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March 28, 2008

Texas blows by Stanford in South Regional

VIDEO: Texas moves on | MORE: Rivals.com NCAA Tourney Central

HOUSTON - For the first 30 minutes, Stanford's Brook Lopez did just about whatever he wanted against Texas.

The 7-footer kept No. 3 seed Stanford (28-9) within striking distance early on, scoring 15 points in the first half of the South Regional semifinal. With 9:26 left, Lopez already had 26 points and No. 2 seed Texas was clinging to a 58-53 lead.

But Lopez was shut down from then on, failing to score another point as the Longhorns pulled away for an 82-62 rout in front of 32,931 fans at Reliant Stadium. The Longhorns (31-6) are making their second trip to the Elite Eight in three years, and will face Memphis on Sunday for the right to go to the Final Four.

Texas wore down Lopez with a wave of different big men, particularly hefty reserve Dexter Pittman, whose 6-foot-10, 295-pound frame seemed to bother Lopez in the final minutes.

"Brook is a great player and he made some big shots, but Dexter came in and I don't think he could handle that weight on him," said Texas point guard D.J. Augustin, who scored a game-high 23 points and had seven assists.

The Longhorns showed great balance, with four players scoring in double figures and their five starters combining for 70 points. Damion James had 18 points, putting him in double figures in all three of the Longhorns' NCAA Tournament games. A.J. Abrams chipped in 12 and Connor Atchley added 10. Justin Mason finished with eight rebounds, seven points and six assists.

But Texas coach Rick Barnes was most proud of the contributions of reserve big men Gary Johnson, Clint Chapman and Pittman, who combined for nine points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes.

"I really thought this was a terrific team win," Barnes said. "The five (starters) have been doing it all year for us, but the minutes that our bench gave us by coming in, putting bodies on their post players and trying to stay attached to them was really important."

It was the entirely opposite story for Stanford. Lopez got little help from his supporting cast. The rest of the team combined to shoot 27.9 percent (12 of 43) from the field. Starters Fred Washington and Anthony Goods combined to miss all nine of their attempts.

Brook's 7-foot twin, Robin, was limited by foul trouble and wasn't much of a factor. Robin Lopez scored just six points in 21 minutes.

With Robin on the bench early in the second half, Stanford went on an 11-4 run which included three baskets from his brother and cut the lead to 52-51 with 12:54 left. But Abrams used a screen to get free for a 3-pointer on Texas' next possession and James dunked an Augustin miss, igniting what ended up being a 24-5 game-clinching run for the Longhorns.

Lopez missed three shots around the basket during that decisive stretch, getting blocked once by Pittman and once by Mason.

Stanford's chances of returning to the Sweet 16 hinge largely on whether Brook Lopez, projected as a top-10 pick, will make the jump to the NBA. If Brook were to come back for his junior season, the Cardinal would return every key player for the 2008-09 campaign.

VIDEO: Texas moves on | MORE: Rivals.com NCAA Tourney Central

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