Head coach Shaka Smart didn't believe that the Texas Longhorns achieved a moral victory in a close loss to the Oklahoma Sooners several weeks ago in Norman. So his Longhorns went out and got a bona-fide victory in resounding fashion in the Erwin Center on Saturday, using a late 22-0 run to earn a 76-63 win front of a boisterous sellout crowd.
When Oklahoma star Buddy Hield made a jump shot with less than eight minutes left in the game, he pushed the Sooners to a 58-51 lead. Texas was in some trouble, needing to respond once again to the hot shooting of the visitors.
In the midst of a season full of big baskets, Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor responded, scoring on a driving layup, finishing through a foul. He made his free throw and then the Sooners finally went cold from the field. Connor Lammert made a three pointer, trapping defense on Hield forced a turnover, and a foul on the other end and two Taylor free throws seized the lead for the first time since starting the game on a 5-0 run.
With Smart employing a halfcourt trap to disrupt the Oklahoma offense -- Hield in particular -- and Texas surging with confidence with the backing of the crowd, the Sooners didn't score again until 35 seconds remained on the clock, when a Hield three pointer was only enough to close the lead to 73-61. The made basket ended a field-goal drought of seven minutes for Oklahoma.
Credit Smart's adjustment for that.
A lay up from Taylor when Oklahoma wanted to foul but couldn't catch the speedy point guard, a block by Roach on a three-point attempt by Hield had already put the exclamation point on the win by the time Hield finally broke the drought. Or maybe it was the subsequent breakaway dunk from Kerwin Roach that did that following a big-time block from Prince Ibeh. Either way, the incredible finish against an excellent basketball team was one of the most heartening moments in a long time for Longhorns basketball. It was a display of exactly what a Shaka Smart team can be in Austin.
It was also a balanced effort, as five players scored in double figures. Unlike the win against Baylor in Waco, however, Texas didn't achieve the victory through ball movement, instead using individual contributions off the dribble. Javan Felix was in attack mode throughout, scoring a number of baskets around the rim and converting all four of his free throws. Kerwin Roach was efficient, hitting 3-4 from the field and 8-9 from the line, the latter an impressive achievement given that he's shot 62.6 percent this season on free throws. Lammert was efficient, too, knocking down 4-7 threes. Ibeh added 10 big rebounds.
With the win, Texas has now defeated four top-10 teams this season, tying a school record.
And the crowd truly responded and boosted the team in a big way for the first time in the Shaka Smart era. Ibeh and Eric Davis both confirmed that the crowd had a huge impact on the result, a rare occurrence in the large and often empty arena. Smart agreed with the assessment of his players.
Before the game, Smart had sent students assembled outside the stadium into a frenzy when he reminded them that "OU sucks." But don't expect him to make a habit of such an act, which may have been inspired by a text from former head football coach Mack Brown just before eight Saturday morning that read, "OU still sucks."
"It's out of my character," Smart said. "Sometimes you've got to play to the crowd a little bit."
Texas certainly did for 40 minutes and the result was incredible.