Hoops: Horns Knock Off Aggies, 95-87

The No. 3 Texas men's basketball team overcame both a Reed Arena record crowd of (12,633) frothing Aggies and freshman <B>Antoine Wright</b>'s career night (25 points) to snap a two-game road Big 12 losing skid in beating Texas A&M Saturday, 95-87. Texas upped its record to 15-4 overall and 6-2 in Big 12 while the Ags dropped their ninth straight home game to their archrivals and now stand 12-7, 3-5 in conference play.

Hey, even if it was junior varsity underwater toenail clipping, it's always sweet to beat the Farmers in their own pasture.

Point guard T. J. Ford led five Longhorns in double figures with 19 points, six boards and shared the love with nine assists. In a nip-and-tuck affair in which Texas did not pull comfortably away until the final five minutes, the Horns got 17 bench points from sophomore G Sydmill Harris.

While there are times when Orangebloods might wish that head coach Rick Barnes would fire his lay-up coach (just seems like Texas leads the league in bricks from up close), you've got to hand it to him for getting into a certain player's skull just when he needs him most.

"Last night during the walk-through, I asked Syd, ‘What would you do if I told you that I needed you to be more aggressive and score 20 points?'," Barnes asked his three-point specialist.

Harris' answer: "Starting here?"

With UT dropping two-of-three before Saturday and with Oklahoma slithering into town Monday… why not?

Harris drained a pair of treys to put Texas up, 17-12. But senior F Keith Bean put the Ags back on top (and exceeded his 5.6 ppg scoring average on just two trips down the court) by converting on a pair of old-fashioned three point plays. The 6-8, 265 pound (butter) Bean gave freshman F Brad Buckman fits, so feisty junior F Brian Boddicker went toe-to-toe against the big ugly. The two nearly came to blows late in the game fighting for a loose ball, in which Bean hit Boddicker squarely in the nose on one of those "No blood, no-foul" kind of officiating calls. It was Boddicker's bucket, however, with 7:24 remaining that put Texas up for keeps at 78-76.

This one had shades of Tuesday's upset loss at Colorado in the early going.

With the Farmers leading 23-21, junior G Brandon Mouton connected on back-to-back buckets on Ford assists. Energized by the raucous home crowd, A&M responded with a 7-0 run that would have stretched to nine had Bernard King not blown a slam-dunk that would have (at the time) made him the Big 12's all time leading scorer and entrenched him as a Sports Center ‘Play of the Day' candidate.

King would later surpass Iowa State's Marcus Fizer's career mark with a second half free throw, giving him 1,831 points, but was just 1-of-12 from the field.

Ford hit his first FG with 6:09 remaining in the half, and then added another, as Texas answered with a 9-0 run to take a 34-30 lead. Shooting over the Texas zone, Wright connected on a pair of treys to give the Farmers a 38-36 advantage.

With Texas clinging to a 41-38 lead, A&M finished the half with an 11-3 run, thanks to another Wright try and junior G Leandro Garcia-Morales' three-point shot just before intermission. The Aggies nailed 6-of-12 from the arc, but you knew that type of torrid pace could not continue following the break. As it was, Wright was held to seven second-half points.

The Aggies led 49-44 at intermission thanks to Wright draining all four attempts from beyond the arch. (Wright, although streaky, is the vote here for the league's Freshman of the Year. But why the California native would endow all that talent to an Aggie team that has never even advanced in the Big 12 tournament, let alone in the NCAAs, is the poorest investment since Enron).

Shortly after intermission, with the Aggies leading 53-46, Texas launched an 11-0 run capped by Boddicker's trey and Mouton's put-back.

"T.J. did a good job at halftime telling everyone they needed to make more plays," Barnes said.

But Garcia-Morales responded with a trey to trim the Longhorn lead, 57-56

Following Terrell Ross' FTs, A&M grabbed a 66-62 edge after Wright drained yet another trey before the Ags added two more buckets. (It would be, however, his last field goal of the night).

Ford answered with a bucket, and then took a charge, setting up Royal Ivey's three-pointer. Ivey added a free throw and another FG, as Texas clung to a 71-67 lead.

With the game knotted at 76 with 7:24 remaining, Boddicker's bucket quieted the Aggie faithful as Texas gradually began to pull away. It was 82-78, Texas, when Harris knocked down four of his next five from the charity stripe.

After Bernard King collected his first FG with just under four minutes left, Ford answered with a clutch shot to put Texas up, 88-80, with 3:32 remaining.

A Garcia-Morales three pointer gave the Ags a ray of hope, trailing 89-85 with 63 seconds remaining, but a pair of Ford FTs and Mouton's palate-clearing slam with 43 seconds remaining was the bitter pill for the poooor Aggies who saw their team drop the 19th of the past 20 games against Texas.

"We showed terrific poise down the stretch," Barnes said. "When we needed to make some plays, we made them."

The Horns won the battle of the boards, 49-36. Texas A&M committed 14 turnovers while the Horns gave it away 13 times.

Texas is now in sole possession of fourth place in Big 12 standings (behind 7-1 Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas), and faces OU (in a three-way tie for first) in ESPN's 'Big Monday' telecast from the Erwin Center at 8 p.m.

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