College Station, Texas — Texas coach Rick Barnes is convinced Texas A&M plays harder against his team than it does against anyone else.
“That’s a fact, and I’ve got tape to prove it,” Barnes said.
A&M coach Mark Turgeon says his team plays hard every game. But after an 81-66 victory over the Longhorns on Monday night, he did acknowledge things are a bit different against this rival.
“Our building is pretty inspired,” Turgeon said. “(There’s) something about Texas that gets us going. Now if we can just pretend we’re playing Texas every night.”
Chinemelu Elonu and Bryan Davis scored 15 points apiece to lead the Aggies to the victory that broke a three-game losing streak.
“We had to have it,” Turgeon said. “That’s an understatement.”
The Aggies (18-8, 4-7 Big 12) led by as many as 19 points in the second half before Texas went on a 16-1 run to get back in the game.
“I think at that point in the game we were doing the things we talked about to get the win,” Longhorn A.J. Abrams said. “They just withstood the run we put on and put one on themselves.”
Texas (17-8, 6-5) cut the deficit to 61-57 before the Aggies scored seven straight points to stretch their lead back to double-digits with about five minutes left.
The Aggies made nine free throws after that to secure the victory.
Gary Johnson led the Longhorns with 17 points, but had to sit for large parts of the second half because of foul trouble.
Abrams, who entered the game averaging more than 17 points, was held to seven points on 3-of-12 shooting thanks in part to dogged defense by Derrick Roland.
“I guess he was just getting frustrated and stopped running his screens as hard,” Roland said of Abrams.
Both coaches agreed that Abrams, who rarely sits down, looked tired Monday night. Barnes hopes he can recharge before the Longhorns host No. 2 Oklahoma on Saturday.
Donald Sloan added 14 points for the Aggies, who hadn’t won since Jan. 31.
“It was a huge game for them,” Barnes said. “But it should have been a huge game for us.”
The Longhorns, who had won two straight after their own three-game losing streak, are trying to find a cure for their up and down play.
“It’s not anything about X’s and O’s, we just didn’t play with the intensity we needed to tonight,” Abrams said. “If I could figure that out, if Coach could figure that out, I’m sure we would do it.”
Damion James had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Texas and Dexter Pittman added 13 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out late.