AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—At halftime, Texas’ Avery Bradley looked up to the scoreboard to see a rarity for the Longhorns of late: a lead.
A big one at that.
Bradley scored 25 points and No. 14 Texas used a big first half to romp to a 91-51 win over Nebraska on Saturday. The Longhorns’ 53-26 halftime lead was the first time since the Big 12 opener against Colorado back on Jan. 9 that Texas held the lead at halftime in a conference game.
“We were aware of that,” Bradley said. “It’s a good feeling.”
After losing five of their previous seven games, the Longhorns (20-5, 6-4) needed something to go right. Just about everything did against the last-place Cornhuskers (13-12, 1-9).
Texas shot 61 percent in the first half against the Big 12’s stingiest defense. They made a season-high 11 3-pointers, outrebounded Nebraska 49-27 and had five players score in double figures.
Texas even shot its free throws fairly well. One of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country, the Longhorns went 22 of 30 from the line.
The 40-point win was Texas’ largest in Big 12 play since a 41-point win over Kansas State in 1996-97. Texas also reached 20 wins for the 11th straight season.
“Wow, what do you say?” Nebraska coach Doc Sadler said. “From the get-go, it was men playing with boys. We couldn’t match their intensity. We couldn’t match anything they had.”
Ryan Anderson scored nine points to lead Nebraska, which shot 28 percent and made just 2 of 18 3-pointers.
Texas rose to No. 1 for two weeks in January before starting a slide that knocked them out of the Big 12 title chase. On Monday, top-ranked Kansas easily handled the Longhorns in an 80-68 Jayhawks victory.
Trying to add some scoring punch to his offense, Texas Coach Rick Barnes started J’Covan Brown at guard and let him handle the ball at the point most of the game.
Brown had 12 points but made a bigger impact with six assists passing to fellow freshman Bradley and others for open 3-pointers or flashy dunks. Gary Johnson and Damion James each scored 13 points and Jordan Hamilton added 16 points for the Longhorns.
Brown pushed the tempo against a defense that typically tries to slow down the game.
“(Coach) was just telling me find the guy with the hot hand that’s what I was doing. My job is to take over this team and get us to the national championship. I have to step up,” Brown said.
The hot hand was Bradley, who was 7 of 9 from the field in the first half. His first shot was blocked but he followed it seconds later with his first 3-pointer for Texas’ first basket. He made five of his six 3-pointers in the first half.
“When I saw Avery make three shots in a row, I was like ‘Get it to him.’ Ride the horse all day,” Brown said.
The Longhorns broke the game open with a 22-4 run over the final 6 minutes of the first half.
Nebraska’s Ray Gallegos made a 3-pointer to pull the Cornhuskers within 31-22 before two plays by Bradley sent Texas off and running.
After Bradley made his fourth 3-pointer of the half, Jai Lucas stole the ball and was falling to the ground when he passed to Brown. Bradley sprinted ahead and Brown lofted a soft alley-oop pass that Bradley grabbed over Nebraska’s Sek Henry for a one-handed dunk and drew the foul. Bradley’s free throw made it 39-22.
Bradley made another 3-pointer and Johnson followed it with another dunk. Nebraska, misfiring time and again, was unable to do anything to stem the run or keep up.
Anderson’s two free throws with 54 seconds left were Nebraska’s first points in 5 minutes.
“In terms of playing the way that I envision us to play, it was the first day all year that I thought we really played,” Barnes said.