Defensive efficiency is no longer a goal for Texas — it’s an expectation.
The third-ranked Longhorns (20-3, 8-0 Big 12) held their fifth consecutive opponent to under 40 percent shooting as they defeated Texas Tech 76-60 on Saturday night in the Erwin Center. They are now 8-0 in conference play for the first time in 33 years.
The Red Raiders (11-13, 3-6) went 21-of-55 from the field and made just two of their first 11 shots.
“I thought we came out in the first half and our defense was really good,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “Defense has a lot to do with where we have been.”
It was another impressive defensive performance by a team that’s held five Big 12 teams to season lows in points and is currently leading the conference in field-goal defensive efficiency.
Gary Johnson and Jordan Hamilton held Mike Singletary, Tech’s leading scorer, to 4 points, 10.2 below his average.
“I was guarding the best player on the court,” Johnson said. “That was my main focus.”
Tristan Thompson made three blocks and guard Dogus Balbay even added one of his own.
The Longhorns’ defensive pressure created chances at the other end of the court. They scored a combined 34 points off turnovers and fast breaks compared to Tech’s 11.
On a steal six minutes into the game, Cory Joseph took the ball away near midcourt then dunked on Singletary, who stands nearly three inches taller than the freshman guard.
It was a play emblematic of the first half, as Texas capitalized on Tech’s poor shooting to gain a 16-point lead heading into the break.
But Texas started the second half with just a single field goal in the first seven minutes. The Red Raiders slowly whittled down the deficit with accurate mid-range shooting and a few driving layups.
“I thought our guys gave a great effort and really played hard in the second half,” Tech coach Pat Knight said.
And when Cory Joseph missed an open layup, Tech’s David Tairu scored a fast-break bucket on the other end and his ensuing free throw made it a six-point game.
Texas responded with a pair of 3-pointers by J’Covan Brown, which sparked a 14-5 run that Tech did not have time to recover from.
“You can make a run on them but then eventually you run out of gas,” Knight said. “I just wished we had started the game that way.”
Tech’s John Roberson scored a game-high 16 points, as did Texas forwards Johnson and Hamilton. But as has been the case recently, defense proved to be the difference in another double-digit win for the Longhorns.