No. 15 Men's Basketball defeats Colorado, 89-64
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Two days after Texas lost a blowout at home to Tennessee, Longhorns coach Rick Barnes took his team behind closed doors and pushed them through a grueling three-hour practice to stress being tougher on defense.
The result: a four-game winning streak that has the Longhorns hitting their stride heading into the Big 12.
P.J. Tucker scored 24 points and tied his career high with 15 rebounds as No. 15 Texas opened league play Saturday with an 89-64 win over Colorado, shutting down a Buffaloes team that had scored more than 110 points in two of its previous three games.
"We want to create our identity right now, that we're a defensive team," said Longhorns senior guard Kenton Paulino, who set a career high with 18 points.
Building that identity started in practice after the Longhorns lost 95-78 at home against Tennessee back on Dec. 17.
"It was a tough day," Tucker said. "It was going back to basics in the things we take pride in doing, probably the hardest practice of the year."
Tucker has four double-doubles in the last five games. LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points and nine rebounds for the Longhorns (12-2), who are 8-0 in league openers under coach Rick Barnes.
Martane Freeman scored 20 to lead Colorado (10-2, 0-1) which had its nine-game winning streak snapped.
Colorado beat Texas twice last season when Tucker and Aldridge were out with academic problems and injuries, and knocked the Longhorns out of the Big 12 tournament. It was a much different game with those two back in the lineup.
"They bring a lot of intensity and effort, that's what it's all about," said Texas guard Daniel Gibson, who scored 14 points. "It was great to have them out there."
The biggest cheer of the game came when the Bowl Championship Series crystal football trophy was wheeled to midcourt at halftime, bringing the crowd to its feet. Texas' 41-38 victory over Southern California in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4 won the school's first outright football national championship since 1969.
Aldridge scored Texas' first six points on turnaround jumpers, Tucker had 10 points by halftime and the Longhorns bolted to a 43-24 halftime lead. A.J. Abrams hit two 3-pointers from the right corner and Paulino's second of the half made it 39-19.
The Buffaloes struggled badly against Texas' early mix of zone and man defense, shooting 28 percent in the first half and 31 percent for the game. Texas also won the rebounding 50-40.
"I call this a big boy game," said Colorado coach Ricardo Patton said. "It's for men, not for babies, not for guys who are going to be weak with the basketball."
Aldridge opened the second half with dunk off a sharp pass underneath from Brad Buckman, then converted a three-point play that made it 50-27. Gibson then hit consecutive 3-pointers and Colorado never threatened to mount any kind of rally.
Texas finished last season tied for fifth in the Big 12, the worst showing of the Barnes era. The coach said Texas' tough early schedule this year -- including the blowout losses to Tennessee and top-ranked Duke -- should help them in the long run.
So does practice. Especially the kind Texas went through almost a month ago.
"The losses helped us. I know they're painful lessons to learn, but that's why you play the schedule you play," Barnes said. "It gets you ready."
On the game: I call this a big boy game. It's for men, not for babies, and for guys who are going to take it to the basket.
Sophomore Guard Richard Roby
On Daniel Gibson's defensive: Daniel did a good job tonight. I've always said he's a good defender and he showed that today.
On Kenton Paulino's play: Kenton is a smart player. He did a good job of getting us organized early. He set us up and did a good job of getting the ball inside. He has really improved his defense and showed that today.
On Iowa State's defense: Their zone is very good. They're clever. Their guards have good hands and do a good job of getting in passing lanes. They capitalize off of bad shots and turnovers just about as well as anyone in the country.
On a strong start in Big 12 play: We want to create an identity within the Big 12 and college basketball. We want people to know we are a defensive team and know we can stop them. That has always been a part of Texas Basketball. Defensive stops create offensive opportunities.
Junior Forward P.J. Tucker
On beginning Big 12 Conference play: It was a big point to start out strong, because last year we did not to a good job of that. We really want to win the Big 12 this year. Tonight we came out and fought hard. I think we did a really good job.
Sophomore Guard Daniel Gibson
On defense and ball protection: We knew that a big part of success was establishing a defensive identity, which has been a big focus. You can have a great offensive if you really lock people down defensively. Today was a good test. Taking care of the ball and getting good shots are keys.