SALT LAKE CITY (Ticker) -- Darren Kelly scored eight of his 17 points during a decisive first-half run as fifth-seeded Texas held off No. 12 Indiana State for a 77-61 victory in a West Region first-round game.
The Longhorns (24-8) closed the first half with a 17-7 run, highlighted by Kelly, to grab a 39-26 cushion. They led by at least five points the rest of the way and by as many as 17 in the second half.
Senior Gabe Muoneke scored 16 points off the bench and Chris Mihm and Chris Owens each added 16 for Texas, which lost in the first round last season to Purdue as a seventh seed.
"I'm excited," Owens said. "I think we've had a pretty good year. We've had an up-and-down year, but we haven't played any better than what we're playing right now." The Longhorns will play fourth-seeded Louisiana State on Saturday in the second round at the Huntsman Center. LSU escaped with a 64-61 victory over No. 13 Southeast Missouri State today.
"I think the hardest game is the first game," said Texas' Rick Barnes, who improved to 2-6 as a coach in first-round games. "We'll have to see who we face. We haven't seen any tape on either team." Michael Menser scored 22 points for the Sycamores (22-10), who were in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since Larry Bird led them to the title game against Magic Johnson and Michigan State in 1979.
"I thought we had a great season," Indiana State forward Matt Renn said. "Getting 20 wins and making it to the NCAA Tournament was our goal, and we accomplished that. Hopefully, this will become a standard at Indiana State." The Sycamores won 20 of their last 26 games this season after a 2-4 start.
"They're as good of a team as we've played all year," Barnes said. "They could have finished in the top six in the Big 12." Menser scored seven points during a 14-2 run as Indiana State clawed within 56-51 with 9:22 to play. He scored all seven in succession for the Sycamores, hitting a short jumper, two free throws and a 3-pointer.
But Owens scored six points during an 8-0 run. He dunked twice around a jumper by Muoneke and hit a layup with 6:45 to play for a 64-51 advantage.
"It felt like we were down more than we actually were on the scoreboard," Indiana State guard Nate Green said. "They went on a 14-1 run and it felt like a 25-1 run." Texas led by at least eight points the rest of the way as Indiana State failed to score over the last 3:51, shooting just 40 percent (24-of-60) for the game.
The Longhorns shot 61 percent (30-of-49), using its size advantage to hold a 40-16 scoring cushion in the paint. They also outrebounded the Sycamores, 36-26.
"The first half, we weren't posting deep, so we decided that we needed to post the ball deeper and move the ball around a little more and get some shots," Owens said. "We felt we had a size advantage; that's why we worked the ball inside." Ivan Wagner played all 40 minutes for the Longhorns and had seven points and 10 assists.
"I thought Ivan Wagner was the key today," Barnes said. "He played a heckuva game." Indiana State led 22-19 on a 3-pointer by Menser with 7:52 left in the first half, but Texas scored 17 of the next 24 points to take a 13-point lead into the locker room.
Kelly tied it at 22 with one of his three 3-pointers during the run, which Mihm capped with a follow shot at the buzzer.