wants me to," said Durant.
On Thursday night it was go out, score points, eat up rebounds and save his team from dropping what should have been an easy win. Texas fought their way to a 42-29 halftime lead.
But Centenary refused to go away. The Shreveport, Lou. school came surging back in the second half and narrowed the Texas lead to 61-51 on a pair of Chase Adams free throws with 9:23 remaining. The primary reason was the Longhorns again struggling to keep the handle. Texas turned the ball over 16 times on the night. After the game, Centenary coach Rob Flaska theorized that Texas struggled so much to keep his team at bay because of occasional over-aggression.
"It's kind of funny. They're extremely good in transition (offensively). I think that sometimes when you're really good at something offensively, you're really not good at something defensively," said Flaska.
With 4:28 to play in the game, Durant threw down an aggressive dunk to take a 71-58 lead and essentially sealed the win for the Longhorns, having finally wrestled control back from the Gents. There were few parts of the game that the Horns definitively controlled in the 10-point victory. Where Texas did strongly hold the advantage throughout the game was in rebounds. The Horns outrebounded their smaller adversaries 45-30
The Longhorns have one remaining game before conference play. Texas takes on UT-Arlington at Erwin Center on Jan. 2th at 7 p.m., before traveling to Colorado to open Big 12 play on Jan. 6th.