No. 25/24 Men's Basketball downs Texas Tech, 87-81
Feb. 25, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Facing a team without its head coach and mired in a season-long downward spiral, it would have been easy for No. 25 Texas to expect an easy victory.
Far from it. Instead, the Longhorns had to slug out an 87-81 win over Texas Tech on Wednesday night behind Damion James' 20 points and 11 rebounds, his fourth consecutive double-double.
"We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game with their coach out," Texas senior guard A.J. Abrams said. "I bet they had some extra motivation to play harder."
The Big 12 suspended Red Raiders head coach Pat Knight for one game for criticizing the officiating in their previous loss. Associate head coach Chris Beard called the plays, made the substitutions, requested the timeouts and nearly had enough to pull off an upset.
Instead, Texas Tech lost its fifth straight and for the ninth time in the last 10 games.
"I was really proud, but I did want to try and pull it off for Pat," Beard said. "I know Pat will be proud when he watches the game tomorrow."
Texas (19-8, 8-5) may have trouble figuring out just what to make of this one.
The Longhorns have won four of their last five after a three-game losing streak. They played without forward Gary Johnson, who is averaging 12 points a game. He twisted his left ankle last weekend in Texas' win over Oklahoma.
"Believe it or not, this team is used to close games and this time of year I think you're going to be in close games," Texas coach Rick Barnes said.
Abrams scored 24 points and Dogus Balbay added 11 points and five assists. Balbay keyed the second-half run that allowed Texas to take the lead after going into halftime trailing 43-38. In his five games as a starter, he has 33 assists and nine turnovers.
The Red Raiders (12-16, 2-11) made six 3-pointers and shot 56 percent in the first half. Those shots started rattling out of the rim in the second.
Texas grabbed the lead with a 14-7 run early in the second half. Balbay, who is usually Texas' fifth option to score, had six points in the run, slashing through the Tech defense for layups, including a drive straight down the lane for a 51-50 lead.
Every time Texas seemed to be on the brink of a game-breaking run, the Red Raiders reeled them back in. Texas built a 64-58 lead only to watch Tech scratch back to pull even with a 6-0 run.
When Abrams hit his fourth 3-pointer, Nick Okorie answered with one and Mike Singletary's two free throws kept Tech within 75-73 with 4 minutes left. Okorie led the Red Raiders with 24 points.
What Texas Tech couldn't do was keep Texas off the free throw line. The Longhorns went 31-of-43 and were led by James, who was 12-of-15.
James was much better from the line than the field on a 4-of-10 shooting night.
"I just had to do what I had to do to help my team win tonight," James said. "I shot poor from the field, but it was OK."
At halftime, Texas retired the No. 35 of Kevin Durant, who spent only one season with the Longhorns but was the national player of the year as a freshman in 2006-07.
HEAD COACH Rick Barnes
Opening statement: I liked the way we came back in the second half and responded defensively. I thought Tech was extremely well prepared coming in. They're a team that can score some points. They got into a rhythm there. In the second half we came back and did a better job.
On what allowed Texas Tech to take a lead into halftime: They were shooting 60 percent; we were trying to get some guys to guard them. Dexter took a bad shot and handed the ball to them. That's part of letting people feel good about themselves. I thought Harrison Smith and Matt Hill played well. They made some plays before halftime.
On the win: This time of year there's no easy games. Tech's played 28 games now and they're continuing to work. When they start clicking well on offense they're very hard to beat. They got settled in. momentum's a big thing. It can swing real quick. Right now I think Oklahoma State is playing as well as anybody in the league. We'll definitely have a much better defensive attitude than we had tonight.
On what the team did well tonight: Overall we're moving the ball better. Damion in the second half was terrific. Dogus still doesn't understand as a point guard you've got to get back. We keep working. I still think we can continue to get better. Gary Johnson is a guy we needed in a game like this. I was really proud of Clint. I really thought he did some good things.
On Kevin Durant's jersey retirement: He's certainly worthy of having his jersey retired. The last two years he's been gone but he never really left, because he's still a huge part of what we're about.
SENIOR GUARD A.J. Abrams
On if having Kevin Durant in attendance motivated the team tonight: We really just focused on the game. We're happy for him and everything but it wasn't on our mind. We had to go out and play the game.
On the win: We knew it was going to be a hard fought game, especially with their coach out. We knew they had extra motivation. We've just got to be more intense on the defensive end and we'll be alright.
JUNIOR FORWARD Damion James
On his performance tonight: I just had to do what I had to do. I shot poor from the field. I did okay. You have these types of nights. I missed a bunch of bunnies that I usually make. Fortunately I was able to get to the free throw line.
On if the team played with extra motivation with Kevin Durant in attendance: I pretty much think that KD knows what I can do. We play against each other all the time. To be honest, I didn't really pay any attention because we were behind and I was focused on getting the lead back.
TEXAS TECH QUOTES
ASSOCIATE HEAD COACH CHRIS BEARD
On the long length of the game: Fatigue set in a little bit, and as you guys can see, we don't have a very deep bench. We had to play a couple of players basically the whole game to have a chance. That's always a factor. More importantly, I'd give the credit to Texas' defense. They really picked up the pressure. It was hard to get a clean look all night long.
On tonight's game: We're not your typical two-win team in the Big 12. If you look at our scores, we've been in a lot of close games and we've played some good basketball. We just haven't been able to put 40 minutes of play on the floor on a consistent basis. I think tonight was no different. We were right there, but we just ran out of steam a little bit down the stretch. We took a couple of questionable shots. But again, give Texas all the credit. We have a lot of respect for Coach Barnes and his staff.
On handling the foul trouble: On the road, against a good team like Texas, we're just trying to stay in the game. In other years and with other teams, you might take a guy out when he gets two fouls in the first half. Our whole focus was just to try to stay in the game. We broke the whole game down into four-minute segments. The first thing we talked about in time-outs was how we did during the past four minutes.