“We just got back on what we were doing earlier in the season. We got the ball moving really well and just got better.” Connor Atchley said post-game.
Although Texas pulled it out in the end, a slow first half saw the Horns only hit 10-of-27 and trail the Buffaloes the entire 20 minutes. Colorado drained 53.8 percent and totaled 17 boards, hitting the locker room at halftime with a 37-28 lead.
Starting the second half with a nine-point deficit only made the fans rowdier and hungry for a victory in the team’s first conference game on its own turf. Luckily, the Longhorns found a way to tap into that energy and a three-pointer by A.J. Abrams set off their 24-2 run (sliced by Colorado sophomore and Austin native Xavier Silas nailing both of his from the foul line) and pulled the Horns ahead of the Buffaloes for the first time almost 4 minutes in.
“The first half we played like a team that hadn’t played in a week,” Texas head Coach Rick Barnes said. “We played a really good basketball game the second half.”
D.J. Augustin led the team in scoring for the ninth time this season and scored more than 20 points for the 10th time. He and Atchley cleaned the glass a combined 10 times and Atchley knocked down over 75 percent from the field for the fifth time this season.
“We didn’t come out with the same intensity in the first half as we did in the second half…That’s the kind of play that we needed to have the whole time,” Augustin said.
Although less than stellar defense has been blamed for Texas losing three of its previous five games, the Horns regained the aggressiveness they displayed earlier in the year and a dominant defense let Texas put the “W” back in its column. Damion James got 8 boards and Justin Mason (or “junkyard dog” as Barnes anointed him) managed a career-high four blocks, holding the defense together in the second half.
Buffalo senior Richard Roby put up 18 points to lead his team on offense and defense with two blocks. Freshman G Cory Higgins wiped the board eight times, nearly twice the number of his teammates. Sophomore Dwight Thorne put up an impressive 8 points from the bench.
Towards the end of the second half the Longhorns seemed to lose some of their spark, and Colorado began gaining back lost ground. Unfortunately for the Buffs, the Horns had other plans and Abrams and Augustin’s combined 42 points saw the plan through.
“You always want to protect your home court,” Abrams said.
Well, mission complete. Barnes is now 10-0 in Big 12 Conference home openers.
The Texas Longhorns now travel to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State Jan. 21.