Sooners take care of Longhorns 78-63

The #11 Texas Longhorns got behind early on Monday night in Norman and could never get any closer than four points the rest of the way against the #5 Oklahoma Sooners. Blake Griffin led Oklahoma with 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Sooners grabbed hold of the early lead in the Big 12 race.

The #11 Texas Longhorns knew the task was a tough one in Norman on Monday night against the #5 Oklahoma Sooners. If Texas didn't understand how tough, they figured it pretty quick as the arch rival Sooners jumped out to a 15-8 early lead on a trio of three-pointers in the opening six minutes.

The Sooners (16-1, 2-0) didn't let their foot off the pedal the rest of the way answering every Longhorn mini-run with key baskets by Blake Griffin, Willie Warren and Austin Johnson.

The Longhorns came out flat and were beaten to a number of loose balls while also not fighting through screens and playing recovery defense to the level a team has to against an offensive team as talented as Oklahoma.

The Longhorns (12-4, 1-1) trailed by double digits in the first half for nearly five minutes and never got closer than six points in the final 14:31 of the half.

With a trio of the Texas starters benched for poor play and foul trouble, the Sooners took full advantage. Oklahoma was the recipient of 10 first half turnovers with the majority being unforced.

The second half was more of the same as the Longhorns could never get closer than four points, 54-50 at the 11:17 mark on a Damion James three-point jumper off of a pass from Dogus Balbay.

Leading 54-50, the Sooners went on a 12-0 run over the next six minutes to dash any hopes the Longhorns had for a comeback.

Warren scored a runner to get the run going. Blake Griffin then scored four of the next six points for the Sooners before his older brother, Taylor Griffin, tallied the final two points of the scoring run from the free throw line.

The Sooners coasted from that point and closed out the Longhorns 78-63 ending a six game losing streak to Texas.

Blake Griffin led the Sooners with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while guards Warren, Tony Crocker and Johnson scored 17, 16 and 15 respectively.

A.J. Abrams led the Longhorns with 22 points, but took 27 shots with many of them being forced and without ever looking to a teammate. Damion James bounced back from a scoreless first half with 12 points before fouling out late in the game.

A Look at the Numbers

The Longhorns shot 33.8% (23-68) overall, 21.7% (5-23) from three and 85.7% (12-14) from the free throw line.

The Sooners converted 50.9% (27-53) from the floor, 40.0% (4-10) from the three-point line and 66.7% (20-30) from the foul line.

Texas won the battle of the boards 42-39, including 12 offensive.

The Sooners won the turnover battle 14-13.

The Good

Dogus Balbay played a terrific game for the Longhorns. He finished with career-highs in points, eight, rebounds, seven, assists, six, and minutes played with 28. The sophomore was the only player on the floor that could create offense and was often hamstrung as Texas tried to get the ball to Abrams on many possessions that took away his chance to be aggressive and create for teammates.

Gary Johnson battled through a tough shooting night pulling down nine rebounds in 22 minutes. Johnson played hard as always, but settled for too many jumpers. Of course, there isn't a cross screen action as OU uses to free Blake Griffin up working from block to block.

Dexter Pittman played physical defense on Blake Griffin when he wasn't in foul trouble. Pittman continues to come along, but can't continue to take himself out of games with needless over the back fouls going for rebounds when he doesn't have position.

Texas committed only three second half turnovers. Of course, that was helped by Balbay's play.

Harrison Smith played the most minutes against a quality opponent in his career. He knocked down a three in the first half off of a Balbay drive and kick. He added three rebounds and hustled on every possession.

Texas knocked down 12 of 14 free throws, but didn't attack the basket enough to put OU in serious foul trouble after many of the Sooners committed two.

The Bad

The Longhorns didn't defend the ball screens well. For some reason, fighting over the top against every Sooner was tried tonight. With James and Mason not defending to the level they can, the Sooners turned the corner too much and were then given too many straight line drives.

Abrams' shot selection was just terrible. When Texas has been at their best offensively in recent years, it's because Abrams uses his ability to draw defenders and make the extra pass to keep the ball moving. Tonight it was dribble and jack up a bad shot for the most part. Abrams shot 8-27 overall and 3-15 from three. On one occasions, he had a simple split against a slow hedging/reacting Sooner defense on a screen and float and chose to pull an off-balance 22 footer instead of driving against what would have been a scrambling defense. An experienced senior, Abrams still rarely, if ever, creates a quality look for a teammate or even attempts to. Abrams has yet to take advantage of his ability to shoot the ball and hit Connor Atchley on the float when it has been there all season.

Justin Mason played his worst game in recent memory on defense. He is jumping too much instead of playing low and sliding the feet laterally to keep his opponent in front of him.

Texas was beaten to numerous loose balls and didn't have the appearance of a team playing as hard as they could in the first half. There are far too many loose ball rebounds going the way of the opponent at this point.

Varez Ward continues to commit unforced turnovers that put transition defense in very tough spots. He has to play lower to the ground and with a low inside shoulder when he puts the ball on the floor and attacks. He is playing too high and the ball has too much ground to cover from ground to hand on every bounce to be secure against quality college defenders and teams.

Eight or nine unforced turnovers (10 total) were key in the Sooners grabbing command of the game. It was just careless passing the basketball by a number of players.

Overall

Texas moves to 1-1 in Big 12 play. The Longhorns now face a must win road game at Lubbock on Saturday. Not must win in the sense of NCAA Tournament or Big 12 race, but this team is reeling and needs a win on the road to feel good about themselves.

The practices will be rough this week, no doubt, and Texas has to come to play Saturday in a place in which they laid an egg last year with a number one seed hanging in the balance.

The play of Balbay at the point was cause for excitement as he is the only drive and kick player on the team and is the best perimeter defender at this point. He brings a lot of energy to the floor and needs to be put in position to attack off of screen and float more often. He is going to be key in the Longhorn's ability to generate offense as the conference season moves forward.


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