Pittman’s burst propels No. 21 Texas to 69-59 win
AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—After a month of losses, a key injury and mounting frustration, No. 21 Texas needed something good to happen.
The Longhorns got it in Dexter Pittman’s best game in weeks and a standout defensive performance against Big 12 scoring leader James Anderson in 69-59 win over Oklahoma State on Wednesday night
Pittman had 16 points and eight rebounds. He made all five of his field goals and scored nine points the second half surge that pushed Texas to the win.
Texas (22-6, 8-5 Big 12) got just its fifth win in 11 games after a 17-0 start. This one came in the first game after the Longhorns lost point guard Dogus Balbay for the season with a knee injury.
“Every game is important especially at home,” senior guard Justin Mason said. “Every game in the Big 12 is crucial, especially this time in season.”
The Longhorns have now won consecutive games for the first time in more than a month, and this one guaranteed they will finish no worse than 8-8 in league play.
Mason scored just one point but played as important of a role as Pittman against the Cowboys. He and Avery Bradley applied the defensive pressure on Anderson, holding him to 14 points.
Anderson had scored at least 30 points five times this season, but got little to fall when given little room to work against Texas. He shot 5 of 13.
“I think both of them just switching off wore me down. They were both fresh. I couldn’t really get into a rhythm,” Anderson said.
For Pittman, it was the first time in weeks he was able establish himself as a force in the post. His 16 points was the most for him since he scored 21 in a win over Arkansas on Jan. 5.
The Cowboys had little to stop him. On one early basket, an ill-timed defensive switch left 5-foot-9 Cowboys guard Keiton Page matched up against the 6-10, 290-pound Pittman under the basket. The big man easily won that battle.
Matt Pilgrim, a 6-foot-8 forward who started the last five games for the Cowboys and might have been able to provide a little muscle, did not play.
“I knew what to do when I got the ball tonight: just go up strong, dunk it or use my skill,” Pittman said. “Sometimes I overthink the game.”
Damion James carried Texas early, scoring 15 points to lead the Longhorns to a 37-35 halftime lead. A 3-pointer by Oklahoma State’s Obi Muonelo had tied it before the Cowboys’ Jarred Shaw fouled Pittman, then was whistled for a technical foul for jawing with him. Texas made two of the four free throws.
Pittman controlled the first 10 minutes of the second half, scoring nine of Texas’ first 12 points and diverting shots on the other end.
After Oklahoma State had closed a six-point deficit to 44-42, Pittman thundered home his second dunk of the half and made a free throw for the three-point play.
When Texas lost Balbay for the season, they also figured to be losing their best perimeter defender. But Mason and Bradley were able to lock down on Anderson for long stretches, never letting him find his range or an open look at the basket.
“We wanted to make every touch harder and harder every possession,” Mason said.
Bradley’s 3-pointer from the left corner put Texas up 54-44 with 9:53 to play, the first double-digit lead of the game. After Pittman hit another tough basket in the lane, a steal by Bradley led to an easy layup that put the Longhorns up by 14.
“We talked about trying to stop their inside game,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “You let Pittman have one of the best games I’ve seen him have all year.”