Hoops: Horns Hang On in Lubbock

Texas kept its Big 12 title hopes alive by surviving one of the tougher road trips in the conference, hanging on for a 76-71 win at Tech. As expected, though, the Red Raiders did not make it easy.

"They were playing for their lives," T.J. Ford said. "We didn't expect them to give up. They're a great ball club, and they played hard."

After jumping ahead early at 7-5, Tech didn't lead again the rest of the game. The Raiders did knot the game up at 28 late in the first half and again at 41 early in the second, but after the second tie, Texas went on a 13-3 run that stretched the Longhorn lead to 10.

Down the stretch, Tech managed to cut the Texas lead to three multiple times but the Horns always had an answer. At 60-57 with just over six minutes remaining, UT's Brandon Mouton, who passed the 1,000 mark in career scoring in the first half, knocked down both of his free throw attempts, the first two of 12 straight the Horns would make over the game's final minutes. Mouton capped off the Texas scoring and his team-high 20-point effort with two final free throws that provided Texas with its final five-point margin of victory.

"As a team, we've been working on free throws before and after practice," Mouton said. "We just focus on knocking them down. Sometimes, the game gets down to basics."

For Ford, the basics included 17 points, including six-of-six from the stripe, and eight assists. Brad Buckman turned in his best overall performance of the season with 14 points, including five straight as the Horns opened up a 10-point second half lead, and nine boards in just 17 minutes. James Thomas also joined Mouton, Ford and Buckman in double digits with 11 points but the junior glass cleaner had only five rebounds on a day when Tech out-boarded Texas 40-38.

Andre Emmett, who was suspended for UT's win over the Raiders in Austin almost two weeks ago, poured in 20 points Saturday. Will Chavis led both teams with 21 points. Emmett and Chavis both played all 40 minutes. As usual, Texas spread its minutes around, with eight players contributing 10-plus minutes.

Both teams played a relatively error-free game (the Horns had 11 turnovers to the Raiders' eight) and the refs thankfully kept their whistles in their pockets for the most part unlike last weekend in Stillwater.

The win is Texas' 13th straight over Tech.

UT (20-5, 11-3) remains in a second-place tie with Oklahoma (20-5, 11-3), a game behind league-leading Kansas (22-6, 12-2) with just two regular season games left. The Horns take on K-State in Austin on Tuesday and close out the year with a showdown in Norman with the Sooners next Saturday afternoon. With the win today, Texas is assured of a top-four Big 12 finish and virtually assured of a first-round bye in the Big 12 Tournament, which begins March 13 in Dallas. The Horns, a consistent top four team in the RPI, also remain in the hunt for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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