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Texas edges Oklahoma St., takes top seed in Big 12 tournament

Mar 10, 2008 - 1:15 AM AUSTIN, Texas (Ticker) -- A.J. Abrams picked a good time to find his range.

With the top seed in the Big 12 tournament on the line, Abrams scored seven of his nine points down the stretch as No. 9 Texas held off Oklahoma State for a 62-57 victory Sunday.

D.J. Augustin led the way with 20 points for the Longhorns (26-5, 13-3 Big 12), who finished with a share of the Big 12 title with Kansas and will headline this week's league tournament due in part to a 72-69 home victory over the Jayhawks on February 11.

"It was a great win, and we didn't expect it to be easy because we had to earn it," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "I have to compliment our guys for that, because I do think they worked really hard and got it done."

"We're pretty excited," Abrams said. "That was one goal we set for ourselves and we accomplished it. We're pretty happy with what we've done so far, but this is just one step for us. We just have to keep playing and keep getting better."

After leading by as many as 10 points in the first half, Texas saw Oklahoma State (16-14, 7-9) turn the tables, grabbing a 39-37 edge on the strength of a 12-4 run that began the second half.

"I wasn't surprised, because they knew what they were playing for and we came out like a team that wanted to get it done quickly," Barnes said of the good first half. "(In the second half) we mishandled the ball and missed some shots, and that itself is a lesson for us."

Although the Longhorns did manage to pull back ahead, 51-45, on two free throws by Justin Mason with 6:24 to play, the Cowboys would not go away, closing within two points after a pair of foul shots from Byron Eaton with 4:21 remaining.

That was when Abrams came alive. After missing 12 of his first 13 attempts from the field, the junior guard hit a pull-up jumper that made it 53-49 with 2:33 to go.

After Terrel Harris had a layup for Oklahoma State, Abrams came back with his only 3-pointer of the game for a 56-51 advantage with 1:45 left.

"He likes drama," Barnes said of the late shots by Abrams. "We want A.J. to shoot it. That's his role he has to play. In the first half, I think he was 1-for-8 and I think four of those shots were because he was antsy and jumpy. But for the most part, he hasn't allowed it to affect his defense or the way he carries himself."

"My teammates and my coaches always tell me to keep shooting," Abrams said. "My role on the team is to be a scorer and try to get people involved. I put in work in the offseason. You don't want to let all of that go to waste, so I just had to keep shooting."

The Cowboys did close within two points once again at 56-54 on a shot from the arc by Harris with 36 seconds left, but two free throws from Abrams and four from Damion James sealed the win for the Longhorns.

James ended up 6-of-8 on foul shots and Texas went 22-of-29 from the stripe, including 11-of-15 in the second half.

"We didn't win the game, but our guys gave great effort and they did everything that we asked them to do in regards to our game plan and to put ourselves in a position to win," Oklahoma State coach Sean Sutton said. "We just didn't come up with a few plays down the stretch. But we played tough, we played hard and we competed against a great basketball team from start to finish."

James finished with 13 points and a career-high 18 rebounds for Texas, which finished the regular season with 10 wins in its last 11 games.

Eaton and Harris had 12 points each for Oklahoma State, which shot 34 percent (23-of-67) in losing for the second straight time.

The Cowboys will be the ninth seed in the Big 12 tournament, facing Texas Tech on Thursday. The winner will meet the top-seeded Longhorns.

"Today, we played Texas very close, and I think we have a chance to go the tournament and make some noise," said Oklahoma State guard Obi Munelo, who scored 10 points. "We're excited about going to the tournament and we're going to take it one game at a time and we're still confident."