KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The second Big 12 semifinal revisited a young and budding rivalry.
Texas and Texas A&M met for the 220th time overall, a historic number. But the fresher and more exciting matchup on Friday took place between two individuals — the Longhorns’ Jordan Hamilton and A&M’s Khris Middleton.
The two, both 6-foot-7-inch sophomore forwards, led their respective teams in scoring. Hamilton put up 17 while his Aggie counterpart scored 18.
“He’s a pretty good player,” Hamilton said, unabashed with his understatement. “He did a great job making shots.”
In their previous two games this year, the pair traded shots as well. In Austin on Jan. 19, Hamilton scored 27 points en route to an 81-60 Texas win while Middleton led his team with 16.
In College Station on Jan. 31, Hamilton had a more subdued 20 on 7-of-14 shooting, but it was his defense that stood out. He, with some help from teammates, held Middleton scoreless.
“This game I guess he said to himself he wasn’t going to let that happen again.”
Middleton came out hot on Friday. He hit a 3-pointer 2 minutes, 13 seconds in and then followed up with a half-court driving layup over two defenders a minute later.
But Hamilton had a slight edge in the first 20 minutes, outscoring Middleton 9-7. Neither played all that well offensively, going a combined 7-of-14 from the field, partly because of the other’s defense.
Things started badly for Texas in the second half, with a 3-pointer from Middleton less than a minute in and no Longhorn answer.
And as Hamilton sat with foul trouble, Middleton opened up for a rash of points as the Aggies trimmed their deficit to four.
Hamilton’s reappearance with eight minutes to play helped stave off the A&M run. With his team up 54-50 and time running down on the shot clock, the Texas sophomore nailed a deep 3-pointer to keep his side rolling and suck the wind out of the Aggies’ sails.
“That was the difference,” said A&M coach Mark Turgeon afterwards.
From there it was all Texas. Middleton sat down for good with 1:20 remaining when he picked up his fifth foul.