(Sports Network) – J’Covan Brown scored 21 points and Jordan Hamilton added 19, as Texas opened a big lead and withstood a late Oakland rally to pull out an 85-81 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Tristan Thompson, the Big 12’s top freshman, contributed 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots for Texas (28-7), which was coming off a loss to Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament title game and is making its 13th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Cory Joseph chipped in 11 points in the victory.
The Longhorns, seeded fourth in the West Region, will next take on the winner between Arizona and Memphis in the third round on Sunday.
Reggie Hamilton scored 25 points for the Golden Grizzlies (25-10), who won the Summit League crown for the second straight year and made its third NCAA Tournament appearance. Oakland won an opening-round game before losing to North Carolina in 2005 and as a 14th seed last year dropped an 89-66 decision to Pittsburgh.
The Grizzlies were considered a potential upset threat this year because of a non-conference schedule that included a win at then-No. 7 Tennessee in December and narrow losses to Big Ten members Illinois and Michigan State. Oakland also lost to NCAA Tournament qualifiers West Virginia, Purdue, Michigan and Ohio State during its rigorous early slate, but the prep work didn’t help much against the bigger Longhorns.
Summit League Player of the Year Keith Benson was mostly a non-factor inside despite a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Texas led by as many as 17 in the second half and held a comfortable margin until Oakland made a late run. Down 15 with five minutes remaining, Reggie Hamilton’s three-point play capped a burst of seven straight Oakland points to make it a 78-70 game with 2:38 left.
Texas then turned the ball over, but Oakland failed to convert. Brown made two from the stripe for the Longhorns, but the Grizzlies answered with a Reggie Hamilton layup and a three-pointer from Larry Wright to pull within five.
After Joseph made one free throw at the other end, Hamilton’s three-point try rimmed out with 46 seconds left and Joseph connected on two from the stripe. The Longhorns sealed it from there at the line.
Brown made all 12 of his free throws and the Longhorns finished 21-of-26 from the line.
Oakland opened a 7-4 lead early, but Texas responded with six straight points and never trailed again. After Dogus Balbay started the spurt with a jumper, Jordan Hamilton’s layup put the Longhorns ahead and Thompson added a hook shot for a 10-7 lead.
The Grizzlies stayed close for the next couple of minutes, but Gary Johnson’s layup with just over 13 minutes left ignited another string of six consecutive Texas points. Brown drilled a three-pointer and Jordan Hamilton hit one free throw for a 20-13 edge with 11:49 left in the half.
Texas opened a 31-19 advantage a few minutes later on a Johnson bucket and it was still a 12-point lead with 6 1/2 minutes remaining when Oakland rattled off seven straight to pull within 33-28. The Longhorns followed with a 7-2 burst to restore a 10-point margin and carried a 46-38 lead to the intermission.
Oakland pulled within seven a couple of times early in the second half, the last time at 51-44, but Texas again had an answer. Thompson scored the next four, Joseph drilled a three-pointer and Brown made two from the line to give the Longhorns a 60-44 cushion with just under 13 1/2 minutes to play and it soon after reached 63-46 on a three by Jai Lucas.
Thompson set a school record for blocks in an NCAA Tournament game…Will Hudson scored 14 and grabbed 10 rebounds for Oakland, which also got 10 points from Travis Bader…The Longhorns improved to 16-5 in their opening NCAA Tournament game since the expansion to 64 teams in 1985. They had won four straight NCAA openers before an 81-80 overtime loss to Wake Forest last year…Texas’ current run of NCAA appearances is bettered only by Kansas (22), Duke (16) and Michigan State (14)…This marked the first meeting between the schools.