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Durant leads Texas over New Mexico State

Mar 17, 2007 - 6:33 AM SPOKANE, Washington (Ticker) -- Freshman sensation Kevin Durant kept Texas from being perfect, but his teammates won't complain.

Durant scored 27 points to lead the fourth-seeded Longhorns to a 79-67 victory over upset-minded New Mexico State in an NCAA Tournament East Region first-round matchup.

Texas (25-9) advances to a second-round matchup against either Southern California or Arkansas on Sunday.

Durant had a quiet night by his usual magnificent standards, failing to score a field goal for nearly 12 minutes in the second half as the 13th-seeded Aggies charged back from a 14-point halftime deficit to go ahead, 60-57, with just over 6 1/2 minutes left.

Texas answered back with an 18-6 run that featured eight points from Durant - all on free throws - to assume a 76-66 advantage with 1:10 to play.

"They did a great job of denying me the ball," Durant said. "When I got the ball in the post they sent two or three guys at me. But I gave the ball up to my teammates and they made plays as well and I got to the free-throw line and hit my free throws."

The stripe proved to be decisive in the contest as the Longhorns made 25-of-26 from the game, with a miss from Durant keeping them from a perfect tally.

"I thought we were a little bit jumpy to start with, which you kind of expect that this time of year," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "But once we settled in about 10 minutes, I thought that the way we ended the half offensively, I thought the second half we would come out and continue that. And I thought we did a pretty good job with it."

The Longhorns came out strong in the second half, using an early 11-0 run to take a 47-33 lead. Connor Atchley had five points in the spurt, including a 3-pointer, and finished with seven points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.

"He played great tonight. He came in and got some key rebounds for us," guard A.J. Abrams said. "He played his role to the T. He came in, set screens, got other guys open, and he rebounded and got some offensive put-backs and I think that's what we need from him."

New Mexico State (25-9) showed its mettle as Elijah Ingram hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start a 19-6 surge. Ingram had 11 points in the run to slice the deficit to 53-52 and it remained tight until Durant stepped up with his clutch free-throw shooting.

"When we went up with the about six minutes or so left in the game, all I told our guys is that we would have a chance if we out rebounded them, and played harder than they did, we would have our chance," Aggies coach Reggie Theus said. "They were phenomenal from the free-throw line. Every time we made a run it seemed like they were going to the line."

Freshman point guard D.J. Augustin added 19 points and Abrams 16 for Texas, which shot 49 percent (25-of-51) from the field.

"we came back after losing the lead, got control of the game and finished," Barnes said. "We aren't just a one-man team"

Ingram and Hatila Passos carried New Mexico State with 16 and 15 points, respectively.

    --- --- -----
    NEW MEXICO ST 30 37 67
    TEXAS 33 46 79 FINAL

    Mar 16 9:40 PM
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    New Mexico State vs. TexasMar 16 9:23 PM
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    Mar 16 8:17 PM