Texas earns share of Big 12 championship

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas appeared on the verge of giving away its share of the Big 12 title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

Sorry Kansas, the Longhorns weren’t feeling quite that generous.

D.J. Augustin scored 20 points and the No. 9 Longhorns won their share of the Big 12 regular season title for the second time in three years Sunday with a tough 62-57 win over Oklahoma State.

The win also clinched the top seed in the league tournament later this week, which Texas (26-5, 13-3) earned by beating the co-champion Jayhawks in February.

After the game, Longhorns players hoisted the conference trophy at midcourt in a short celebration. A few minutes later, it was back to business.

“We’re pretty happy,” guard A.J. Abrams said. “This is one goal we set. The season’s not over.”

It didn’t come easy. The Cowboys (16-14, 7-9) kept it close the entire way.

It wasn’t until Abrams broke a game-long shooting slump with two late baskets and Damion James made four free throws in the final 36 seconds that Texas finally put it out of reach. James finished with 13 points and 18 rebounds.

“We didn’t expect it to be easy. We had to earn it,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “I thought we were jumpy. They knew what they were playing for and we came out like a team that was trying to get it done quickly.”

Texas could face the Cowboys (16-14, 7-9) again in just a few days.

The Longhorns will play the winner of the Texas Tech-Oklahoma State first-round matchup. Texas’ two wins over OSU were close games and Texas Tech snapped the Longhorns’ eight-game winning streak on March 1 in Lubbock.

“I don’t think we look forward to playing anybody in our league,” Barnes said.

OSU mixed up defenses to try to confuse Texas and wear on Augustin, using beefy guard Byron Eaton and several players to cover him. The Cowboys clamped down on Texas’ scoring in the paint, but stopping the scrappy point guard from driving the lane or stepping out for 3-pointers is hard to do.

“We tried to keep them off balance,” Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton said. “He’s so hard to keep out of the paint.”

Oklahoma State opened the second half with a 10-4 run that tied it at 37 when Marcus Dove flushed a rebound off a miss. The play started when Augustin lost the ball on a drive to the basket and Eaton threw the ball out to start a fast break.

The Cowboys briefly held the lead until Augustin, probing the perimeter for an opening to drive, pulled up for a long 3.

Augustin and the Cowboys traded shots for the next three minutes. On one play, Eaton casually tracked down an errant pass and Augustin snuck in behind him, poked it away and coasted in for an uncontested layup and a 46-43 Texas lead.

The Longhorns needed everything they could get from Augustin as Texas’ interior players all but disappeared for large stretches of the game.

James was a dominant force on the boards, but until forward Gary Johnson made two free throws with 7 minutes left, Johnson and Connor Atchley had a total of three rebounds and eight points.

Eaton pulled OSU within 51-49 when he lowered his shoulder on a drive against Augustin, drew a foul and made two free throws with just over four minutes to play.

Abrams, the streakiest shooter in the Big 12, broke out of a nightmarish game late. He was 1-of-13 and misfiring from everywhere before coming up with two big shots. When a 3-pointer rattled in with 1:44 to play, Texas led 56-51.

“As the game keeps going on, you keep thinking he’s done, that he’s cold. Then he comes up with a couple of shots,” Oklahoma State’s Obi Muonelo said.

Texas could have settled it when Augustin dished to Atchley in the paint, but he missed the layup and a tip-in on the rebound before Terrel Harris swished a 3-pointer from the corner to get the Cowboys within two.

Texas finally put it away on James’ free throws. When Augustin was trapped in the backcourt in the final seconds, he avoided three defenders and fired a baseball pass to Abrams at midcourt to get out of the jam.

Eaton and Harris each scored 12 points to lead the Cowboys who have lost two in a row after a five-game winning streak.

“Congratulations to Texas and Kansas,” Sutton said. “They both have a chance to be in the Final Four and win the national championship.”


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