Revved-Up Ford Drives Texas Rout Of A&M, 89-61

One of these days, you&#146;ll be able to tell your grandchildren that you saw Texas point guard <B>T. J. Ford </B>live-and-in-person -- that is, if you were part of the sold-out Erwin Center Saturday as No. 4 Texas made road kill of the <I>pooor</I> Aggies, 89-61.

Fresh off his ESPN Sports Center "Play of the Day" performance at Baylor, the sophomore drained a career-high 25 points as Texas improved its record to 12-2 and 3-0 in Big 12 play. The outrageous thing about T.J. Ford is that he is just starting to hone his God-given talents, he reads defensive better with each game, his jump shot is starting to fall, and the opposition can no longer assume that he will inevitably dish the ball once he penetrates.

Ford’s latest human highlight reel performance overshadowed C Jason Klotz’s career-best 17 points (7-of-10 from the field). Freshman F Brad Buckman continues to be both a workhorse in the paint and an outside scoring threat as the former high school All-American contributed eight points, 12 boards and three blocks. And junior C James Thomas was an absolute monster on the glass, grabbing 16 boards and was one point shy of another double-double.

The improving A&M basketball team (9-5 overall, including an upset win against LSU) knew it had its work cut out for it heading into Austin where the Farmers had not won since, well, the last time they were in town.

Texas avenged last season’s rare home loss to the Aggies, where it had not dropped one to its ancient rival since 1987, starting with a 16-1 run to break open a tight game in the first half.

Both teams opened ice cold. The Horns converted but 3-of-13 field goals, while the Aggies were held to one bucket, in the first eight minutes. After Texas bricked each of its first seven attempts from beyond the arch (1-of-11 from three-point range in the first half), junior F Brian Boddicker nailed a trey at the 9:01 mark to launch the 16-1 Longhorn run.

The Aggies never fully recovered from that pivotal, three-minute span in which Ford got his freak-on by weaving and accelerating through traffic, scoring on three consecutive trips down the floor. With 4:53 remaining, G Bernard King (now in his 14th season as an Aggie senior, or so it seems) helped the Farmers trim the deficit, 35-24, on a pair of field goals and one from the charity stripe. King led all A&M scorers with 16 points.

Boddicker followed G Terrell Ross18-footer with a couple of field goals in the final 70 seconds to give the Horns their largest lead of the half., 43-25. The Duncanville product, who could not find his shot at this time last year, entered the contest shooting 50 percent from the field in league play, 56 percent from three-point range.

But King swished a desperation heave from mid-court as time expired (and as the Texas bench was already ambling toward the locker room) to trim the Longhorn halftime lead, 43-28. He started the second half right where he left off, hitting three straight field goals. His free throw, following F Brad Buckman’s foul, brought the Aggies within nine, 44-35, at the 17:14 mark. Ford’s 18-footer would put the skids on the A&M run.

Head coach Rick Barnes told his team at halftime to quit settling for threes, work the ball inside, and try to get to the free throw line more after taking just seven free throws (hitting six) during the first 20 minutes. The Horns were 9-of-15 from the charity stripe after intermission. Barnes' squad went on a 9-2 run after King went to the bench with his fourth personal at the 14:32 mark.

Texas would gradually distance itself from the Farmers by relying more on an inside game. The Horns finished with 34 points in the paint, and added 21 fast-break points off of 19 Aggie turnovers.

Ford’s wicked slam dunk off of his sixth steal of the evening brought the crowd to its feet, and the Aggies to their knees, as Texas led 69-45 with just under seven minutes to play.

Texas is so damn deep that there really is no such thing as "garbage time" when Barnes starts clearing the bench late in the game. With Klotz scoring at will, freshman G Kenton Paulino’s trey followed by Ross’ slam, the feeding frenzy was in full swing as Texas built its largest lead of the night, 85-53.

Freshman F Antoine Wright, averaging 16.8 ppg as well as being A&M’s leading rebounded (7.3), did not reach double figures until after Ford strolled to the Texas bench to a standing ovation with 3:51 remaining. The otherwise highly touted first-year player contributed 11 virtually meaningless points and just six boards.

Barnes, hired the same season as fifth-year Aggie coach Melvin Watkins, is now 10-1 against A&M. Texas has taken 27 of the past 30 against the Farmers, dating back to 1990.

Texas begins a tough three-game stretch against ranked-but-reeling Missouri 3 p.m., Saturday (ESPN+), followed by what’s now shaping up to be an epic tilt at Kansas (8 p.m., January 27, ESPN "Big Monday"). The Horns return home Saturday, Feb. 1, against arguably the league's hottest team, Oklahoma State (3 p.m., ESPN+).

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