Longhorns make it plain with clutch play
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This Texas team can be physical, brash and brutally honest sometimes.
The Longhorns needed to be all of that to beat Iowa 68-59 and then were truthful in their assessment Tuesday night after winning the championship of the Guardians Classic at Municipal Auditorium.
So, it's without hesitation, that sophomore point guard Daniel Gibson summed up the Longhorns (4-0) to this point after coming back late to beat West Virginia and Iowa on consecutive nights.
"When we're facing adversity, that's when we're at our best. When the game is on the line that's when we show up and down the road we'll put it all together," Gibson said.
If West Virginia makes a pair of one-and-one free-throw attempts in the final few possessions Monday night, then the Longhorns are in the consolation game. If Iowa doesn't lose a bit of the control it had over the game late then the Hawkeyes had a legit shot to oust Texas in front of a partisan Hawkeye crowd.
Instead, Texas weathered foul trouble to P.J. Tucker (four) and ultimately to tournament MVP center LaMarcus Aldridge, who fouled out with Texas up six and 1:50 left on the clock.
To get through most of that tough stretch, the Longhorns got an uplifting performance from a big man who hadn't had the rep for being tough. Yet, there was senior forward Brad Buckman, shooting out to the gap off a screen to hit a 3-pointer to give Texas a 52-51 lead. And then, after an Aldridge miss, Buckman muscled an offensive putback in for a three-point play and a 58-55 Texas lead.
"I wasn't nearly as physical as I am now and to own the paint you have to be physical," Buckman said. "I can benefit so much from him. I've been working on expanding my game and making the 3-point shot. I'm confident to do that."
Gibson said that Buckman's effectiveness can change everything because teams can't help off of him.
"When it's time to make plays, he made plays," Gibson said.
Texas coach Rick Barnes used a variety of lineups, needing to go smaller with Aldridge and Tucker in foul trouble. He had to use three guards (Gibson, Kenton Paulino and A.J. Abrams) to go along with Tucker and Buckman for the final minute-plus.
In the end, the Longhorns had the necessary balance with Aldridge (18 points and 10 boards), Buckman (14 points), Gibson (16 points) dominating the production. That's probably going to be the norm, with Tucker usually in double figures (he had eight) if he's not saddled with fouls.
Texas took two shots here against two likely NCAA Tournament teams. The schedule doesn't let up with Duke (in New Jersey on Dec. 10), Tennessee (Dec. 17), at Memphis (Jan. 2) and Villanova (Jan. 14) still on the nonconference slate.
"Coach [Barnes] did a great job of scheduling and got us as many good games that he could," Buckman said. "We're a good enough team to be playing these guys."
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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