In recent games, the Longhorns have been a turnover machine in the opening minutes with slow, sluggish starts on the offensive end. On Tuesday night, the Longhorns handed the ball to sophomore point guard Dogus Balbay against a trapping, risk taking Oklahoma State team and the result was a lone turnover in the opening eight minutes of the game.
Leading 17-15 with 12:52 to play in the opening half, Texas (16-7, 5-4) went on a 16-5 run over the next four minutes to grab a double digit lead, 33-20. The Cowboys (14-9, 3-6) would never cut into that double digit lead.
Leading 33-20, the Longhorns continued to score at will knocking down tough shots, open shots and converting at the free throw line.
Led by 10 first half points by Atchley, Texas walked to the locker room with a 52-37 lead.
The second half was more of the same as Damion James knocked a down a wide open three off of a Balbay pass to extend the lead to 18 at 55-37.
After some back and forth, an A.J. Abrams three-pointer off of a Balbay feed gave Texas a 70-52 lead.
Longhorn freshman Varez Ward followed with five points for the Longhorns to extend the lead to 75-54.
From that point, the Longhorns played on cruise control and more importantly, converted 14 of 15 free throws in the final 11:29 of the game.
The lone bright spot for the Cowboys was sophomore guard James Anderson, who scored 35 points on the night on 12-16 shooting.
Joining Anderson in double figures was Byron Eaton with 18 points.
Abrams led the Longhorns with 20 points and was joined in double figures by James with 19, Atchley 14, Johnson 12 and Balbay with a career-high 10 to go with seven assists and a lone turnover.
A Look at the Numbers
The Longhorns shot 56.9% (33-58) overall, 46.7% (7-15) from three and 83.9% (26-31) from the free throw line.
The Cowboys converted 52.2% (24-46) from the floor, 36.8% (7-19) from the three-point line and 76.0% (19-25) from the foul line.
The Longhorns won the battle of the boards 30-23 and the turnover battle 17-7.
There were a lot of positives tonight as expected in a 25-point win.
The Cowboys are a terrible defensive team, especially on ball screen defense, but Texas still had to knock down open shots and make the simple decisions. Nothing was bigger in this game than Connor Atchley knocking down a few outside shots. For Texas to have any chance to right the ship and improve as a team, Atchley is a huge key on offense. If he is a threat and teams have to game plan for him, it opens up driving lanes for others and the high/low game for Johnson and Pittman on the blocks.
Dogus Balbay made the most of his first start with a career-high 10 points and seven assists with only one turnover. Balbay held Byron Eaton without a field goal for the first 19:17 of the game as well sliding the feet and cutting off driving angles on numerous occasions.
Texas, using Gary Johnson primarily, blitzed the ball screens early in the game to get the ball out of Eaton's hands. While Anderson got some open looks, the Cowboys didn't create many scrambling situation for Texas on defense. The Cowboys got a couple of easy looks on back cuts against the overplay pressure, but Texas did a very good job of taking away the three-point line against a team that can make long range jumpers in bunches.
The Texas team defensive rotations were quick and reactive. The Longhorns forced several turnovers with timely defensive rotations.
Texas knocked down 14 of 15 free throws in the final 11 minutes of the game to keep the momentum. Seeing Justin Mason knock down 6-8 was great as well as Varez Ward's 5-5.
On the subject of Ward, he realized a mismatch against Oklahoma State freshman guard Keiton Paige and worked him over for a short stretch in which he scored seven of his nine points.
Texas rotated off of James Anderson on three occasions and allowed him to go left too many times. Anderson is as one dimensional off of the dribble as a quality scorer can be, so Texas didn't get the job done taking away his strength.
Headed into Tuesday, it was imperative that the Longhorns swept this week's games to take some pressure off headed into the tough final six-game stretch. A win at Colorado on Saturday and Texas will have accomplished the first task.