Sampson had the makings of Top 5 incoming class two years ago, including current Longhorn F Damion James. But the group dispersed like wind sweepin' down the plain the first time Sampson ran afoul of the NCAA for illegally contacting recruits. Current Sooner coach Jeff Capel vowed that he would "beat Texas" when he was hired to revive the program in April, 2006. But the wait continues as the Horns have posted five straight Ws in the series.
What's more, Texas has now won seven straight, its longest streak since joining the Big 12 Conference, to raise its record to 23-4. The Horns are also in sole possession of first place in the Big 12 standings at 10-2, following Kansas' surprising loss Saturday to Oklahoma State. The Sooners, in all probability, are Tournament-bound with a top 30 RPI rating, but fell to 18-9, 6-6 in league play.
"In the beginning of February, we talked about finding a way to separate ourselves from the rest of the league," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "We were picking out one or two things we can get better with. We knew that we had to improve defensively and have an inside game to go with what we were already able to do on the perimeter. Today was a good case of that. We went 2-of-19 from the three (point line) and were able to find a way to beat a good team that doesn't give you anything."
Defensively, the Horns have made their greatest stride with ball pressure from guards and getting back in transition. Texas' frontcourt blocked eight shots with James, Connor Atchley and Wangmene swatting two apiece. Texas harassed OU into a 5-of-30 (16.7 percent) misadventure from the field during the first 20 minutes of play.
"Our defense was pretty good," D. J. Augustin understated. "It can always get better."
Better than limiting a quality foe to 16.7 percent from the field?
"Maybe next time we can hold them to 15 percent."
Augustin led all scorers with 19 points (8-of-14) while James notched his 12th double-double of the season with 13 points (6-of-16) and 11 rebounds.
The Horns got solid contributions from its bench: freshman F Gary Johnson accounted for seven points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals in 14 minutes. Freshman F Alexis Wangmne pulled down seven boards and added five points in 16 minutes.
Texas shot 37.3 percent (25-of-67 FG) from the field but held the Sooners to a season-low 26.4 percent (14-of-53). The Horns went to the charity stripe just 12 times, converting 10 (83.3 percent). The Sooners were good on 12-of-20 (60 percent) foul shots. Texas out-rebounded its Red River rival, 44-40. The only ugly stat for Texas was its 2-of-19 showing from outside the arc, but the Horns compensated with 32 points in the paint.
Atchley picked up two quick fouls during the first 3:43 as the Sooners controlled the early offensive boards. Gary Johnson would be whistled for his second personal with 12:59 remaining until the break and Texas nursing a 9-7 lead. Texas' attrition in the low post continued when Clint Chapman was quickly called for pair of personals.
It was the physical kind of bodies-flying slug-fest -- at times it resembled a rugby scrum -- that has become customary when these clubs clash. The opening frame, however, was about as ugly offensively as one would never hope to see. The Sooners misfired on 18 of their first 21 attempts before Augustin's driving layup spotted Texas a 21-12 lead at the 5:03 mark. Wangmene's traditional three-point play gave the Horns a 26-19 advantage. The freshman would add a pair of foul shots to spot Texas its first double-digit lead at the break, 32-21.
Consecutive driving layups from Justin Mason and Augustin pushed the lead to 38-23 to open the second period. Then, Texas' post players flexed their muscles. James' put-back made it a 44-27 ballgame while Atchley would block consecutive Sooner attempts around the rim. Atchey's three-point play extended the Texas bulge to 20, 47-27, with 11:13 left.
Abrams finally got on the scoreboard 1:10 later off another old-fashioned three-point play off the inbounds pass. Augustin poured it on with an NBA trey before his fade-away jumper provided a 24-point cushion with 5:10 left. Johnson put the exclamation point on this one with his driving slam and subsequent foul shot.
"It's tough to battle uphill against a team like Texas," Capel said. "They're playing as well as anybody in the country. They won at UCLA, they beat Tennessee, they beat Kansas. When you look at their body of work, who has done what they've done?"
Now, Texas turns its attention to a Big Monday showdown that will go a long way toward determining the Big 12 title. Tip-off at No. 24/25 Kansas State is set for 8 p.m. (Central) in an ESPN national telecast.