AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—Texas needed a hot hand or two, someone to hold the ball instead of turning it over and someone to start hitting 3-pointers.
As a team, the No. 11 Longhorns shook off a rash of turnovers in the first half, and reserve guard Kenny Taylor provided the shooting touch with four second-half 3-pointers in a 77-57 victory over Texas A&M on Wednesday night.
“Kenny started feeling it,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “When he does, you’ve got to ride it a little bit.”
Brandon Mouton followed his career high of 29 points last week against Iowa State with 20 against the Aggies on 8-of-13 shooting. Taylor finished with 18 points.
P.J. Tucker added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Longhorns (18-4, 9-2 Big 12), who stayed within a game of league-leading No. 7 Oklahoma State.
“This team is trying to win a national championship. This might be far away for some people, but it’s around the corner for us,” Mouton said. “We’re trying to win one game at a time and win the Big 12 championship.”
Jesse King had 12 points and nine rebounds to lead A&M (7-15, 0-11), which has lost 11 straight to fuel speculation that coach Melvin Watkins’ job is on the line.
“This is probably the lowest point we’ve had, especially in a game like this where we didn’t give the effort we normally give.” said Aggies forward Antoine Wright.
Tucker was 5-of-5 in the first half with 10 points and Texas hit 12 of its first 16 shots to take a 29-19 lead. It would have been more if not for eight turnovers. The Longhorns didn’t record their first assist until Edgar Moreno found Royal Ivey under the basket for a layup with 6:15 left in the first half.
The miscues kept A&M close, and the Aggies held Texas scoreless over the final 3:31 as the Longhorns missed their final seven shots before the half ended with Texas leading 29-24.
“That bothers me that we need to take care of the ball better,” Barnes said. “It’s the turnovers that you don’t need. Just bad decision making, trying to make the plays that aren’t there.”
Texas turned it over on its first two possessions of the second half—once when Kenton Paulino wasn’t looking for an inbounds pass from Tucker— and Acie Law scored eight straight points as the Aggies pulled to 33-32 but couldn’t take the lead.
Texas finally started to take better care of the ball and the shots began falling again. The Horns committed just three more turnovers in the final 18 minutes.
James Thomas hit a layup, Ivey scored twice and Taylor hit a pair of 3-pointers in a 17-6 run that opened up a 52-38 Texas lead. The first was a gift because Mouton was stripped of the ball in the lane and it spun out to Taylor for an open shot from the left wing.
Taylor wasn’t done, hitting two more quick catch-and-shoot 3s that opened a 64-40 lead. Texas had hit only one 3-pointer before Taylor started his late barrage.
“I had a lot of open shots and just tried to play my game,” Taylor said.