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Texas falls to Texas Tech, 73-69, in the Big 12 tournament

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A poor start doomed the ‘Horns when the comeback fell short late.

NCAA Basketball: Big 12 Conference Tournament-Texas Tech v Texas Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

Back on the bubble?

Following an important and much-needed victory of the Iowa State Cyclones on Wednesday evening, a number of bubble wins and mid-major upsets put the Texas Longhorns in greater jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament after a 73-69 loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Thursday in Kansas City.

The Big 12 tournament loss was somehow close late even though the Longhorns struggled mightily to start the game.

Getting 29 points from sophomore guard Jacob Young kept Texas in the game, but a late steal by Kerwin Roach II led to a missed floater by Young in the lane that rattled in and out. Instead of cutting the Tech lead to three, Texas had to foul and star senior guard Keenan Evans made one of two free throws to essentially put the game out of reach.

Young also had two assists, including a late lop to star freshman Mo Bamba, who returned to score 10 points in action that appeared more limited by the trainers than Bamba’s desire to play.

Early in the second half, Texas executed better offensively, creating open looks for Jacob Young, who knocked down two threes. Young served as a catalyst with his aggressiveness, too — attacking the rim on one possession led to a putback by Dylan Osetkowksi.

Defensively, however, the ‘Horns weren’t able to find much success despite a heightened level of intensity. Backdoor cuts in the Texas Tech motion offense produced two layups for Keenan Evans and the three-point shooting continued on target, forcing head coach Shaka Smart to turn to several variants of zone defense.

Roach and point guard Matt Coleman also committed their third fouls early in the second half. Most of those fouls between the two key guards were certainly of the marginal variety, but for Coleman especially, that’s been the story for some time.

Unfortunately, a gritty effort through the final 30 minutes wasn’t enough to make up for the poor effort to start the game. For whatever reason, the Longhorns just weren’t battling hard enough.

Texas started off 0-9 from the field, with six of those attempts coming from distance. Some were open, some were forced, but once again the ‘Horns struggled to execute offensively early in the game.

The defense struggled, too, as the Red Raiders were largely able to get open shots from the perimeter, hitting 7-11 in the first half to provide a huge margin in that category — the ‘Horns only made 2-10, a difference of 15 points.

The return of Bamba helped some. A three pointer just before the halftime buzzer cut the lead to seven and he added two other baskets on four shots, as well as four rebounds and a block. Though the star freshman mostly looked like himself, Smart admitted at halftime that he couldn’t play Bamba as much as he wanted due to Bamba’s lingering toe injury.

Most of the other offensive production in the first half came from Young, the sophomore guard who is emerging as a wild card who might be even more mercurial than Wildcard himself, Eric Davis Jr. He went 4-6 from the field in the first half and scored nine points with a steal, but also committed two fouls and took some wild shots.

Beyond Young, Bamba and some good moments from Matt Coleman, though, the rest of the offense was a mess. Jase Febres missed all four of his shots, including several good looks from distance. Kerwin Roach II picked up two fouls quickly and took some bad shots, making only 1-4. And then there was Dylan Osetkowski, who missed all three of his shots and didn’t contribute anything else to the state line other than a single rebound.

Combined, Febres, Roach, and Osetkowski combined to score eight points. Emerging freshman forward Jericho Sims only scored two points. Coleman scored 20 points and hit all 10 of his free throws, so the struggles of three of the seven players in the rotation really hurt the Longhorns.

Now Texas no longer has much control over its fate, which lies in the hands of the selection committee and the results on the court in other conferences. Buckle up.