NORMAN, Okla. (AP)—After showing how much damage he can do when he’s able to move freely, Kevin Durant proved he can be equally effective when a game turns rugged.
The Longhorns’ sensational 6-foot-9 freshman matched his career-high with five 3-pointers and scored 32 points to lead No. 19 Texas to a 68-58 win over Oklahoma on Saturday.
Durant displayed his long-range shooting to put the Longhorns ahead early, then got it done from the free-throw line when the Red River Rivalry turned nasty.
He had the Longhorns’ only two field goals of the second half and went 8-for-8 from the foul line as Texas scored 22 of its 27 second-half points on free throws.
“We got shots. We got wide-open looks sometimes. We just didn’t hit them,” Durant said. “So we went to the basket and got fouled and then hit free throws.”
It was the seventh 30-point game of the season for Durant, and his first since he scored 32 in a 73-72 loss to Kansas State on Feb. 3. He also had 10 rebounds for his 17th double-double.
Durant staked Texas (21-7, 11-3 Big 12) to an early 15-point lead, and the Sooners (15-12, 6-8) never got back within striking distance.
“They came out and hit us in the mouth early, and Kevin Durant wasn’t missing anything in the first half,” Oklahoma guard Michael Neal said.
Durant made his first four shots and had 10 points before Oklahoma made its first basket. His free throw with 13:20 left in the first half gave the Longhorns a 19-4 advantage.
Oklahoma was never closer than eight after that.
The Sooners were called for only four fouls in the first half, but got whistled 18 times after coach Jeff Capel challenged them to play with more energy in the second half.
“We started playing with heart, we started playing with passion and we started fighting,” Capel said.
Texas got to the free-throw line 30 times in the second half—compared to nine for the Sooners—and knocked down 22 foul shots. D.J. Augustin supported Durant’s perfect second-half performance by going 8-for-10 from the line.
“They don’t give you anything easy,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said.
Augustin ended up with 18 points, Damion James grabbed 11 rebounds, and Justin Mason had 10 rebounds for the Longhorns, who held a 40-34 advantage on the boards.
Texas won its fifth straight game to stay in the race for the Big 12 regular-season title. The Longhorns’ final two regular-season games are against conference co-leaders Texas A&M and Kansas.
“I’m not sure you could ask for a better situation, the fact that you’re getting ready to play the two teams that are expected to win this league,” Barnes said.
Austin Johnson, who was demoted from Oklahoma’s starting lineup last week, made four 3-pointers and scored 14 points. Nate Carter added 13.
The Sooners attempted 11 more 3-pointers than Texas in a rugged second half that saw Capel called for a technical foul, and then a few minutes later deliberately roll the ball past one official to another at the other end of the court.
Fans were warned not to throw items onto the floor after a cellular phone was sent sailing across the court during a free-throw attempt by Texas’ Connor Atchley with 5:03 remaining.
“In the second half, I thought it was just 10 guys going at it,” Barnes said.
Oklahoma, which once trailed by as many as 17, cut Texas’ lead to 48-39 on Neal’s 3-pointer from the top of the key with 12:22 remaining. The Sooners could never get closer than that until Johnson’s 3-pointer in the final minute trimmed the deficit to eight.
“It is not going to be easy this time of year,” Barnes said. “It comes down to not how, but how many (wins). You get them any way you can get them.”