Durant led the Longhorns with 34 points and 13 rebounds as Texas (12-3, 2-0 Big 12) extended its winning streak over Missouri (11-4, 0-2 Big 12) to nine games. Durant controlled the game from the opening tip, but Texas head coach Rick Barnes' says Durant can be utilized even more in the coming games, especially in the low-post.
"Kevin can handle the ball and we actually want him to take it deeper," said Barnes. "We like him one-on-one with people."
Missouri head coach Mike Anderson came away from the contest impressed with the Durant's abilities.
"When you've got a great player like Kevin Durant, boy, that just gives you another dimension," said Anderson. "He's so tall and lengthy he can see over defenses. He makes good decisions and that's what real basketball players do."
When asked how to defend Durant, Anderson paused, shook his head and said: "He needs to go to the league."
Durant was told about Anderson's encouragement that he leave for the NBA, but Durant says he's not thinking about that right now.
"I don't know about all that just yet, but my teammates passed the ball and got me the buckets," said Durant. "So I give all the credit to my teammates."
D.J. Augustin, who had six assists, said having a big target in Durant makes his job as the Longhorn's point guard a whole lot easier.
"I just let Kevin get to the high post and work," said Augustin. "That's all we had to do."
Texas took an early lead with a flurry of threes. With 12:14 remaining in the first half, with Texas having already peppered the Missouri D with outside shots, J.D. Lewis cut through the lane and kicked the ball out to Justin Mason who hit the three to give Texas a 23-12 lead. The next time down Durant spotted up at the top of the arch and drained another to extend the Texas lead to fourteen points.
"We just stayed focused. We just got to our spots and we knew where each other were," said Augustin.
It was one of the best games this season for the Longhorns defensively. Texas used primarily man in the first half, collapsing down to double or even triple teams in the post, and dominating Missouri in the paint. Texas outrebounded the Tigers 37-27. Texas held the Tigers to just 26 points on 34.6% shooting in the first frame and 41.4% for the game. Barnes says his team is worlds better than they were at the start of the season on the defensive end.
"We've come a long way. A long way from where we started," said Barnes.
Missouri finally hit a three with 2:52 to go in the first half, narrowing the Longhorns' advantage to 35-23, but Lewis drained another from three-point range to put the Texas lead at 40-25. The Erwin Center crowd was then brought to its feet when Augustin drove through the lane and made what looked to be an impossible shot as he was fouled.
Missouri guard Stefhon Hannah took a three as time expired in the first half and the initial signal was ‘good', but after the officials looked at the replay the shot was waived off. The game certainly wasn't over, but the damage had been done as Texas took a 44-26 lead into halftime. As Missouri began to trail, the Tigers started to press more and more. But Barnes says his team did a very good job of handling the press.
"We think we can handle pressure," said Barnes. "Against a team that's going to keep coming at you for 40 minutes, we played well."
Early in the second half, the game was delayed for seven minutes due to technical problems with the scoreboard, but the stoppage in play didn't slow down the Longhorn attack. A Damion James steal led to an A.J. Abrams three, as the Longhorns continued their proficient three-point shooting.
A Marshall Brown three pointer for Mizzou took the Texas lead down to 66-50, but Abrams followed up with a quick three to take the lead back out to 19.
After Missouri forward Leo Lyons' game-opening bucket, the Longhorns never trailed in the 88-68 win. Durant dominated the game, but said this team needs to keep improving if they're going to achieve their goal of winning the Big 12, and perhaps even more.
"The game's going to get harder and harder, so we need to just take it a day at a time and get better each day," said Durant.
The Longhorns host Oklahoma this Saturday at the Erwin Center. Tip is set for 3 p.m.