Guard Sir’Jabari Rice scored a game-high 24 points for the No. 6 Texas Longhorns, who survived a potentially game-tying shot in overtime to hold off the Oklahoma Sooners, 85-83, in a must-win game at the Moody Center on Saturday.
Rice was sensational off the bench, hitting 8-of-13 shots, including 4-of-6 shooting from three, and played stifling defense an Oklahoma’s star guard Grant Sherfield, who got hot midway through the second half, but struggled down the stretch before hitting a difficult, step-back three late in regulation to send the game into overtime.
Texas needed the help from Rice with Oklahoma trapping ball screens for guard Marcus Carr, who did most of his damage from the free-throw line in scoring 17 points — nine came from the charity stripe. Forward Timmy Allen added 15 points, nine rebounds, and four assists.
Down the stretch, the Longhorns were able to overcome a seven-point deficit with 8:50 remaining by holding the Sooners without a made field goal for 8:43. Only the remarkable three by Sherfield extended the game.
Trying to play through forward Dillon Mitchell early didn’t work for the Longhorns with Mitchell turning the ball over on the first two possessions. Frequent whistles disrupted the early momentum with the officiating crew limiting physical play, something of a rarity in the Big 12. Texas forward Dylan Disu was an early victim, picking up two fouls in a little more than two minutes of action. Fellow forward Christian Bishop joined him not long thereafter, a significant issue for a team with marginal frontcourt depth.
The Longhorns were particularly cold through a stretch spanning the under-16 timeout, making just 1-of-8 shot attempts and falling behind 10-4 before a layup by Allen ended the drought. And despite the concentrated foul trouble for Texas, Oklahoma committed its sixth foul with 13:04 remaining, although guard Brock Cunningham was content to take and make open jumpers, scoring eight straight points to tie the game at 16-16, introducing the world to the “Brock Cunningham heat check three.” It rattled home.
Two free throws from Rice after the under-12 timeout made it a 10-2 run for the Horns and an 18-16 lead, the first of the game for Texas. Rice followed his trip to the line with a three-point play.
Turnovers, long missed shots, and some failed defensive gambles hurt Texas during that stretch, resulting in some easy buckets for Oklahoma, which scored 18 of its first 28 points in the paint.
An offensive rebound and a go-ahead layup by Cunningham put him into double digits and came shortly after he forced a travel on Oklahoma forward Tanner Groves in the post when he pulled the chair on Groves. The Longhorns defense was struggling during that stretch, however, as the Sooners made 7-of-9 shots, eventually heading into halftime with the game tied 34-34.
Texas was forced to call a timeout early in the second half after guard Tyrese Hunter went under a screen and allowed an open three for Oklahoma’s star guard Grant Sherfield, who promptly hit a second three in transition when Hunter failed to find him quickly enough.
Following that burst, the Horns split two trips to the free-throw line for 8-of-13 shooting from the line on the day, another important storyline in a must-win game. A three from a 21-percent shooter — the second of the day — gave the Sooners a five-point lead thanks to a 13-4 run slowed by a nice off-ball cut and finish from Rice. But when Hunter came back into the game, he gave up another three to Sherfield, extending the Oklahoma lead to seven points.
Texas was able to narrow the margin, however, thanks to Carr getting to the free-throw line and hitting six from the line with Rice contributing five points on a layup and a big three that cut the margin to two points and forced a timeout by Oklahoma with 7:26 remaining. The quick 5-0 run cut the win probability for the Sooners by 20 percent and made it a toss-up game again.
A silly foul by Bishop on a missed shot by Oklahoma rebounded by Texas led to two free throws, then a turnover by Disu resulted in a foul called on Cunningham. All of a sudden, the lead for the Sooners was back up to six points.
Allen responded, however, working in the post for a three-point play to cut the margin in half and Rice tied it with a three and took the lead with another in transition from deep. With the shot clock wining down, Rice extended the run to 11-0 with a driving jumper from the baseline. Faceguarding Sherfield on the defensive end, Rice frustrated Sherfield enough to pick up a key offensive foul.
Despite locking Sherfield down for the game’s final stretch, an offensive rebound by Oklahoma led by a step-back three from Sherfield that rimmed in to tie the game with seven seconds remaining. With acting head coach Rodney Terry opting against calling a timeout, Carr drove a settled for a wild shot that fell short with the clock expiring.
In overtime, two baskets by Disu and a layup by Carr in transition after a steal helped Texas take the lead, extended to six points on another steal that led to a layup by Allen. After Oklahoma responded with a jumper, Rice came through again with an important three.
The Sooners cut the lead to three with 55.5 seconds remaining, setting up a crucial possession for the Longhorns during which Disu fouled out on a charge call. Texas gave up a layup as Oklahoma cut the lead to one, then Hunter was fouled, splitting his trip to give the Sooners some hope, but a missed shot in the paint at the buzzer was no good as the Longhorns held on for the win.
Texas remains at home for a Tuesday matchup against No. 19 Iowa State.