Texas coach Rick Barnes came away from the Longhorns' meeting against No. 1 Kentucky amazed by what he called a "big-boy game."
The sixth-ranked Longhorns had their share of big boys and threw them at Kentucky's two platoons, but they no answer for Kentucky 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein in Friday night's 63-51 loss in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Cauley-Stein finished with a career-high 21 points and a season-best 12 rebounds in 33 minutes, and all were needed to put away Texas.
Asked what he thought about Cauley-Stein's play, Barnes said, "I wish he was on my team, that's what I think about him. ... We know he's a terrific player. I thought his composure, I mean, that was a really hard, physical game."
Jonathan Holmes scored 14 points and Demarcus Holland 10 for Texas (7-1), which shot just 30 percent in falling to 0-8 against the No. 1 team.
Texas fought hard, leading 20-14 in the first half and entering the break tied at 26 with the talented Wildcats. The Longhorns' athleticism helped them control the boards 27-11 in the first half, including a 15-2 edge on the offensive glass that helped build several first-half leads and keep them even at halftime.
Then came the lineup change and several key plays with Cauley-Stein making two steals along with a pair of free throws in a 10-0 run. Dakari Johnson added two jumpers while Trey Lyles had four points including a thunderous dunk off a feed from Johnson.
"'That was the difference," Barnes said of the run.
Texas later pulled to 56-51 with 1:44 remaining on Holmes' two free throws before Kentucky pulled away down the stretch.
"We competed," Holmes said. "We knew people were making a big deal about their size, but we knew it wasn't going to be any different for us. Our size and their size equaled each other out."
Texas held the Wildcats (8-0) to just 38-percent shooting (21 of 56) from the floor, including 1 for 12 from long range, and outrebounded them 42-31. But the Longhorns shot just 30 percent from the field.
Texas' biggest advantage was 20-14 before Longhorns senior forward Holmes was called for a flagrant-1 foul on Towns that sent the 6-11 freshman crashing to the floor. The momentum quickly changed as Towns made both free throws and then a jumper on the subsequent possession before grabbing a defensive rebound setting up Tyler Ulis' game-tying jumper.
ALL OR NOTHING
Free throws were an adventure for Texas reserve center Prince Ibeh, whose high-arcing shot had varying results. One attempt was an air ball that missed badly to the left; another bounced off the back of the rim before falling through. He finished 2 of 8 from the line.
Texas: The Longhorns committed 22 turnovers leading to 19 points.
Kentucky: The Wildcats missed all five 3-point attempts in the first half and were 1 of 12 overall.
Texas: Hosts Texas State on Dec. 13.
Kentucky: Hosts Eastern Kentucky on Sunday.