With the game tied at 76-76 and the clock ticking under 30 seconds, Courtney Ramey drove left from the right wing past a defender all the way to the left side of the rim, finishing with his right hand.
After the No. 17 Texas Longhorns survived two three-point attempts by the Davidson Wildcats over the final 20 seconds, head coach Shaka Smart and his team came away with a narrow 78-76 victory in Asheville in the opening round of the 2020 Maui Invitational.
Ramey led a balanced scoring effort by the Longhorns that included six players in double digits. The junior guard scored 14 points, but with the outside shots not falling for the majority of the game, it was the interior scoring and overall efficiency of senior forward Jericho Sims and sophomore forward Kai Jones that put Texas in a position to win the game late — Sims was 5-of-5 shooting for 12 points and Jones was 4-for-4 shooting for 13 points, including two important three-pointers in the second half.
“To have all those guys in double figures obviously was really big for us,” Smart said.
The 25 points on nine shots from the floor from Jones and Sims were so crucial because the Longhorns struggled to defend a good Wildcats offense that forced Texas to switch nearly every screen. As a result, Davidson was able to get consistent mismatches with their bigs in the post against Texas guards.
“We were a step behind defensively pretty much the whole game and we were just trying to find combinations that could defend them,” Smart said. “There are a very good offensive team and it really wasn’t even their actions as much today as just guarding one on one, which is something that we’ve got to really get better at.”
Texas was called for 25 fouls in the game and allowed Davidson to shoot 56.2 percent from the floor, in large part because the Wildcats were able to score 20 points at the rim. If there was a big positive defensively for the Longhorns, it was only allowing five offensive rebounds after struggling to end possessions on the defensive glass against the Vaqueros last Wednesday.
The foul trouble for Texas limited redshirt junior guard Andrew Jones to only 11 minutes in the second half after he picked up his fourth foul with 14:23 remaining. With senior guard Jase Febres still sidelined after microfracture surgery, senior guard Matt Coleman played all 20 minutes in the second half and 39 minutes total and Ramey played 18 minutes in the second half.
Since the Horns are scheduled to play three games in three days in Asheville, those heavy minutes could impact how well those two perform on Wednesday.
However, Texas was able to come out with the team’s first close win of the season and get some of their nerves out of the way after such a long layoff from basketball during the pandemic.
“There was a lot of, just kind of nervous energy and antsyness, and we certainly were not in midseason form in terms of our poise at different times, but I thought our guys held it together for it being our first close game,” Smart said.
With so many returning players on the team, that’s a development worth tracking over the next several days, but as Smart noted, “We’re gonna have to grow either way, but it’s certainly better to grow after a win.”
Texas will play in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational on Tuesday against the winner of the Indiana-Providence game on Monday afternoon.