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Late comeback falls short for No. 20 Texas in 61-55 loss to No. 11 Texas Tech

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“We were supposed to split — that was the deal,” Chris Beard joked to his former assistant Mark Adams after a second loss to the Red Raiders in less than three weeks.

NCAA Basketball: Texas Tech at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

In front of an Erwin Center crowd with enough fans in scarlet and black to convince players of the No. 11 Texas Tech Red Raiders it sounded like a 50/50 split, the No. 20 Texas Longhorns couldn’t pull off a late comeback in a 61-55 loss on Saturday, the second straight for head coach Chris Beard against the program he coached for five seasons.

Buoyed by the unusually vocal fan support on the road, Texas Tech used 16 straight missed shots by Texas from the end of the first half to the start of the second half to take the lead in a formerly close game, then used a 6-0 spurt across the under-four timeout to open up a 10-point margin with 3:38 remaining.

Using an aggressive full-court pressure, two steals by the Horns led to a layup and two free throws for Texas senior forward Timmy Allen, who didn’t score until 5:37 remaining in the game, igniting the home portions of the crowd. A three by senior guard Andrew Jones with 1:36 left cut the Texas Tech lead to one, but Texas was never able to regain it, ultimately trailing for the game’s final 21:03.

Senior forward Christian Bishop did block a shot by Adonis Arms 25 seconds later, but the Longhorns fouled Kevin Obanor attempting to secure the defensive rebound. After Obanor made both, Jones missed a layup in traffic and Clarence Nadolny came up with another offensive rebound, this time on a miss from Terrence Shannon. Nadolny split his free throws to take a four-point lead with 23 seconds remaining and the Longhorns weren’t able to score again.

“We just had some untimely missed block outs,” Beard said. “I don’t want to speak for Mark Adams, but I think they won the game with their rebounding, in my opinion.”

Texas Tech had a 45-36 advantage on the glass against Texas despite allowing 16 offensive rebounds to the Longhorns. In one of the key areas that swung the game in the road team’s favor, Texas only scored six second-chance points.

“We gave up way too many rebounds to begin with, but I thought we did a good job on those second-chance points of staying focused and not getting frustrated and trying to guard the three-point line so they couldn’t pass it back out,” Adams said. “I think we’ve come a long ways and it’s something we’ve improved on is when teams do get an offensive rebound, to stay in there and not leak out.”

Adams admitted that the Longhorns also missed some open shots, an area that Beard mentioned after the game as well — Texas tied its season high with 26 three-point attempts, making eight, with senior guard Marcus Carr, senior guard Courtney Ramey, and senior guard Jase Febres combining for 3-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc.

With Texas guards applying pressure on the perimeter, Texas Tech emphasized getting points in the paint, out-scoring Texas 26-10. Particularly early the game, the Longhorns struggled to score against their longer, more athletic opponent, finishing 2-of-10 shooting on layups.

The issues were particularly acute for Allen and senior forward Christian Bishop. Allen battled foul trouble for a third straight game and was 2-of-6 shooting while Bishop missed all five of his field-goal attempts.

And then there was the worst performance for Carr in a Texas uniform. The Minnesota transfer failed to score, missing all six of his field-goal attempts, failing to get to the free-throw line, and turning the ball over four times.

Adams thought the Red Raiders struggled to stay in front of Carr in Lubbock earlier this month, so he adjusted his defense to fill in the gaps on both sides of Carr when he attempted to drive, leaving the Texas guard clearly frustrated and prompting Jones and assistant Rodney Terry to have multiple spirited conversations with him during the second half.

On one notable possession, Carr tried to throw a lob to Bishop on the other side of the rim, then dribbled into trouble on the baseline — almost always a bad decision against the no-middle defense — where he was double teamed and threw the ball off the side of the backboard.

On another play, Texas cleared the strong side for a pick-and-roll with Carr and Bishop. Carr got the switch onto Texas Tech big Marcos Santos-Silva, but neglected to attack the mismatch, instead passing to Jones, who missed a contested three.

“There’s no doubt that I didn’t play my best today,” Carr admitted. “Definitely a lot falls on my shoulders. I apologized to coach and for that. Just have to go out and make plays in other ways.”

Carr did have three steals and keyed the late comeback with his effort defensively, but wasn’t able to effectively facilitate the offense consistently, totaling only two assists.

For Texas Tech, Nadolny and Bryson Williams were much more effective impacting the game.

Nadolny admittedly broke out of a slump with 14 points — only his third double-digit performance of the season — after recently going seven games scoring two or fewer points. In a clearly emotionally performance that Nadolny said he took personally in going against his former coach, the Frenchman posted a game-high plus-15 in his 21 minutes.

And Williams once again bullied the Texas frontcourt. A standout at Fresno State and UTEP under Terry, Williams scored 17 points, including 5-of-6 shooting from the free-throw line. Williams was part of the key 6-0 run to open up the 10-point lead late in the second half, attacking Texas guard Brock Cunningham in a one-on-one matchup and drawing a foul.

So, why wasn’t Williams suited up in burnt orange and white and playing for his former head coach?

To get to the NBA, Williams decided he needed to improve defensively and despite being recruited by Terry and the Longhorns, he chose the Red Raiders because of the reputation of Mark Adams as a “defensive guru.”

With Williams single-handedly out-scoring the Texas frontcourt by six points, the difference in the ball game, there’s no question the Longhorns could have used him on Saturday.

As Beard lost again to his former assistant and Texas dropped a fourth straight game to Texas Tech in Austin, all he could do was crack a joke.

“We were supposed to split — that was the deal.”