By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - During Monday's coaches teleconference, Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik was trying to explain how his team needs to understand the virtues of strength training so it will be better prepared to survive and thrive during Big 12 Conference play.
"Sometimes it takes you to be the nail and not the hammer to understand," he said.
After losing 15 of 16 conference games, the Buffaloes are accustomed to being pounded. Sometimes it's a ball-peen, sometimes it's a claw, other times it's a sledge. No matter. The hammering has been all the same.
In Wednesday's first-round game, fifth-seeded Texas road 6-10, 310-pound center Dexter Pittman's career-high 26 points to a 67-56 victory over the 12th-seeded Buffaloes (9-22).
Texas (21-10) will play fourth-seeded Kansas State in Thursday's quarterfinals because it was able to overpower Colorado. The Longhorns had 38 points in the paint, mostly because of Pittman. And the final deficit could have been larger.
"Dexter had 26 and 10," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "He should have had 35 and whatever ... right, Dex?"
Pittman answered with a quiet "Yes, sir." He made nine of 13 shots and was 8-for-12 from the free throw line. He blamed a lack of concentration for missing layups and free throws in the second half.
"I had the mind set that I was gonna show Colorado I could play," he said.
When Texas won in Boulder in overtime on Feb. 14, Pittman was a non-factor (four points, no rebounds in 12 minutes). The Longhorns had to scrap their plans to play zone and play man-to-man with a smaller lineup when Pittman got in early foul trouble. He committed just two fouls in 28 minutes Wednesday thanks to a defensive change.
Ten minutes into the game, Barnes put his team in a 2-3 zone. The Buffaloes were buffaloed. They managed just three field goals the rest of the half. For the game, Colorado shot 35.4 percent.
That allowed Texas to build a 35-29 lead after the first 20 minutes. While the Longhorns were never able to turn the game into a blowout, they kept Colorado at bay by turning their misses into hits with offensive rebounds.
Even mighty-mite A.J. Abrams got in on the act. After the Buffs pulled to within 59-52 with 6:32 remaining, Abrams gathered his own miss and flipped in a follow shot in one motion. Colorado never got the deficit under nine points the rest of the way.
"It was a pretty typical game for us this season," said Bzdelik, whose team finished with the season with a 12-game losing streak. "We can't finish defensive possessions. When you give up 18 offensive rebounds and 24 second-chance points ... Texas was longer and stronger than we are."
* This game featured a "We Are The World" point guard match up - Texas sophomore point guard Dogus Balbay of Turkey vs. Colorado freshman Nate Tomlinson of Australia. The final stats: Balbay 24 minutes, three assists, two points, one turnover; Tomlinson 39 minutes, five points, two assists, three turnovers.
* Colorado finished with a school-record 22 victories, the most in the 108-year history of the basketball program.
* The No. 5 seed is 12-1 in Big 12 Championship history. The only time a No. 12 beat a No. 5 was last year when Colorado defeated Baylor in double overtime.
* In his last three games, Dexter Pittman is averaging over 19 points while shooting 65.6 percent (21-of-32).
* Cory Higgins, Colorado's leading scorer at 17.8 points a game, had five points and missed 10 of his 11 shots.