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March 14, 2008

No. 6 Longhorns hold off Oklahoma State

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — D.J. Augustin wiped out Oklahoma State's halftime lead with a single shot. A few minutes later the quick and crafty point guard had obliterated all of the Cowboys' hard-earned momentum and put No. 6 Texas on the road to a 66-59 victory Friday in the Big 12 tournament.

Damion James had 23 points and 11 rebounds and Augustin powered a 14-0 run starting the second half for the top-seeded Longhorns (27-5), who also sprang an uncharacteristic zone defense that seemed to confuse the Cowboys.

"We had to slow the whole team down," said Augustin, who led the conference in assists for the second straight year and was second in scoring. "We needed to get stops on defense and not let them get easy baskets. They have a lot of great players. I think we did a great job helping each other and playing pretty good defense."

Ibrahima Thomas had 19 points for Oklahoma State, which trailed by as many as seven points in the first half before taking a 33-32 halftime lead on Terrel Harris' 3-pointer at the buzzer.

But the Cowboys (17-15) faltered as Augustin took over after intermission. After hitting a 3-pointer on Texas' first possession, he coaxed a third foul against Oklahoma State point guard Byron Eaton and sank both free throws. Then a few seconds later he seized a Cowboys pass that was deflected to him by a teammate and dished to A.J. Abrams for a layup.

With the Cowboys having trouble against the 2-3 zone, Abrams scored again a moment later and then Augustin boosted the lead to 44-33 with his fifth 3-pointer.

The Cowboys went almost 8 minutes at the start of the second half without a field goal. Nevertheless, the zone does not come easy for a team that's known for its man-to-man defense, agreed coach Rick Barnes.

"It's hard for us right now because we've been a pretty good man team," Barnes said. "We just felt like we were getting what we needed out of it."

After regaining the lead and momentum, the Longhorns went back to their man defense.

"At the 7-minute mark, I thought we had gotten into a walk-it-up game with them and we don't want to do that," Barnes said.

It was the Longhorns' fifth straight victory over Oklahoma State.

"We lost again to another great basketball team," Cowboys coach Sean Sutton said. "They found a way to make plays down the stretch and that's what great teams do."

Texas took a 56-43 lead on Connor Atchley's bucket and seemed ready to cruise home. But Harris made a 3-pointer and the Cowboys, ice cold from beyond the arc all day, then quickly drilled three more from long range during a 12-2 spree that cut the Longhorns' lead to 58-55.

James then sneaked inside for a layup and Justin Mason, following an Oklahoma State turnover, made it 62-55 with 2:17 left.

"Defensively, we didn't have the intensity we showed the first half and let them get off to an easy start," Oklahoma State's Obi Muonelo said.

Top-seeded Texas, the regular-season co-champions with Kansas, will meet Oklahoma in Saturday's semifinals.

Oklahoma State will go home and hope for either an NCAA or NIT bid.

"I haven't thought about that," Sutton said. "Our total concentration was on winning this tournament. I felt like the way we've been playing, we'd need a good effort against Texas. But I thought we'd win the game."

Muonelo had 13 points for Oklahoma State, which was only 9-of-31 from beyond the arc.

Much of the first half was a shooting contest between James and Thomas.

James, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, drilled his first five shots, including his first three 3-pointers. But Thomas, a 6-11 freshman, practically matched him shot for shot, making five of his first seven field-goal attempts and both his 3-pointers.

Atchley had seven rebounds and four blocks for the Longhorns.

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