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Longhorns Move On After Dropping Wildcats
March 12, 2009
Championship Central

By Wendell Barnhouse |
Big 12 Correspondent

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Icebags for everybody.

Saying that the Texas-Kansas State game was "hard fought" is like saying the stock market can be volatile. The quarterfinal game Thursday in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship was all about manly play. No concientuous objectors allowed.

You don't want to bring a knife to a gun fight. The Longhorns had the most lethal weapon in 6-10, 300-pound Dexter Pittman. The Texas junior had 19 points, 20 rebounds and four blocked shots in a career-high 34 minutes as the fifth-seeded Longhorns upended No. 4 seed Kansas State, 61-58.

There were almost as many fouls (41) as field goals (42). Screens were like two-car collisions. There were so many players on the Ford Center court that they didn't need to sweep the floor between sessions. The lane needed a sign reading "Enter At Own Risk." Each team's best offensive play was often an offensive rebound.

Here's how two Texas (22-10) players described the game: Damion James - "Real physical." Varez Ward - "Hard fought." And Kansas State coach Frank Martin - "Just a hard-fought game."

Get the drift?

Kansas State (21-11) shot an ice-cold 29.2 percent for the game so there were plenty of opportunities for second shots. That's what made Pittman's 12 boards in the second half so crucial.

"The coaches say nobody should ever move me," Pittman said. "If I get moved then I'm soft. What I'm really proud of is that I played 34 minutes. That's what stood out for me."

In the second half, the biggest lead for either team was six. Texas got that edge thanks mostly to freshman guard Varez Ward. He came off the bench in the second half and scored nine points. He scored seven in a row - a mini Mike Singletary effort - to give the Longhorns a 46-40 lead midway through the second half.

Ward, though, deflected the post-game praise.

"Dexter Pittman," said Ward, who had an icebag taped to his right side in the lockerroom. "If he had played like that all season, no telling what our record would be."

Sophomore Clint Chapman also scored nine points off the bench. Texas needed that production because leading scorers A.J. Abrams (six points) and Damion James (seven) were limited because of foul trouble and the Wildcats' strong defense.

"Tonight was a perfect game for Varez because of the aggressive nature and the intensity," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "I've told 'em all year long that we'll find an answer if we stay together. That's what a team is about, everybody doing their job and everybody being ready."

Despite their shooting woes, Kansas State was in position to win and improve its NCAA Tournament hopes. After snaring an offensive rebound (surprise) and being fouled, the Wildcats' Ron Anderson made one of two free throws to give Kansas State a 58-57 lead with 1:39 remaining.

With the game on the line, Texas looked for Pittman. Abrams came off a high screen, wheeled toward the lane and passed to Pittman. He spun to his left, scored and was fouled. His three-point play with 1:14 remaining put Texas ahead for good

"We needed the bucket so I went up strong and finished it," Pittman said.

Being strong was the best way to survive a couple of hours in the postseason grinder.

* Pittman's 20 records were a school record for a Big 12 Championship game.

* In two Big 12 Championship games, Pittman has scored 45 points, has 30 rebounds and has made 17-of-25 shots.

* Texas has made the semifinals in the Big 12 Championship nine times in the 10 seasons under coach Rick Barnes.

* Texas had two season highs - blocked shots (10) and turnovers (22).

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