AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—Dexter Pittman simply followed instructions from coach Rick Barnes and wound up having a fun night.
Pittman set career highs with 21 points and 11 rebounds, leading No. 8 Texas to a 78-43 victory over Appalachian State on Friday.
“I was doing the execution that Coach wanted, when Coach told me to look inside, get the ball and duck in, and it worked all game,” Pittman said. “They had a big guy in the middle (285-pound Isaac Butts) so I knew they would let us bang around a little and that was great.”
The 6-foot-10, 298-pound Pittman scored the final seven Texas points of the first half and the first six of the second half as the Longhorns (11-2) went on a 19-2 run to take a 44-23 lead with 14:58 left.
“Dexter probably should have had even more points but it seemed like it took us forever early in the game to get our scoring together,” Barnes said. “Early in the game we had three starters with two fouls and we had a lineup on the floor that we have never used before. Finally we got everyone to understand that they could not stop Dex inside and that’s when he scored the 13 straight points and we kind of opened up the lead.”
Texas held Appalachian State (5-5) scoreless for nearly seven minutes as the Longhorns used Pittman’s inside play to take control.
Texas led 17-8 after a 6-0 run midway through the first half but the Mountaineers answered with a 7-0 spurt to pull to 20-17.
Appalachian State missed three straight free throws that would have tied the game and Texas broke a 3-minute scoring drought with a pair of free throws by Pittman.
The Longhorns forced a shot clock violation with 2:43 left in the first half and outscored the Mountaineers 7-2 over the final 2:11 to take a 32-23 halftime lead.
Pittman, who also set a career high for minutes, scored seven of his 11 first-half points in the final 2:11. He used his 80-plus-pound advantage to dominate the paint with a pair of dunks and a deft jump hook. Pittman grabbed five first-half rebounds while connecting on four of six shots and hitting all three free throws.
Pittman then scored six straight points to open the second half. He has scored 17, 19 and 21 points in the last three Texas home games, all against mid-major opponents.
Damion James finished with his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Gary Johnson had five blocked shots for Texas to go with his 16 points and nine boards.
“Damion had good practices this past week. I knew he was ready to have a good game and he put up big numbers for just playing 19 minutes due to his early foul trouble, but we need Justin Mason to become more aggressive with the ball,” Barnes said.
The 35-point victory was the largest margin of the season for the Longhorns, who have won 80 of their last 84 home games against unranked opponents.
“We intended to take away their perimeter game,” Barnes said. “They were averaging about 80 points a game and we held them to 43. It was a good defensive effort.”
Kellen Brand was the only Mountaineers player in double digits with 12 points. Appalachian State shot only 30 percent from the field and connected on three of 18 attempts from beyond the arc.
“We did not have many open shots and we missed the few we had. It became a frustrating game. Texas really forces their defense on you when you shoot your 3s,” Brand said.