It took four games and most of a fifth, but when the light came on, Myck Kabongo shone like few to wear the Longhorns jersey ever have.
Really, it took 39 games (more on that in a minute), but however you want to look at it, the Longhorns' sophomore point guard delivered an epic performance on Wednesday night, leading the Longhorns' to a 92-86 victory over Oklahoma with an outrageous stat line of 37 minutes played, 31 points on 9 of 13 shooting (2-4 from three, 11-14 at the line), with 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals. Off the top of my head, the only individual performance that I can recall matching Kabongo's final 13 minutes against OU is Kevin Durant's first half against Kansas in '07.
Led by Kabongo and a hellacious pressure defense, Texas erased a 22-point deficit in the final 7:54 in the game, none harder than the final two:
The final shot was a miracle, but there was nothing lucky about the rest of Kabongo's exceptional second half, which was -- in a word -- dominant. Myck took over the game as only a high elite player can, elevating Texas to a glorious win in what has been a wretched season -- for him as he endured a horsesh*t suspension and the team as a whole as it struggled to recalibrate without him.
Wednesday night's game was a bittersweet object lesson on so many different different levels. It provided the clearest evidence imaginable that this team would have been drastically different with Kabongo in the line up for all or most of the season. It also provided the clearest evidence imaginable that unless Myck has a burning desire to prove something at the NCAA level, he'll be playing basketball professionally a year from now.
On a happier note, the win also said a lot about his teammates. The point guard we've seen in his first five games back this year is substantially improved over a year ago, playing like the elite playmaker that Longhorns hoops fans were so excited to see last year. It's a reminder of how unfortunate it is that he was missing for so much of this season, but also an encouraging reminder of the improvement we can expect from this young Longhorns team a year from now.
That last point is an important one, I think. This young group has been disappointing in the same way Myck Kabongo was as a freshman: very promising at times, but on the whole not what Texas fans wanted to see.
On Wednesday night we saw the Myck Kabongo that got us so thrilled about his arrival in Austin as a freshman. It makes me nauseous to think about what we missed out on this season -- enough so that I'm not going to subject myself -- or you -- to it. Not right now, anyway. Not while there's still a few games of basketball left, at least.
I wrote in the game preview that for those of us who can't hep but care, the only thing left to do this season was hope that this team found a spark, got hot, and found a way to make a run through the Big 12 Tournament -- that, like it or not, our March Madness started now.
Myck Kabongo's performance down the stretch was more like a volcanic eruption, but it couldn't have happened at a better time.
Let's enjoy it while we can.
Oh, one other thing: if you missed it, this was the play that put OU up by 22 with 7:54 left in the game:
Nothing tastes quite so sweet as the tears of a Sooner. Enjoy the whole thing: