Mark Turgeon

Mens Basketball

Since falling for the first time this season on Jan. 22 at home against Texas — a loss that broke Kansas’ 69-game home winning streak — the Jayhawks have been on a tear. Bill Self’s squad claimed the top spot Monday in both the AP and ESPN polls.

But the Jayhawks won’t be perched at the top of the college basketball world for long. Kansas’ 84-68 loss to unranked rival Kansas State Monday night will almost certainly drop KU from the top spot in next week’s polls.

Prior to Monday’s loss, Kansas had won six in a row and rediscovered its scoring touch after the Longhorns held the nation’s No. 6 offense to just 63 points when the teams met in January. During that stretch Kansas put up over 90 points per contest and won by an average of 21 points. But the Jayhawks defense was also responsible for KU’s success—limiting opponents to only 66 points in four of the past seven outings.

Junior forward Marcus Morris received Big 12 Player of the Week honors Monday after averaging 19 points and 9.5 rebounds last week in victories over Missouri and Iowa State at home. Morris, the conference’s leader in field goal percentage, shot 66.7 percent from the field in the two wins and recorded his fifth double-double of the season.

<strong>Aggies pull out close wins</strong>

Texas A&M needed overtime to down Colorado on the road in Boulder on Thursday, then the Aggies went down to the wire Saturday against Texas Tech in Lubbock for their second-straight win to move into third place in the Big 12, behind Texas and Kansas. The Aggies won both games by only three points but showed the grit needed to get back on the winning track after dropping three games in a row.

“You have to be good and you have to be lucky, and we were a little bit of both,” said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. “We know we are going to be in a lot of close games.”

The Aggies will need a lot more of both if they hope to catch the rival Longhorns at the top of the conference, but they still had reason to celebrate Saturday. With the 70-67 victory over the Red Raiders, Turgeon tied Bob Rogers for second on the Aggies’ all-time victory list with 92. He will have a chance for the record Wednesday when Iowa State invades College Station, but it won’t come easy for Turgeon as his team has lost their last two at home, including a 20-point thrashing by Texas on Jan. 19.

<strong>Cyclones can’t buy a win</strong>

It’s been a rough start to 2011 for Iowa State. The Cyclones lost their sixth-straight game Saturday against Kansas and have just two wins since the New Year. ISU has been the victim of a few bad breaks — it has lost two games in overtime and four of its past eight losses have been by six or less points, including a pair of one-point defeats.

“You have to find a way to make the big play down the stretch, a couple games we win if we find a way to get a defensive rebound with under two minutes to play,” said head coach Fred Hoiberg. “When you have a six- or an eight-point lead, you’ve got to find a way to make those plays to allow your team win the game.”

The Cyclones will have a tough task ending their losing skid. ISU has an unfavorable schedule ahead featuring three-straight games against ranked opponents, starting with a road matchup against No. 21 Texas A&M on Wednesday.

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.

All the usual stars showed up for Texas on Monday night — Jordan Hamilton scored a game-high 20 points, Tristan Thompson added 10 points and five boards and Cory Joseph scored 11 — but for the Longhorns to win by 20, it took some atypical contributions from the team’s role players.

Matt Hill, Jai Lucas, J’Covan Brown and Alexis Wangmene all logged significant minutes as other players sat with foul trouble.

“We always trust our bench,” said starting guard Dogus Balbay. “Tonight was one of those nights, you know, they came in and changed the game.”

Hill was first off the bench in both halves. His first touch of the ball was a putback minutes into the game that he immediately followed up with a defensive rebound on the other end.

“What Matt Hill does doesn’t really show up on the stat sheet,” Hamilton said. “He’s a great defender, and he’s a force inside.”

Hill and fellow reserve forward Wangmene helped defend A&M’s David Loubeau, Ray Turner and Keith Davis inside after starters Thompson and Gary Johnson were pulled for accumulating early fouls.

“Matt Hill came in and rebounded his tail off,” Thompson said. “He was really impressive inside and gave their big men a tough time.”

Hill also converted two field goals, including a mid-range jumper, an unusual shot for the 6-foot-10 post player.

“When he hit the little jump shot in the lane,” said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. “It was kind of their night.”

The senior hadn’t played much in recent games — just 11 minutes against Missouri on Saturday and three versus Oklahoma State on Jan. 26. But head coach Rick Barnes turned to him for relief and leadership on Monday and the senior responded with a season-high eight rebounds.

“He’s one of those guys on the offensive end that just keeps things gong,” Barnes said about Hill. “But he came up with some big rebounds on the defensive end.”

Lucas and Brown effectively ran the point when Balbay was out. Brown played 24 minutes, the most he’s played since a Jan. 22 win at Kansas, and scored eight points.

Overall, the Texas reserves outscored their Aggie counterparts 19-10.

“There wasn’t any drop off tonight,” Turgeon said. “I thought Wangmene played well and [Matt] Hill really played well.”

