"A lot of good players and a lot of good assistant coaches have been here," Barnes said. "I've said all along that the University of Texas is one of the best situations in the country and I'm lucky to have the opportunity I have here."
More important, the 29-point runaway represents a signature win over a ranked opponent that a young Texas team can leverage when NCAA Tournament seeds are announced one month from now. Texas raised its record to 18-7, 8-3 in Big 12 Conference action. The Cowboys drop to 19-6 overall and, at 5-5, are still looking for their first road win in league play.
"Team wise, I thought it was the first full game we've played all year," Barnes said. "I feel like we've gotten better at the time of year we want to get better. There's no doubt that the last couple of games the communication has gotten so much better. We've been searching for that. That's what you're hoping for this time of year."
Until Monday, Texas had hung its NCAA hat on wins against three teams (then-No. 9 LSU, Arkansas, Texas Tech) that have faded down the stretch. One could also make an argument that Texas' primary calling card was Barnes' reputation and fab freshman Kevin Durant. On a night when all five Longhorn starters scored in double-figures, Durant posted a game-best 21 points (8-of-16 FG) and 12 boards. Silky-smooth point guard D.J. Augustin (19 points, eight assists, two steals, three turnovers) has not enjoyed better consecutive outings than Monday's performance combined with his career-best 31 points Saturday against Iowa State.
"Coach told me to be more aggressive," Augustin said. "The way other teams are playing Kevin and A.J. (Abrams), the lane is wide open for me."
Abrams had been mired in a recent shooting slump and, at times, has been defensive liability. But the sophomore contributed 17 points (6-of-13 FG) and, arguably, his best defensive effort of the season. Barnes assigned Abrams to put the clamps on OSU's best shooter JamesOn Curry, who went 5-of-13 for an innocuous 12 points, 6.4 points below his average.
"I was going after JamesOn off of screens," Abrams said. "My teammates are there to help me so I could get back into position. We have a lot of guys who can take up the offensive load which helped me get back on defense."
All told, Texas shot a season-best 56.1 percent (32-of-57 FG), including 19-of-28 (67.9 percent) during a scorching second period. The Horns held to Cowboys to 36.7 percent (22-of-60). Texas controlled the boards, 34-30. Texas hit 11-of-15 foul shots (73.3 percent) while OSU, incredibly, went to the charity stripe just five times (hitting four).
The last time these two clubs met (Jan. 16) in Stillwater, the result was a triple-overtime 105-103 loss for the Horns. In Austin Monday, Oklahoma State never led. Texas built an early 17-10 lead fueled by driving lay-ups from Damion James, D.J. Augustin and Justin Mason. The Horns would finish with 24 fast-break points.
"It all started with Damion going straight at (forward) Mario Boggan in the beginning," Durant said.
But it was a slow start for Durant. Five Longhorns got on the scoreboard before Durant drew net, but the fab freshman's full-court drive and jumper made it 24-17 with 8:27 remaining until the break. Byron Eaton's traditional three-point play pulled the Cowboys within 24-20 before Durant answered with a three-ball from the right wing.
James' offensive board and put-back gave Texas it's largest lead of the first period at 31-20. But the Horns did not score during the final 2:52 and took a 31-24 lead into the locker room. (There's no official stat for this, but the first period had to have set the mark for the ugliest air balls by a Longhorn opponent).
James picked up two quick fouls during the first 39 seconds of the second period and was replaced by Connor Atchley. A.J. Abram's trey on the feed from Augustin spotted the Horns a 36-24 advantage. But a Cowboy trey and slam quickly made things interesting at 37-31. Mason's slam followed a Durant FG to push the Longhorn lead back to double-digits.
Texas' full-court press and switch from man-defense to a 2-3 zone forced seven Cowboy turnovers during the first eight minutes of the second period. Augustin's lay-up, courtesy of an Abrams' steal and assist, brought the 12,926 in attendance to full throttle as OSU called timeout, trailing 43-33 with 15:21 left. Durant was bumped on a gravity-defying floater, completing the three-point play to make it a 49-37 ballgame at the 13:32 mark. Now, Durant was feeling it. He followed his NBA-range three with a traditional three-point play to push the Texas cushion to 56-41.
Cowboy coach Sean Sutton was whistled for a technical foul with his team trailing, 61-46, with 7:35 remaining. Abrams, who had yet to miss a FT in Big 12 play, calmly sank both foul shots. You could start warming the bus after James' mid-range jumper (on the dish from Durant) turned this one into a 67-46 runaway.
It epitomized the do-no-wrong kind of night that Teas enjoyed when Augustin knocked down a 30-foot trey as the shot clock expired, giving the Horns a commanding 80-52 lead.
"Once I saw it leave his hands," Durant said, "I knew it was going on. It capped off the night."
And, ideally, ignited a stretch-run for the Longhorns.
Texas travels to Baylor Saturday for a 7 p.m. (CST) tip-off.