TULSA, Okla. — Texas coach Rick Barnes talked all season about his team’s willingness and ability to play up-tempo.
On Friday, he got a chance to show that speed off.
The second-round NCAA tournament game between Texas and Oakland sometimes looked like a track meet as the two sides traded baskets. Both coaches insisted they would bring a fast attack to the BOK Center, a strategy that led to quick scoring on both ends.
In the first 19 NCAA second-round games, the average combined final score was 134.7. Oakland and Texas put up 166, the single highest total so far as of Friday afternoon.
In addition the Longhorns’ 85 points were their most since a loss at Colorado on Feb. 26 and the fifth-highest total all season.
“We like to push the ball and they like to push the ball,” said Texas guard Cory Joseph. “So we knew it was going to be a high possession game and we just tried to capitalize as much as possible.”
On average, Texas scores 74.9 points per game, although it only averaged 72.1 points per conference game. Oakland came into the contest with the tournament’s best-scoring offense at 85.6 points per game and was thought to be the more up-tempo side.
Meanwhile, Texas developed a reputation this season, whether fair or not, of being a methodical half-court team because of a more structured, flex-style offense implemented by Barnes in the offseason. Texas also has the fifth-ranked field-goal percentage defense in the nation, adding to its perception as a deliberately down-tempo team.
But on Friday, the Longhorn guards were free to drive the lane and push the pace. It resulted in their highest-scoring game in almost a month.
Oakland tried its best to match Texas’ speed. Reggie Hamilton was the team’s primary fast-break enabler, finishing with 25 points. The senior point guard would take the inbound pass, dribble the full length of the court and if no one was open throw up a long shot. He attempted nine from beyond the arc.
“It’s wasn’t like they came down and ran an offensive set and was killing us on that,” said Texas senior Gary Johnson. “Guy came across half court, maybe two or three dribbles, pull up.”
The Grizzlies cut the lead to five with only 1:22 to play with a trey by Larry Wright. On the next Oakland possession, Hamilton brought it down, passed off the ball, then got it back about two steps above the arc. He shot a contested 3-pointer that made a 360-degree roll around the inside of the rim then popped out.
The game might have been even higher scoring, but Texas slowed it down after that, possessing the ball and forcing Oakland to foul.
“He made the tempo so that we ran out of time,” said Oakland coach Greg Kampe, referring to Barnes.