No. 19 Texas 80, Texas Tech 51
AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—Bob Knight considers Texas’ Rick Barnes among his good friends in coaching circles. It hasn’t helped him figure out a way to beat his buddy on the court.
A.J. Abrams scored 18 points and the No. 19 Longhorns stayed in the thick of the Big 12 race with an 80-51 win Tuesday night over Texas Tech.
Barnes ran his record to 12-2 against Knight, the winningest men’s coach in college basketball. It was also Texas’ second straight rout of the Red Raiders in Austin, who limped out of the Frank Erwin Center with a 34-point loss last season.
“We’ve had a very difficult time,” said Knight, who was left sitting and stewing on the bench for much of this one. “We’ve on occasion been nonexistent. Tonight was one of those nights.”
Kevin Durant added 17 points for the Longhorns (20-7, 10-3), who had all five starters score in double figures but didn’t have a 20-point scorer for the first time this season.
The win keeps Texas a half-game behind Texas A&M for second in the Big 12 and a game behind leader Kansas. The Longhorns play both in their last three games.
“It’s late in the season. People are playing like it’s the last game of the season,” Abrams said.
Alan Voskuil scored nine points to lead the Red Raiders (17-11, 6-7), who shot just 29 percent. Jarrius Jackson, who came in averaging 20.7 points, was 2-of-10 for 7 points.
Justin Mason provided the Longhorns’ scoring punch in the first half, hitting all five of his shots.
Durant, who had 37 points and 23 rebounds in a win over Tech in Lubbock earlier this season, scored his first basket on a steal and dunk and hit two 3-pointers in the first half. All of them came in a 24-8 run that opened up a 37-15 lead.
With Durant drawing Tech defenders, Mason had all kinds of room to roam to the basket or pull up for open jumpers. Texas shot 58 percent and led 48-26 at halftime.
“They were playing up on A.J. and Kevin and I was just fortunate to be able to get some open looks,” Mason said.
“First half, I’m not sure we can play any better than that,” Barnes said.
Durant, who has made a case for national player of the year honors, is finding his scoring touch going through long dry spells as the season wears on. His first shot of the second half was an airball 3-pointer, but he followed it with a lighting-quick spin and 10-foot fadeaway jumper.
Durant, who scored 30 or more points in six of his first nine Big 12 games, hasn’t scored more than 21 in the last four.
“We never started out the season say Kevin Durant to score 30 points,” Barnes said. “He got on a roll there where he was doing it, but he’s not out there trying to do it.”
D.J. Augustin hit a 3-pointer to open the second half and Mason fed Damion James with a nifty pass for a dunk. Abrams’ second 3-pointer made it 62-35 with 12 minutes to play.
Durant took over the game late in the second half against the Red Raiders last month but didn’t have to do much but watch his teammates score in this one. Texas kept bombing away from 3-point range, with Durant hitting one and Abrams popping two more to make it 73-40.
Defensively, the Longhorns never let Jackson become a factor. He had only one basket in the first half and didn’t score in the second until making two free throws when Durant was hit with a technical foul with eight minutes left and Texas leading by 29.
Abrams played a big role on defense as well as the slight but quick guard stayed with Jackson and got help when he needed it.
“I think for the last three games, we’ve chosen to put him on the best offensive player and just said ‘Be there, be around,”’ Barnes said. “He’s got very good stamina.”