HOUSTON (AP) _ D.J. Augustin was hanging back, playing defense, trying to protect a slim lead. Then he saw a bad pass going the other way, toward midcourt.
Augustin beat two Stanford players going for the ball, then turned it into an uncontested layup. The play was so perfect in its execution and timing that Texas coach Rick Barnes jumped up, yelled "Yeah, baby!" and gave a fist pump.
The breakaway basket was an early spark in a 20-3 run that sent the Longhorns past Stanford 82-62 Friday night and into the NCAA's South Regional final. Second-seeded Texas will have quite a challenge with top-seeded Memphis, but Barnes likes his chances with Augustin running the show.
"He's as good as any basketball player out there," Barnes said.
The Longhorns (31-6) set a school record for victories and got to the regional final for the second time in three years, and third time in six. Augustin deserves plenty of credit for this team's success — but, against Stanford (28-8), he got help from an unlikely source, sophomore Dexter Pittman.
A sophomore who arrived in Austin weighing 366 pounds, he's down to 299 but still only a bit player. Barnes figured the jumbo reserve would make life rough on Stanford's big guys, the 7-foot Lopez twins, and his hunch was right on.
Leaning, pounding and pestering, Pittman changed the game in only 10 minutes. His second-half effort on Brook Lopez turned him from someone who scored 24 of the Cardinal's first 48 points into a guy who didn't make a basket the final 13:55.
"I felt he was getting frustrated because I heard him talking," said Pittman, who had four points and six rebounds in 10 minutes. "My goal was to make sure I keep my body at him on all times — whenever the ball goes up, whenever the ball is in the guard's hands, make sure my body is on him. Even on offense, I could clear the lane out and move him where he couldn't block shots."
As time ran out, Brook pounded the court in anger as he walked to the postgame handshake. In the interview room, he turned his head away when asked questions about Pittman.
"I think I just stopped playing aggressive since he was guarding me, throwing up low-percentage shots," said Lopez, who finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds. "He just bodied up against me and tried to push me off the lane."
Said Barnes of Pittman: "I thought he was huge."
Just to clear, he meant that as a compliment.
Damion James scored 18 points and A.J. Abrams scored 12. Augustin added seven assists and five rebounds and Justin Mason had seven points, eight rebounds and six assists, providing plenty of thrills for the tens of thousands of Texas (31-6) fans at Reliant Stadium.
"We had a feeling we'd have a good load of our fans down here," Abrams said. "They did a good job of getting this place loud and really supporting us. It really helped us out when they started coming back and they got into it."
Stanford had little offense outside of Brook Lopez. The second-most points came from reserve Landry Fields — just 11. No one else had more than six.
The starting backcourt went 2-for-16, scoring six points; a pair of 3s by Mitch Johnson, one going into halftime and another coming out. The game was 17:29 old before the Cardinal finally hit anything longer than an 8-footer.
"For whatever reason, we didn't hit shots we normally make," coach Trent Johnson said.
The Cardinal already were on their deepest run since 2001. Whether they can get back next year might depend on whether Lopez and his 7-foot twin brother, Robin, stick around for their junior years. Regardless, Johnson told his team how proud he was that they gave UCLA a run for the regular-season Pac-10 title and in the conference tournament, then made a nice run in the NCAAs.
"As hard as it is for me to say, they are better," Johnson said of Texas. "They have got three, four guys who are pretty good basketball players, and it would be easy for me to sit up here and say, 'Well, we ran out of gas or didn't do this or didn't do that.' We have done what we've done all year long. We competed and came up short because they were better at crucial times."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.