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Durant makes fine line hold up

Texas freshman manages to score 27 points, including 15 free throws, to hold off New Mexico State, 79-67.

March 17, 2007|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

SPOKANE, WASH. — On a night when Kevin Durant struggled inside and outside, the Texas super-freshman found another way to lead his team to victory.

Time and again, Durant drove into the bigger New Mexico State front line, drawing fouls and making his free throws.

That was enough for fourth-seeded Texas to escape with a 79-67 victory over a No. 13-seeded opponent that hung tough all evening in this East Regional first-round game Friday at Spokane Arena.

Durant made 15 of 16 free throws -- more than the entire New Mexico State team combined -- to finish with a game-high 27 points.

His eight rebounds also tied for a game high.

"I just wanted to keep being aggressive," he said.

Mused New Mexico State Coach Reggie Theus: "Every time we made a run, it seemed like they were going to the line."

The Aggies came into the game hoping to press Texas out of its offensive flow and score points off a more physical front line.

The strategy worked early.

Center Hatila Passos, who finished with 15 points, and forward Justin Hawkins, who had 11, got off to good starts as New Mexico State had the lead for much of the first half.

But Texas answered with a run to take a three-point lead into halftime and the game settled into a tight struggle. The Longhorns widened the lead in the second half only to stumble against the press and watch New Mexico State scramble back into the game.

Then, with about three minutes left, Texas opened a seven-point lead and held on.

Guards D.J. Augustin had 19 points and A.J. Abrams 16. Texas also held its own on the boards with 30 rebounds, compared with New Mexico State's 34.

And Durant made his free throws.

"It's not supposed to be easy," Texas Coach Rick Barnes said. "I said, 'Keep driving, and you'll get the calls.' "

david.wharton@latimes.com

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