Texas responded to the changes playing one of the best games of the season. The Longhorns (13-4, 2-1) got down 8-2 early before getting it going behind the continued strong play of Gary Johnson, who scored the Longhorns first six points of the game.
Along with Johnson, Dogus Balbay provided an offensive spark early off the bench scoring four points during a 12-0 run as the Texas built a 14-8 advantage.
The Red Raiders (10-7, 0-2) broke the Texas scoring run on a three-pointer by Alan Voskuil to cut the lead to 14-11. A.J. Abrams answered on the other end with a three-pointer of his own to increase the lead to six at 17-11.
The Longhorns continued to build on the lead in the next six minutes increasing the lead to 30-19 with 2:45 to play in the first half on a Johnson jumper. The Longhorns were aided by the foul trouble of Texas Tech floor general John Roberson, who was whistled for his third foul with nearly five minutes to play in the half.
Texas Tech closed out the half strong to cut the deficit to 30-24.
Down six, the Red Raiders walked to the line for two free throws in the opening minutes of the second half, but missed both. Those misses proved to be costly as the Longhorns went on a 10-3 run to extend the lead to 13, at 40-27.
From there, Texas played in total control behind dominant rebounding and a stellar second half from Justin Mason, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Longhorns ended the game by running every second off the shot clock possible with each possession before closing out Texas Tech 71-49 to improve to 2-1 in Big 12 play.
Voskuil led the Red Raiders with 12 points, while Mike Singletary added 10 points and seven rebounds.
James led the Longhorns with 18 points and eight rebounds. James was joined in double figures by Mason with 15, Gary Johnson with 15 points and seven rebounds and A.J. Abrams with 11.
A Look at the Numbers
Texas shot 44.6% (25-56) overall, 37.5% (6-16) from three and 75% (15-20) from the free throw line.
The Red Raiders converted just 34.0% (18-53) from the field, 36.8% (7-19) from the three-point line and 46.2% (6-13) from the foul line.
The Longhorns won the battle of the boards 37-25 and the turnover battle 14-9.
Gary Johnson made the start and performed just as he has been off the bench. The sophomore has become the most consistent offensive player for the Longhorns and proved to be once again finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds, which is close to his averages the last few games.
Matt Hill took the minutes of Dexter Pittman against a Texas Tech that runs a motion offense and has several post players that play on the perimeter facing the basket. Hill responded with six points, five rebounds and a blocked shot in 27-minutes. Hill played smart basketball on both ends, failing only once to read the screen and roll one time as he didn't get his head turned to read the defense and roll to the basket as Abrams put the ball on the floor. Hill excels in the Hi/Low game and that is an area Texas wants to improve on the offensive end. Hill also plays good defense in the post and forces the opponent to work for position and make shots over the top of an outstretched arm or arms. Hill is also the best post player at blocking out and fighting to keep his opponent on his back for an extended period of time.
Damion James came to play as expected after a sub-par outing and played a smart offensive game. Texas Tech, like Iowa State, didn't have the ability to pressure the ball and create turnovers and James excels against those types of team on the perimeter. James stepped into jump shots, went straight up over the top and calmly knocked down jump shots. James also put the ball on the floor with success as Texas Tech didn't have a wing defender to put pressure on him and force tough decisions.
Dogus Balbay was again very good off the bench and is really giving Texas a defensive and now offensive spark. Balbay scored six points, grabbed two rebounds, dished out two assists and recorded two steals as well as playing very good on the ball defense against John Roberson.
A.J. Abrams did a very good job of chasing Voskuil and that isn't an easy chore. Voskuil moves very well without the ball and understands how to rub his defender off of screens to create separation for a quick release jumper. Abrams lost Voskuil once in transition and then was slow on one close out, but played very well. On offense, the senior didn't force bad shots and played within the flow.
Texas played with great patience on offense. The Longhorns faced man-to-man defense, a flattened out 2-3, a sagging box and one. The Longhorns worked the ball inside, flashed high with the correct timing and executed in the Hi/Low on two or three occasions. The Longhorns made a bad defensive team work deep into the shot clock and the Red Raiders proved to be slow in rotation and not aggressive to hedge on screen roll creating terrific scoring chances. Texas took advantage.
Justin Mason was terrific. The junior crashed the boards from a weak side offensive rebounding position, which is one of his strengths as a player. He also attacked off the bounce and knocked down a couple of confidence gaining jumpers.
It was a must win game for Texas if they wanted to stay in the Big 12 race and stay in position for a top four seed in the NCAA Tournament. With an off week coming up before hosting the Texas A&M Aggies on January 24, getting some much needed confidence was paramount. Mission accomplished and now on to a week of practices that should be upbeat and productive.