The Longhorns wrapped up what had been a disappointing trip to Hawaii with Texas's best effort of the Invitational. Sheldon McClellan hit a layup with 8:37 remaining in the first half for a 22-12 lead, and the Bulldogs never pulled to within single digits again.
"If we figure it out, we've got a chance to be good. There is a lot of basketball left, and we've got a lot of room for improvement," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "But the first thing that we've got to get is a consistent effort."
The Longhorns put together certainly their best offensive half in that first stanza, shooting a blistering 60 percent, including a 7-for-11 clip from three-point range. But Texas also got it done on the other end, holding Mississippi State (1-4) to 20 first-half points on 5-of-23 shooting.
And while the Longhorns slowed down considerably in the second half, shooting 40.7 percent and turning the ball over 15 times, the damage had already been done. Sheldon McClellan poured in 19 points and grabbed five rebounds off the bench, while Julien Lewis, starting for McClellan for the first time this year, scored 15 points. Lewis also led the Longhorns in turnovers with eight.
"I thought early, defensively, we really did some good things," he said. "I thought our offense would feed off that, but again, we don't understand the value of taking care of the ball in the second half."
If there was one positive that could be taken from the finale, it was probably the play of Cameron Ridley. The bruising center scored eight points, grabbed 12 rebounds, blocked five shots and had three steals, all in just 19 minutes, providing Texas with the inside presence it had been lacking. When added to another strong rebounding effort by Jonathan Holmes (nine boards), Texas won the rebounding battle for the first time in the Invitational, grabbing 41 rebounds to Mississippi State's 32.
Forward Roquez Johnson was about the only player to show up for the Bulldogs, scoring 18 points, grabbing six rebounds and snatching six steals. But even he had seven turnovers. Fred Thomas joined him in double digits with 10 points, but he shot just 2-for-10 to get those.
Texas entered the tournament as an easy favorite to move on to the semifinals, but was tripped up by a poor showing against Chaminade in the opener. The Longhorns played better against USC, but still came up short in overtime. Texas (3-2) is now off until Tuesday, when the Longhorns will take on Sam Houston State at 7 p.m.