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Texas 82, N.C.-Asheville 61

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., March 21 (UPI) -- James Thomas had eight of his 13 points in the first half and Brian Boddicker provided an early spark off the bench Friday as the top-seeded Texas Longhorns cruised past North Carolina-Asheville, 82-61, in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament.

Texas (23-6) used a 10-0 run in the game's opening five minutes to open a 12-2 advantage and was never headed. Six players scored as the Longhorns improved to 10-3 in first-round games since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

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"We really wanted to come out and get our running game going," Texas Coach Rick Barnes said. "We knew that UNC-Asheville would be a patient team. They would want to run their offense. I think our team understood how good Asheville is."

No regional top seed ever has lost their first-round matchup.

"We knew it was a new season," Texas guard T.J. Ford said. "If you lose, you go home. We aren't ready to go home yet and end our season. We just wanted to have fun. We ran our offense and got up and down the floor."

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North Carolina-Asheville, the Big South Conference champion, earned the right to face Texas by knocking off Texas Southern in the tournament's play-in game on Tuesday.

Andre Smith had 19 points for the Bulldogs, who were participating in the NCAA Tournament for the first time.

"This was really a great experience for our school and our team," Bulldogs Coach Eddie Biedenbach said. "We wanted to show a little better on the court, but we have a great team and a tight-knit group of guys.

"That's one thing that you don't see often in college basketball today. We'll miss these seniors, but they built a base for this program which could lead to future appearances in this tournament."

The Longhorns, who posted their largest margin of victory ever in an NCAA Tournament game, will play Purdue in the second round on Sunday.

After the teams traded baskets in the opening 40 seconds, Brandon Mouton grabbed an offensive rebound and converted it into a basket that sparked the 10-0 run. Brad Buckman, Thomas, Jason Klotz and Boddicker also scored in the spurt.

Texas kept the pressure on, extending the lead to 15-4 on a layup by Thomas with 13:35 left.

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With North Carolina-Asheville struggling from the outside, the Longhorns built their biggest advantage of game at 29-10 on a layup by Mouton with 7:04 remaining. The Bulldogs got within 36-26 at the half.

North Carolina-Asheville scored the opening basket of the second half to draw within eight, but Texas went on a 10-4 run, capped by Mouton's jumper with 17:18 to go.

"We always want to cut a big lead to at least 10 points before the half," North Carolina-Asheville's Ben McGonagil said. "That way it doesn't seem as insurmountable as it did before. At halftime we thought we had a good shot to make a game of it, but they had a big run in the second half."

"We felt good that we were in the game and weren't getting blown out," Smith said of the first half. "We managed to cut it to single digits and feel good going into the half."

The Bulldogs got within 61-48 midway through the second half but Ford had a layup that sparked a 16-8 run that sealed the victory.

North Carolina-Asheville shot 37 percent, including five of 21 from three-point range.

Texas made half of its 62 shots and held an overwhelming 47-29 edge on the boards.

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Biedenbach gave Barnes his first coaching job, hiring him as an assistant at Davidson in 1978.

"It is hard," Barnes conceded. "Eddie has been around a long time. I think everyone knows about what he means to me. I could rave about him all day because of what he means to me."

The Longhorn reserves outscored their Bulldog counterparts, 38-6.

Mouton led Texas with 15 points and Ford had 11 assists -- a Longhorn NCAA Tournament record -- but shot just two of seven and finished with eight points. Boddicker finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes -- his first career double-double.

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