It proved to be a tale of two entirely different halves for the Texas Longhorns on Thursday evening, as a notable first 20 minutes were overshadowed by a stagnant second half en route to a 82-66 loss to the Georgetown Hoyas in the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden.
When things were going well, in the first half, everything began and ended with Matt Coleman III.
The game’s earliest indications suggested the junior floor general could be in for a long night, as Coleman’s evening began with a errant pass for a turnover on the opening possession — an error only compounded by Coleman fouling Mac McClung just moment’s later on Georgetown’s first touch.
Coleman responded with resilience, however, putting forth arguably his best half of basketball as a Longhorn.
That was initially evident defensively, as Coleman routinely put himself in position to prevent easy points for the Hoyas. In the meantime, as Coleman awaited his first bucket of the contest, a pair of threes from Courtney Ramey and Jase Febres and a pair of dunks from Jericho Sims and Royce Hamm, Jr. — the latter being an explosive one-handed put-back jam off of an Andrew Jones missed three — provided the Longhorns with an early 10-8 lead. Then, to cap an 8-0 Texas run, Coleman connected on his first attempt from three.
Not to be outdone, McClung, who already had one three to his name, his second to spark what ultimately became a 7-0 Georgetown run. And similarly, also aiming to not be outdone, Febres found the net for his second three of the night to slow the run, and following his heat check on the ensuing possession, Will Baker came away with an offensive rebound and found his first points as a Longhorn after missing his first eight career attempts.
In familiar fashion, Georgetown responded with another 7-0 run, capped by another three from McClung, but Coleman wasted little time tying the action at 21-21 with his second three off of one of Ramey’s five first-half assists.
Another of those assists came a few possessions later on a beautiful dish to Hamm, who finished with another dunk to knot the action at 25-25. Yet another McClung jumper on the other end saw the lead swing back to the Hoyas, but only briefly, as Ramey found Febres for his third three, and thus, a 28-27 Longhorns lead.
After a minute of action came and went, it was Febres who notched the assist, as he snagged an offensive rebound off of a Ramey missed three before finding Coleman for his third three of the contest.
As Georgetown continued to bring the game within a single point, Coleman’s fourth three of the first half, which brought his scoring total to a game-high 12 points, provided the Horns with just a bit of breathing room. Moments later, Jones added to the cushion with a crafty layup, and then after leading the fast break, he found Kai Jones for a powerful dunk and his first points as a Longhorn.
Qudas Wahab ensured that the Hoyas didn’t go quietly into the half, finishing with a put back with 1.6 seconds remaining, but nevertheless, the Longhorns owned the 42-37 edge entering intermission.
Coming out of the break, though, it was all Georgetown on both ends of the floor.
After foul trouble forced Omer Yurtseven to serve as a spectator for much of the first half, his 7’0 frame proved to be too much for Texas as he enjoyed eight easy points in the paint to bring the Hoyas within one, 46-45.
The next time down, Jamorko Pickett provided the Hoyas with a 48-46 lead with a three, forcing a Texas timeout.
Following the discussion, Coleman returned to form with his fifth three of the night to recapture the lead, and after Pickett returned the favor with a smooth mid-range jumper, Liddell banked in a long-range look to give Texas a narrow 52-50 edge.
However, that was the last time the Longhorns enjoyed the lead.
After enjoying multiple 7-0 runs in the first half, a smothering defensive effort and tremendous efficiency offensively paved the way for a 12-0 Hoyas run that essentially altered the outcome of the entire contest as Texas could only attempt to play catch-up throughout the second half of the second half.
Texas was, of course, unsuccessful in that endeavor as points became few and far between.
Meanwhile, Georgetown continued to churn offensively, so even when Coleman connected for his sixth three in six attempts, the Hoyas were immediately able to respond and push their cushion back to double-digits behind two pairs of free throws from James Akinjo. McClung contributed similarly, as his two free throws were followed by his own jumper, which ballooned the lead to 17 points, 80-63.
Unsurprisingly, Texas was unable to make any sort of a late push, and thus, falls to 4-1 on the season as the nine-game winning streak comes to an end.
All told, Texas was outscored by 21 points in the second half, 45-24.
Coleman finished with his second 22-point outing of the season, almost entirely courtesy of his 6-of-6 display from the perimeter. However, no other Longhorn joined him in double figures. After finding his stroke early, Febres finished with nine points on a 3-of-12 shooting effort, with all of his attempts coming from the perimeter.
Georgetown, on the other hand, enjoyed a balanced effort, as McClung’s 19 points led four Hoyas in double figures — the others being Pickett (15), Akinjo (14), and Yurtseven (10). LeBlanc and Wahab each added nine points, as well.
The Longhorns will now await the loser of the Duke-Cal game.