AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—Defense and Kevin Durant. Put the two together and good things happen for the Texas Longhorns.
Durant scored 21 points and Texas turned in its best defensive effort of the season Monday night for an 83-54 win over No. 18 Oklahoma State.
“We’re going to be dangerous,” Durant said. “We just have to keep it up.”
The Longhorns, whose four freshman starters looked bewildered at times in two straight losses and a tough win over Iowa State, finally put it all together for their second victory over a ranked opponent.
All five starters scored in double figures as the Longhorns shot 68 percent in the second half. Defensively, they held the Cowboys to 37 percent shooting and forced 16 turnovers that led to 22 points.
“Coach (Rick Barnes) told us to attack them,” said Longhorns guard D.J. Augustin, who scored 19 points after scoring 31 against Iowa State. “They can’t run with us.”
A.J. Abrams broke out of a shooting slump to score 17 for the Longhorns (18-7, 8-3 Big 12) who will finish no worse than .500 in conference play.
For Oklahoma State (19-6, 5-5), the loss was the third in four games and kept the Cowboys winless on the road in the Big 12. Mario Boggan scored 16 to lead the Cowboys.
In the teams’ first matchup last month, the Cowboys won a 105-103 thriller in triple overtime. They barely scored half as many points Monday night and never held the lead.
Durant and Boggan, who each scored 37 points in the first meeting, found it much tougher going in the rematch. Covered by the Cowboy’s Marcus Dove, who fouled out of the first game, Durant didn’t score in the first 11 minutes and had just five points at halftime.
Then he and Abrams hit 3-pointers in a 10-3 Texas run that opened up a 31-24 Longhorns lead at halftime.
“We’ve never counted on Kevin to score every point,” Barnes said. “We are a balanced team.”
Still, Durant is the league’s leading scorer and the Longhorns opened up a big lead when he started hitting shots.
“My teammates did a great job picking me up,” Durant said. “It was a team effort.”
Abrams hit two more 3-pointers and Durant started a fast break with a steal, then finished a 3-point play as the Longhorns opened up a 53-39 lead with just under 12 minutes to play.
Durant made up for early shooting struggles in other ways, using his long, skinny arms to snare 12 rebounds and poke the ball away from Oklahoma State guards. He hit a 3-pointer, then followed it with another tough shot and free throw to put Texas up 59-44.
“I thought Marcus did a great job in the first half and didn’t let him close to the basket,” Oklahoma State Sean Sutton said. “The second half, he got going. That’s why he’s the best player in college basketball. He’s got a gift to score points.”
A baseline jumper by Durant and five straight points by Damion James stretched the Texas lead to 21. Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton, frustrated by the widening deficit and physical play that saw few fouls called against Texas, was hit with a technical and Abrams made both free throws.
By then, the Longhorns were finding just about any shot they wanted. Even when Durant had a reverse layup blocked, the ball came right back in his hands for an easy putback. Boggan, who had 20 rebounds against the Longhorns last month, finished with three this time.
“I missed some easy shots,” Boggan said. “They didn’t do much different than last time.”
After the loss in Stillwater last month, several Texas players watched replays of the game while they were stuck at the airport because of bad weather. Abrams, who had a turnover trying to set up for the game-winning shot, was one of those who didn’t want to see it again.
He’s likely to be one of the first to watch this game film.
“Man, I didn’t watch that game,” Abrams said. “But I’ll watch this one.”