AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—His team had rolled up 96 points and improved to 10-0. Yet all Texas coach Rick Barnes wanted to talk about was how badly the No. 4 Longhorns played defense.
Too many times, Texas State blew past Texas guards on drives to the basket for close shots or kicked the ball out for wide-open 3-pointers.
Eventually, Texas’ overall talent won out and carried the Longhorns to a 96-81 victory, but Barnes made it clear that more performances like that and his team won’t be undefeated for long.
“It’s the defense where we just weren’t solid. Some guys didn’t do the job they needed to do,” Barnes said.
To force his point, Texas stayed in man-to-man defense the entire game and played no zone that might have stopped some of the dribble penetration by Bobcats guards.
“I told them that this is what we need. I just don’t think they handled it very well,” Barnes said. “I don’t think we got better, and that’s what disappointed me.”
The bright spot was Connor Atchley’s 26 points and 10 rebounds. D.J. Augustin overcame a 1-of-7 shooting start to score 24 points and A.J. Abrams scored 20.
Atchley was 9-of-11 shooting and his 14 points in the first half helped dig the Longhorns out of an early deficit. His 3-pointers in the second provided the big shots when the Longhorns needed them.
Texas State had cut a 20-point Texas lead to 11 when Atchley buried a 3-pointer from the right wing with just under three minutes to play.
“Connor is the only guy who actually did a pretty good job,” Barnes said.
Texas State (5-4) used a rotation of 13 players to keep fresh bodies on the court and constant pressure on Augustin when he handled the ball.
It worked when Augustin tired near the end, but by then the Bobcats’ early lead had disappeared and it was too late to rally for a possible upset.
Playing their first game in a week, the Longhorns got off to a sloppy start with three quick turnovers and misfires on several open looks. The Longhorns missed eight of their first nine 3-pointers and didn’t take their first lead, 16-15, until midway through the first half.
Texas State led for much of the first half and kept it close by hitting six 3-pointers and driving for close shots.
“We knew they were going to push at us and they have some great guards,” Augustin said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
Atchley finished the half with a flurry, scoring 14 points over the final 10 minutes to help Texas take a 42-40 lead into the break.
Texas seemed ready to seize control with a 14-6 run that opened up a 56-46 lead when Atchley hit a 3-pointer. Augustin hit two tough shots off spinning drives in the lane to build the lead to 64-50.
The Bobcats rallied to cut it to six on Corey Jefferson’s short jumper before they started to miss the shots that were falling in the first half. Texas also started stretching its lead from the free throw line, hitting 22 of 30 free throws in the second half.
“We really played and competed with the belief we should win the basketball game,” Texas State coach Doug Davalos said. “The second half, there was a run that knocked us back.”
Augustin scored seven straight points and Atchley hit another 3-pointer from deep in the left corner to make it 76-62. When Abrams hit a 3-pointer from right side and Atchley followed it with a 3-point play after a tough putback, the Longhorns led 86-65.
“Connor keeps getting better every day,” Augustin said. “He’s done everything for us.”
Brent Benson scored 15 points for Texas State.