Brown, Lucas and Wangmene all scored during a crucial 14-0 run by Texas halfway through the first period while three starters sat with foul trouble.

The scoring streak helped Texas build a 25-point halftime lead, its largest of the season.

The most important number from Wednesday’s game was eight — not the margin of victory but the Longhorns’ advantage on the glass.

Texas A&M came into the game averaging 11.6 more rebounds than their opponents — second best in the country. They left with just their second deficit on the glass this season.

The Aggies would have fared even worse except for the five rebounds they collected in the final six minutes, after the game was already put away.

The Aggies came in with a talented rebounding trio; Khris Middleton, David Loubeau and Nathan Walkup each averaged at least 4.7 per game prior to last night. Only one of those three, Middleton, improved his average with Wednesday’s performance.

“We’re a good rebounding team,” said A&M head coach Mark Turgeon. “We didn’t rebound.”

Texas, fourth in the nation in total rebounds per game, has now out-rebounded all three of its Big 12 opponents and is undefeated in that stretch. Jordan Hamilton led all Longhorns with eight against A&M.

Tristan Thompson pulled big-man double duty on the inside, pulling down six rebounds to go with 18 points.

“Controlling the glass, and especially ever since the outcome we had a couple weeks ago [against Connecticut], we want to make sure we always control the glass and try to win the rebounding battle,” Thompson said.

Thompson was referring to a loss on Jan. 8 at home versus the Huskies. The Longhorns were out-rebounded 52-42 and ended up falling in overtime after leading for much of regulation.

“They were more physical than we were tonight,” said A&M forward Nathan Walkup.

Texas would have gotten more boards if not for six blocked shots, four of which came at the hands of Thompson.

“I do think we’re a strong team,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes.

Hamilton, a perimeter swingman known mostly for his shot, had the most rebounds on Wednesday. Guards J’Covan Brown and Cory Joseph combined for 10 more.

“Jordan is underrated in terms of how strong he is,” Barnes said. “But if you get down there with him and watch him every day, he’s strong. He’s strong around the basket.”

Most of the action was down low in the first half. Texas made 10 of its 13 field goals in the paint, including three second-chance dunks off offensive rebounds. The physicality continued until the final whistle, with the teams combining for 38 penalties.

A string of nine fouls in less than two minutes in the first half, including a technical on Turgeon, might have affected the Aggies’ willingness to get up and after loose balls.

“We fouled the whole game tonight,” the Aggies’ coach said. “The fouls had something to do with it but not all of it.”

Both teams are still near the top of the conference in rebounding, but Texas emerged from Wednesday’s game with the advantage and the early lead in the Big 12 South race. 

When this week’s two college basketball polls were released, the voters had a tough time distinguishing between the No. 10 and No. 11 ranked teams. The AP voters had the Longhorns 10th and the Aggies right behind them at 11th. The Coaches had it switched around.

But as the “overrated” chant echoes throughout the Frank Erwin Center, it appears that the media had it right as the Longhorns beat the Aggies 81-60 Wednesday night.

“They whipped us,” Aggie head coach Mark Turgeon said. “We are shocked.”

Entering the game with only one loss on the season, Turgeon noticed his team looked a little nervous prior to the game.

The Longhorns, on the other hand, came out of the gate loose as they continuously attacked the basket getting off to a 20-5 lead.

“They just out-toughed us,” A&M forward Nathan Walkup said. “We just came out soft. You can’t play soft in the Big 12, especially against a top 15 team.”

Jordan Hamilton’s 27 points and Tristan Thompson’s 18 propelled Texas to a blowout win in which they never trailed.

Thompson started strong in the first half, making play after play inside the paint. As the Longhorns kept attacking the basket, the Aggies got into foul trouble as they were in the bonus only six minutes into the game.

“We were not supposed to be leaving him,” Turgeon said.

Thompson converting on offense eventually led to Hamilton catching fire.

“He draws double teams, sometimes he draws triple teams. That’s good for me because then I will be able to knock down open shots. I appreciate him for that,” Hamilton said while smiling and patting Thompson on the shoulder.

Hamilton had only made one shot in the first 18 minutes but finished off the half with two baskets and never looked back, hitting seven of nine field goals in the second half.

“I thought it felt like they scored every time they had the ball, and that is not what we are about,” Turgeon said. “They played in a comfort zone all night because we didn’t put any pressure on them. They were fantastic.”

The lack of pressure allowed Hamilton to continuously come off screens and hit both fade away and spot up jumpers.

“He’s a shot maker, there’s no doubt about it,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “The only time he gets in trouble is when he is too anxious, and in the first half, he was too anxious. But he settled down.”

Texas shot 58 percent from the field, but the most impressive statistic from Wednesday may have been from the free-throw line where the Longhorns converted on 19 of 22 attempts led by Alexis Wangmene who converted all six of his attempts.

Gary Johnson added 14 points for the Longhorns who take on another top 10 opponent on Saturday in Kansas — depending on which poll you look at.