COLLEGE STATION — As the few Longhorn fans at Reed Arena snuck down to seats directly behind the Texas bench, senior Gary Johnson turned around with a huge smile and responded to the “Texas Fight” cheers that echoed throughout the arena.
The joy of Johnson and other seniors Dogus Balbay and Matt Hill resonated throughout the bench as the No. 3 Longhorns (19-3, 7-0) finally got over the hump and beat No. 16 Texas A&M (17-4, 4-3) on the road for the first time since 2004.
The Longhorns did not trail throughout the entire game as they managed to outplay the Aggies in every facet en route to a 69-49 win.
“I’ve been doing this 24 years, and I haven’t seen as many teams as good as Texas,” said Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. “I thought they were fantastic.”
Texas’ effort once again was led on the defensive side of the ball where the Longhorns held the Aggies to 30 percent shooting from field. In doing so, they did not allow A&M’s leading scorer Khris Middleton to score.
“One thing we tried to do is take away the opposing team’s leading scorer,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “When you do that, you are going to have to have a team effort.”
The Aggies were unable to rally at any point. The few times that they did score a field goal, the Longhorns would immediately go down court and score.
Jordan Hamilton, who was also Texas’ leading scorer with 20 points, was responsible for guarding Middleton the majority of the game.
“I said to myself, ‘I’m just going to come out here and try to guard him the hardest I ever guarded someone before,’” Hamilton said. “And I did that tonight.”
In addition, the Longhorns had strong defensive production from Hill, Hamilton, Balbay and Alexis Wangmene, who helped Texas’ leading blocker Tristan Thompson combine for all nine of Texas’ blocked shots.
“Everyone’s following,” Thompson said. “Now when the scouting report comes in, it doesn’t just say, ‘Tristan Thompson blocks shots.’ You got to worry about all the big guys. That gets the offensive players scared that they might get their shots blocked.”
Though only a freshman, Thompson calls himself the “captain” of blocking shots.
“Someone has to lead the block party,” Thompson said.
Despite the Longhorns success in limiting Big 12 opponents to new lows, there is an agreement amongst the team that there is room for improvement.
“We got a long way to go,” Thompson said. “Even though we won this game by a large margin, we still got improvements to make and areas to get better at.”
The Longhorns have become accustomed to winning by large margins. Texas has won its first seven conference games by an average of 18 points.
“I told Rick [Barnes], if they keep working hard and getting better that they can win a national championship,” Turgeon said. “And I don’t say that very much.”
The Longhorns have now defeated four ranked teams in its last five games. After a stretch of two games in three days, Texas finally has some time off before they face Texas Tech on Saturday.
“I need to get some extra sleep and be a student for a little bit,” Thompson said.