Hoops: Ivey, Horns Lasso No. 9 Cowboys, 78-65

This is how the No. 3 Texas Longhorns men&#146;s basketball team (14-3, 5-1 in Big 12) spent their Friday night: they listened to head coach <B>Rick Barnes </B>expound upon the &quot;brutal facts&quot; of what it takes for a good team to become a great team. The result is that Texas rebounded from Monday&#146;s loss at Kansas to corral the nation&#146;s hottest team Saturday in downing No. 9 Oklahoma State (17-2, 6-1 in Big 12) 78-65 in front of 14,804 at the Erwin Center.

Texas extended its home winning streak to 11 on the strength of junior G Royal Ivey’s best overall performance of his career (the unheralded Ivey tied T. J. Ford for team scoring honors with 17 and, again, lived up to his billing as one of the nation’s top defensive guards). The victory also had as much to do with Texas showing the inside muscle they lacked against Kansas. Longhorn post players crashed the boards in the second half to overcome a 17-13 rebounding deficit, and a slim 38-36 lead, at intermission. Texas out-rebounded the visitors 28-11 in the final 20 minutes to open up a 15-point lead with 7:27 remaining.

"At halftime, I told our post guys that they had to go in there and get to work," Barnes said.

It’s also what he told them Friday night when the "brutal facts" monologue became a dialogue with individual athletes. Unlike some other UT coaches, Barnes does not coddle his players and (while highly complimentary of them) pointed out that Texas’ relatively weak inside presence made all the difference in Monday‘s setback. Center James Thomas took all of four shots against the Jayhawks while freshman F Brad Buckman did not even attempt a shot in the first half against the Cowboys.

"The brutal facts is that everybody has to be there doing his job," Barnes told his team (a group that is on the brink of greatness). "Our guys came back from the Kansas game knowing that they have to get better… My point is that it all starts with one word: discipline. You have to have disciplined thoughts and you have to be willing to put those thoughts in actions."

The "brutal facts" (as Barnes presented them to Thomas on Friday) were simply this: "James, we need you to be more aggressive for us."

On Saturday, it wasn’t that Thomas grabbed 16 boards to compliment his 13 points; it was how he got them. It was the way a ravenous Thomas boxed out, elevated his game and seized the ball (often with one hand) that sent the message that any half-ass attempt to grab the rock in his house was going to be, well, brutal. Buckman, meanwhile, added 10 points after intermission, along with four boards and one block.

Texas' strong inside presence resulted in OSU leading scorer G Tony Allen 16.2 ppg) picking up his fourth personal with 19:02 remaining in the game. Allen finished with 15 points (4-of-12 FG, 6-of-9 FT) while Cowboy guard Victor Williams led all scorers with 22 (7-of-19 FG, including 3-of-6 from beyond the arch).

Defensively, the Horns held OSU to 8-of-27 FGs (29.6 percent) in the second half after the visitors shot 52 percent from the field (15-of-29) during the first 20 minutes.

"I was really pleased with our post players," Barnes said. "They did a great job in the second half."

Buckman’s jumper ignited a 10-2 Texas run to open second half, followed by Ivey’s layup. Ford (5-of-8 FG, 6-of-7 FT, four assists, one steal) continues to leave exhausted opponents gasping for air and amazed spectators gasping in disbelief. The sophomore creates open looks with his head fakes combined with the threat of his catlike quickness.

But it was Ivey’s name that the crowd was chanting as the final seconds ticked off the game clock. Ivey took up the slack as junior G Brandon Mouton struggled from the field (3-of-12 FG, 7 points).

"Royal Ivey was spectacular," Barnes said of the hoops player featured in the February issue of Inside Texas magazine. "This was the best game he’s played here on both ends of the court. He was great."

Texas shot 50.9 percent for the game (27-of-53) but struggled from the charity stripe (21-of-21, 65.6 percent). Meanwhile, OSU was 14-of-18 at the line.

"We made more free throws than they shot," Barnes said, "but we didn’t shoot them particularly well. Getting fouled is a big part of the game, especially in the (second-half) turnaround."

Saturday’s game marked just the second clash of two AP Top 10 teams in the 26-year history of the Erwin Center (No. 4 Arizona topped No. 9 Texas, 88-81, in 1999). The win extended Barnes’ school-record of most wins against nationally ranked opponents at 16.

You get the impression that Barnes could grab 10 guys off of a playground and still beat Oklahoma State. Despite dropping last year’s game to the Cowboys in Austin, Texas is 12-4 against OSU since the formation of the Big 12. OSU entered the game boasting the nation’s longest winning streak (15, with wins over Oklahoma, Michigan State and Missouri) but had not faced a team as tall and talented as Texas.

"(Texas) is the best team in our league and the best team we’ve played this year," head coach Eddie Sutton said. "Certainly, this is the best Texas team we’ve ever played here, and that goes all the way back to my days at Arkansas."

Texas now hits the road for a Tuesday game at Colorado (8 p.m., CST) and Saturday’s affair at Texas A&M (7 p.m. CST, ESPN2 telecast). The Horns return to the Erwin Center Monday, February 10 for the year’s most eagerly anticipated showdown against No. 6 Oklahoma.

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