tampabay.com

Texas' Tucker wanted title, not just atonement

By wire services
Published March 12, 2006


DALLAS - P.J. Tucker insists he wasn't motivated by the chance to atone for his big mistake in the last Texas loss.

Trying to get the No. 8 Longhorns into the Big 12 tournament championship was enough to drive him.

Tucker did both Saturday, making up for his previous late-game miscue against Texas A&M with a season-high 26 points and 13 rebounds in a 74-70 semifinal victory over the Aggies.

"P.J. is special, he is. His mind-set, what he's got," coach Rick Barnes said. "I don't think he had any more motivation. ... This time of year, you would expect what he did today."

The Longhorns (27-5) set a school record for victories while avenging a 46-43 loss 10 days earlier at Texas A&M. In that game, Tucker was dribbling around after a timeout when the shot clock ran out with 5.9 seconds left. Acie Law then hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Aggies.

"Everybody has been talking about getting a rematch with A&M just because how we ended," Tucker said. "Truth be known, it don't really matter who we play. ... I would have been motivated anyway. I don't think specific teams motivate me. Just playing basketball does."

Especially after being declared academically ineligible midway through last season and watching the Longhorns get eliminated after only one game in both the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.

Tucker got his academic work in order and back on the court. He was the AP Big 12 player of the year and led Texas to a share of its first conference championship since 1999.

Now the Longhorns will play for their first conference tournament title since 1995. Texas plays in its third Big 12 tournament championship game today against No. 17 Kansas. Texas' last tourney title was in the Southwest Conference.

The Aggies (21-8) had an eight-game winning streak snapped and will have to wait to find out if they get their first NCAA bid since 1987.

Even while going scoreless the last 5:45 Saturday, Tucker was very involved.

Law's two free throws with 3:36 left broke a 64-all tie, putting the Aggies ahead for the only time since midway through the first half.

Tucker had a shot hit off the front iron, which was rebounded by LaMarcus Aldridge and passed out to Kenton Paulino for a go-ahead 3-pointer. After snagging a rebound, Tucker drove and handed the ball inside to Brad Buckman for a layup that made it 69-66.

NO. 17 KANSAS 79, NEBRASKA 65: Mario Chalmers had 18 points, seven assists and six reboundsin the other semifinal game in the Big 12 tournament.

After a rough and tumble, one-point quarterfinal victory over Oklahoma State that went down to the buzzer, the Jayhawks (24-7) used the finesse of 3-point shooting to turn this one into a rout before halftime. The lead peaked at 21 early in the second half and the Cornhuskers (19-12) were never closer than 12 after that.

Kansas won for the 14th time in 15 games, the kind of roll the Jayhawks hope will be rewarded with a higher seed in the NCAA tournament. While they'll have another chance to impress the selection committee by playing in the Big 12 final today, that game tips off about the time the bracket is being finalized, making it tough for that result to be factored in.

Still, returning to the conference finals is a nice accomplishment for Kansas.

The Jayhawks won the first three Big 12 tournament titles (1997-99), but have been back to the championship game only once since then, in 2002. This berth means they've reached the finals in five of the league's 10 years. It'll be their first appearance under coach Bill Self.

Jason Dourisseau led Nebraska with 16 points and Wes Wilkinson added 15. Aleks Maric scored 12 and Marcus Perry had 10.

The Cornhuskers ended a surprising run at an NCAA berth. The loss likely turned the program's focus back to questions about whether coach Barry Collier will keep his job.