Hoops: UT's Rally Falls Short At OSU

A furious second-half rally, sophomore G <B>T.J. Ford</B>'s career high 32 points (9-14 FGs, 15-19 FTs), and junior C <B>James Thomas</B>' career best 17 boards were not enough for No. 3 Texas to overcome No. 16 Oklahoma State's ridiculous three-point shooting at Stillwater Saturday, as the Cowboys gutted out a hard-fought 82-77 win.

The loss dropped Texas to 18-5 overall and 9-3 in Big 12. The Cowboys, desperate for a win after two straight losses, improved to 20-5 and tied the Horns for third place in the league standings.

Barring divine intervention, the setback probably cost Texas a shot at the regular season title as league-leading Kansas would have to drop three of their next five for the Horns to claim their first conference championship since head coach Rick Barnes inaugural campaign five years ago.

With officials blowing the whistle on both teams like it was quitting time, here’s what else doomed Texas: two whole points from the Big 12’s deepest bench. Two. And freshman F Brad Buckman did not even attempt a shot.

"Depth is only a factor when our guys come in and make it a factor," Barnes said.

Texas got off to its worst start of the season with six turnovers in the first 10 minutes and, by halftime, the Horns connected on just 5-of-10 from the charity stripe as the Cowboys calmly drained 9-of-17 (nine!) treys against Texas’ zone defense.

Junior G Tony Allen launched the reign of threes to give the home team a 9-2 lead. Junior G Brandon Mouton (21 points) answered from beyond the arch to narrow the OSU to 13-9. Senior G Melvin Sanders nailed the first of four first-half treys to make it 16-9, while senior G Victor Williams three-pointer gave OSU its first double-digit lead with five minutes remaining as the Pokes increased their margin to 26-15.

From then until intermission, all of OSU’s FGs were treys (five) except for Allen’s monster dunk (off of a missed try). Texas trailed 47-33 at halftime.

"They shot the ball well," Barnes said. Obviously, that had a lot to do with it."

Texas jettisoned its zone defense and went man to man after intermission and the Horns gradually cut into a Cowboy lead that once stood at 15. But with Thomas playing with injured fingers and junior F Brian Boddicker playing with his focus anywhere but Gallagher-Iba Arena (zero points, zero rebounds), the Cowboys maintained a double-digit lead until Ford’s free throws got Texas to within eight, 55-47, with just under 14 minutes remaining.

Ford hit another pair of freebies at the 13:03 mark before both teams went scoreless for nearly two minutes. Sanders' fifth trey broke the offensive drought for both teams to make it 58-49. But when senior F Andre Williams fouled out with 10:35 remaining, Thomas missed both free throws while Boddicker picked up his fourth personal on a push-off.

Sophomore F Jason Klotz (two points, three boards) fouled out with 8:22 remaining with Texas trailing 62-55. The Horns went back into a zone after Ford picked up his fourth personal two minutes later with OSU leading 68-58. But Ford’s free throw shooting brought Texas closer, with the sophomore point guard hitting two from the line to make it 70-64 with 5:07 remaining after junior F Jason Miller fouled out for the Pokes.

This is where Texas had the Pokes right where they wanted ‘em: after junior F Ivan McFarlin was whistled for his fifth personal, Thomas’ old-fashioned three-point play brought Texas to within 70-67 with 4:27 on the game clock. Following a Cowboy turnover, Ford’s soft jumper made it a one-point game.

Then came the Cowboy dagger. After riding the pine with four fouls for most of the second half, Victor Williams swished the biggest trey of the game. OSU pushed to lead to 76-71 with about two minutes remaining, but Thomas kept it close with an offensive board and bucket.

Ford hit the first of two free throws to make it 76-74 with seconds left. But after that, Williams hit four straight FTs to lead his team with 20 points. Ford would add a trey and Gadson would add some freebies to complete the scoring.

Both teams shot evenly from the field (Texas 25-52 for 48 percent; OSU 25-51 for 49 percent). But another sub-par outing at the charity stripe (23-35 for 66 percent) offset career games from Texas’ scoring leader and rebounding leader.

Look at it this way: when March Madness starts, you won’t even think about this game -- unless Texas is at the free throw line.

The Horns now face Baylor at home at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Bears are surprise winners of three-straight, including a 74-72 decision at Oklahoma State last weekend.

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