AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Two days after Texas lost a blowout at home
to Tennessee, Longhorns coach Rick Barnes took his team behind
closed doors and pushed them through a grueling three-hour practice
to stress being tougher on defense.
The result: a four-game winning streak that has the Longhorns
hitting their stride heading into the Big 12.
P.J. Tucker scored 24 points and tied his career high with 15
rebounds as Texas (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today; No. 15 AP) opened league play Saturday with an 89-64
win over Colorado, shutting down a Buffaloes team that had scored
more than 110 points in two of its previous three games.
"We want to create our identity right now, that we're a
defensive team," said Longhorns senior guard Kenton Paulino, who
set a career high with 18 points.
Building that identity started in practice after the Longhorns
lost 95-78 at home against Tennessee back on Dec. 17.
"It was a tough day," Tucker said. "It was going back to
basics in the things we take pride in doing, probably the hardest
practice of the year."
Tucker has four double-doubles in the last five games. LaMarcus
Aldridge added 19 points and nine rebounds for the Longhorns
(12-2), who are 8-0 in league openers under coach Rick Barnes.
Martane Freeman scored 20 to lead Colorado (10-2, 0-1) which had
its nine-game winning streak snapped.
Colorado beat Texas twice last season when Tucker and Aldridge
were out with academic problems and injuries, and knocked the
Longhorns out of the Big 12 tournament. It was a much different
game with those two back in the lineup.
"They bring a lot of intensity and effort, that's what it's all
about," said Texas guard Daniel Gibson, who scored 14 points. "It
was great to have them out there."
The biggest cheer of the game came when the Bowl Championship
Series crystal football trophy was wheeled to midcourt at halftime,
bringing the crowd to its feet. Texas' 41-38 victory over Southern
California in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4 won the school's first
outright football national championship since 1969.
Aldridge scored Texas' first six points on turnaround jumpers,
Tucker had 10 points by halftime and the Longhorns bolted to a
43-24 halftime lead. A.J. Abrams hit two 3-pointers from the right
corner and Paulino's second of the half made it 39-19.
The Buffaloes struggled badly against Texas' early mix of zone
and man defense, shooting 28 percent in the first half and 31
percent for the game. Texas also won the rebounding 50-40.
"I call this a big boy game," said Colorado coach Ricardo
Patton said. "It's for men, not for babies, not for guys who are
going to be weak with the basketball."
Aldridge opened the second half with dunk off a sharp pass
underneath from Brad Buckman, then converted a three-point play
that made it 50-27. Gibson then hit consecutive 3-pointers and
Colorado never threatened to mount any kind of rally.
Texas finished last season tied for fifth in the Big 12, the
worst showing of the Barnes era. The coach said Texas' tough early
schedule this year -- including the blowout losses to Tennessee and
top-ranked Duke -- should help them in the long run.
So does practice. Especially the kind Texas went through almost
a month ago.
"The losses helped us. I know they're painful lessons to learn,
but that's why you play the schedule you play," Barnes said. "It
gets you ready."
- Ted Hillary
- Kerry Sitton
- Terry Davis