UT Ends Losing Skid, 99-74 Over Oklahoma State

The shots were falling. The point guard was rifling passes for easy baskets. The body language was better.

The losing skid is over.

A.J. Abrams scored 20 points and Texas snapped out of a three-game losing streak with a 99-74 win over Oklahoma State on Tuesday night.

"We dug ourselves a hole losing three in a row. Now we're going to do our best to fight back," Abrams said. "It was about time for us to start playing better."

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The Longhorns set a season high in points scored in avoiding their first four-game skid since an 0-4 start to the 1998-99 season, coach Rick Barnes' first at Texas. Five Longhorns scored in double figures against the Cowboys. Damion James finished with 19 points and Connor Atchley chipped in 14. Dogus Balbay got his first start at point guard and finished with seven assists.

"I like it better than what we've been doing. We came out wanting to attack," Barnes said.

Texas got the kind of team performance that could save a season. The trick now is to keep putting similar efforts on the floor against a schedule that sends the Longhorns on the road to games at Colorado and Texas A&M before they return home to face No. 2 Oklahoma.

"I think it kind of boosts morale," Abrams said. "It gives us confidence."

Texas (16-7, 5-4 Big 12) had lost its previous three games by a total of 11 points with the first going to overtime and the other two being decided on baskets in the final seconds. The skid dropped the Longhorns out of the Top 25 for the first time this season after climbing as high as No. 5 several weeks ago.

Against the Cowboys (14-9, 3-6), the Longhorns shot 64 percent in the first half and raced to an early 20-point lead before stretching it as high as 30 in the second.

Barnes, in desperate need of consistent offense, started Balbay to try to solve his team's problems at point guard. Balbay, a Turkey native, provided an instant spark, scoring eight points and dishing four assists in the first half.

Balbay's play seemed to loosen up the entire team, which played with more confidence than Longhorns fans had seen in a month.

"He just energized his team," said Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, whose team has lost four of its last five. "You could tell from the beginning they were pumped and ready to go."

The biggest benefactor seemed to be Abrams, the Big 12 career leader in the 3-pointers. He had struggled to find his shot in recent games as defenses looked for new ways to box him in or blanket him with defenders on the perimeter.

Abrams hit 4 of 5 3-pointers against the Cowboys. He looked more energized on defense and shook off the frustrated body language that hung over the Longhorns during the losing skid.

"I haven't seen that much daylight in a while," Abrams said.

Texas led 52-37 lead by halftime. In the second, Oklahoma State point guard Byron Eaton kept working hard to keep the Cowboys in the game, muscle his stocky frame through the lane for layups. The Cowboys got within 62-48 on a 3-pointer by Anderson before Abrams answered with his own and Texas quickly had the lead back up to 20 with 12 minutes to play, ending any chance of a rally.

Anderson finished with a game-high 35 points for the Cowboys.

"They shot the ball great today," Eaton said. "I don't think they ever had a dry moment."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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