With the game tied and the clock ticking down, Matt McClung had the ball in his hands. Challenged by Courtney Ramey, McClung nailed the step-back, long-distance two with three seconds remaining.
When Texas Longhorns senior guard Matt Coleman missed from three on his last-second attempt, the No. 14 Texas Tech Red Raiders pulled off the 79-77 victory against the No. 4 Horns at the Erwin Center in Austin, marking the fifth Texas Tech win in seven tries against Texas and the third straight on the Forty Acres.
After the game, though, Coleman wasn’t as concerned with McClung’s big-time shot as he was about all the mistakes that preceded the Georgetown transfer’s game-winning effort.
“We didn’t make enough plays down the stretch, including myself. Just needing more shots to fall, but it was an accumulation of things over the game,” Coleman said. “We went 18-of-31 from the free-throw line. They converted on our turnovers. We had zero points on their turnovers and they had 19.”
One major factor in the disparity in points on turnovers was the way that Texas Tech protected the basketball, only turning the ball over seven times in the game. The Red Raiders weren’t even highly efficient scoring from turnovers, but 19 points from 15 turnovers ultimately provided the massive 19-point advantage that decided the game.
The most egregious mistake by Texas was the inbounds turnover by junior guard Courtney Ramey with 44 seconds remaining after Longhorns freshman forward Greg Brown III drew a key offensive foul. Texas was trying to maintain a 77-75 lead.
Faced with a full-court press from the Red Raiders, Ramey and Coleman suffered a miscommunication that resulted in a layup by Texas Tech to tie game. Ramey thought that Coleman had inside positioning on the defender and threw the pass, but Red Raiders guard Kyler Edwards intercepted it and quickly turned the mistake into a layup and a tie game.
“I just made a bad judgment call,” Ramey admitted.
Despite the game-changing mistake by Ramey, Coleman had more than positive words for his teammate in the post-game press conference — he actually stuck around to support Ramey during his interview.
“Don’t let this one game define you, as a player,” Coleman said of his post-game message to Ramey. “It’s a tough, tough pill to swallow, but you know, he’s a great player, he’s come a long way, his attitude is great, and he’s a competitor.”
Nonetheless, Ramey admitted that a key missed layup in transition with just over four minutes remaining and Texas trying to expand a 69-68 lead impacted his performance down the stretch.
“I just wasn’t myself down the stretch. I made a couple of bad plays,” Ramey said.
The inability to made the defining plays in the final minutes hurt Texas severely, including failing to stop Texas Tech’s Kevin McCullar in transition on a key layup with just over two minutes remaining to cut the Texas lead to 74-73.
A renewed defensive effort by the Red Raiders made things more difficult for the Longhorns offensively in the second half, but Smart wasn’t happy with how his team executed on that end in the final 20 minutes.
“I thought we really competed at a high level in the first half and we were flying around,” Smart said of a 48-38 lead for the Horns at halftime. “I thought our pace was terrific on offense. We got a little more bogged down in the second half, our flow wasn’t as good offensively, and they did a really good job hurting us off of our turnovers,” Smart said.
“If you want to win down a stretch, you’ve got to make more free throws than we made and then you’ve got to take care of the ball better.”
In the final minute, Texas senior forward Jericho Sims missed two free throws, both of which rimmed out, as the Longhorns tried to expand a 77-75 lead. Sims turned in an impressive performance with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting and played incredible defense as Texas switched every screen, but only connected on 6-of-14 free throws. In the accumulation of mistakes cited by Coleman, the inability of Sims to convert at the line ultimately provided an important margin in the outcome along with the points-off-turnover margin.
Texas also failed to convert on a remarkable first-half performance by redshirt junior guard Andrew Jones, who scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-6 from the three-point line. Jones only took one shot in the second half and simply wasn’t involved in the offense.
On several occasions coming out of halftime, Jones lost his footing trying to drive with the basketball and Texas Tech made a concerted attempt not to help off of him — Jones didn’t have a single three-point attempt during 16 second-half minutes. He only had one shot attempt from the field.
“He just seemed a little more off balance, for whatever reason, and we just have to do a better job of creating opportunities for him,” Smart said.
The Longhorns got off to a strong start in the first half, forcing the Red Raiders to make difficult shots and hitting eights threes during an offensive onslaught that featured 50-percent shooting from the floor overall. But 10-of-17 shooting from the free-throw line and only four second-chance points on nine offensive rebounds were evidence of the opportunities left on the floor by Texas.
By the time the game ended, the Horns had fouled McClung three times on three-point attempts, even though he entered the game shooting 31.1 percent from distance. A technical foul called on Texas after one of those fouls on McClung and a flagrant foul on a Donovan Williams drive stretched the margins for the Red Raiders,
In those margins, Texas just didn’t make enough winning plays.
“The only way teams can beat is if we beat ourselves,” Ramey said. “I feel like we beat ourselves today.”