No. 3 Texas rides Johnson’s double-double vs OSU
AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—The secret to Texas’ winning streak is simple: don’t fall behind.
Not for a minute, not even for a second.
For the sixth straight game, the No. 3 Longhorns never trailed in cruising to a 73-55 win over Oklahoma State on Wednesday night that tightened their grip on first place in the Big 12.
Texas hasn’t fallen behind any opponent since the last time the Longhorns and Cowboys played back on Jan. 26. And that came in the first half of what ended up being a 15-point Texas win.
“Our biggest concern is trying to keep the foot on the pedal,” said senior forward Gary Johnson, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds Wednesday night. “We haven’t been in a situation where we’ve been behind. We don’t want to start it now.”
The Cowboys had their split-second chance to grab a lead when they won the opening tip, but Markel Brown’s shot was blocked by Texas freshman Tristan Thompson.
Oklahoma State made it 2-all a minute later, but Texas’ Jordan Hamilton answered with a 3-pointer and the Longhorns were off and running.
Texas (23-3, 11-0 Big 12) has won 11 in a row overall and holds a two-game conference lead over No. 1 Kansas with five games left in the regular season.
Hamilton finished with 15 points and Thompson scored 14 for Texas, which has won 10 of the last 11 meetings with Oklahoma State (16-9, 4-7). The Longhorns have seldom been challenged in conference play, winning 10 of their 11 league games by 10 or more points.
Brown scored 14 points to lead Oklahoma State.
The Texas winning streak has followed a typical pattern: The Longhorns race to a big early lead and then set the game on cruise control in the second half.
Hamilton scored all of his points in the first, hitting his first three 3-point shots before his shooting touch mostly disappeared. Thompson’s block on Oklahoma State’s first shot started another stellar defensive effort by the Longhorns. Texas forced the Cowboys into 12 first-half turnovers.
Thompson had an alley-oop dunk on a feed from Hamilton to start a 13-4 Texas run. The Longhorns built the lead as high as 33-19 when Hamilton made a short jumper in the lane. Texas held a double-digit halftime lead, 36-25, for the fifth straight game.
“We just dug ourselves a hole and were fortunate to just be down by 11,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “We were allowing too many points in transition. You just can’t do that against Texas.”
Texas has sometimes struggled to keep up the pressure in the opening minutes of the second half and let opponents rally. The previous three opponents had either outscored or stayed even with Texas in the second half. Baylor cut a 19-point Texas lead to three in the final minutes.
Not this time. Johnson wouldn’t allow it.
“When you play with as much energy and passion as he does, good things happen,” Ford said.
Johnson dominated the first 7 minutes by scoring 11 of Texas’ first 15 points in the second half. In one three-basket sequence, he stepped out for a long fadeaway jumper, posted up Oklahoma State’s Roger Franklin for a three-point play, then got an easy tip-in after Hamilton’s miss to put Texas up 51-34.
“I was just all over the court tonight, trying to take advantage of the mismatches we had,” Johnson said.
Texas guard Cory Joseph put the game away with about 12 minutes left. Joseph swished a 3-pointer when left all alone in the right corner, then finished a fast break with a layup off his own steal to put Texas ahead 56-35.
Texas shot just 44 percent and continued to struggle from the free throw line (16 of 28), but defensively held the Cowboys to 38 percent shooting. Texas has allowed an opponent to shoot better than 40 percent just once during the winning streak.
Big 12 teams are averaging only 55 points against the Longhorns.
“In the second half of every game we kind of let up our lead,” Hamilton said. “This time, we came out with an edge and played good defense.”