For the second time this season, Texas Longhorns senior guard Max Abmas hit a game-winning shot late, knocking down a jumper from the right corner to the No. 25 Longhorns to a hard-fought 74-73 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats on Tuesday at Fifth Third Arena.
It was the final basket in a string of tough shot making from both teams down the stretch as Texas senior forward Dylan Disu led the way with a career-high 33 points in 34 minutes on 13-of-23 shooting, including 4-of-10 shooting from three, a phenomenal performance from the Vanderbilt transfer that finally saw him looking like the player who made a huge postseason run last season to propel the Longhorns to the Elite Eight.
With 43 seconds remaining, Disu scored his final basket of the night on a jumper after two straight buckets by Cincinnati guard Simas Lukosius, who scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the second half on 7-of-10 shooting overall.
Playing without senior forward Kadin Shedrick due to back spasms caused by a fall late in Saturday’s loss to Texas Tech, Texas turned to Disu as a starter for the first time this season and a primarily playmaker in the half court during the first half. Involved in pick-and-pop actions and isolated post ups, Disu was sensational, hitting 8-of-14 shots for 19 points with six rebounds and a block. At times, Disu tried to do too much, turning the ball over twice in addition to taking 42.4 percent of the teams shots, but the aggressiveness was not only necessary, but also justified by Disu’s overall efficiency.
Otherwise, senior forward Brock Cunningham and senior guard Ithiel Horton both struggled with foul trouble, committing two apiece and failing to score in a reflection of the lack of scoring depth the Longhorns showed in the loss to the Red Raiders. Overall, Texas was called for 12 fouls to only five for Cincinnati, producing a 12-4 advantage in attempted free throws prior to halftime.
A series of runs defined the first half. After Texas took a 10-4 lead before the first media timeout, Cincinnati forward Viktor Lakhin scored the first eight points in an 11-0 run by the Bearcats. The Longhorns responded with a 19-7 spurt that included eight points by Disu, a dunk by junior forward Ze’Rik Onyema, and a fast-break layup by junior guard Tyrese Hunter.
One stretch showed how dangerous Texas can be in the open court. On a throw-ahead pass to forward Dillon Mitchell, the sophomore smartly pulled it out as Abmas raced to the corner, nailing a three on the pass from Mitchell. The next possession saw Abmas find a racing Hunter for a long lob that produced a layup for the Iowa State transfer.
Disu later hit a three to extend the Texas lead to 39-33, but then it was Cincinnati in transition against poor defense from the Longhorns scoring five straight fast-break points on two dunks by Bearcats guard Dan Skillings Jr., including a highlight reel slam on Hunter.
Working from the left block into the paint, Disu dropped a floater off the front of the rim and in to take a 41-39 lead into halftime.
Both team started out sloppy in the second half — after combining for eight turnovers in the first half, Texas and Cincinnati gave the ball away three times apiece by the under-16 timeout, including two by Hunter. Continuing the trend out of the media break, the Bearcats gave it away twice with the second leading to Hunter dribbling the ball off his foot trying to initiate a fast break when Disu dove on the court for a loose ball.
Mitchell took advantage of poor on-ball defense from Cincinnati for a driving slam and showed off a floater off bounce, but the Bearcats were busy pulling off successful one-on-one moves on the other end, making three straight tough shots for a 51-49 lead at the under-12 timeout.
With Lakhin out, forward Jamille Reynolds gave Texas trouble, turning an offensive rebound into an emphatic slam and then rejecting Hunter at the other end. But Disu also hit a three, Hunter got to the line and converted two, and Cunningham grabbed an offensive rebound to earn his own trip to the charity stripe, making both.
Disu stayed hot, showing a willingness to trigger from beyond the arc on drop coverage from Cincinnati in the pick-and-roll, making another triple and then using his pump fake to get into the lane for free throws. Defensively, Disu stayed on the court with his third foul and was able to force a turnover pulling the chair in the post before flashing his floater for a career-high 31 points. Another strong defensive play by Disu deflecting a lob attempt got Texas out in transition and Abmas was able to find a sliver of room for a big three to take a 66-62 lead with 4:49 as Wes Miller needed a timeout.
Going under a screen didn’t work for Texas after the timeout, allowing an open three. When Disu tried to do too much on offense and turned the ball over, Cincinnati guard Jizzle James responded with a tough jumper to take the lead to make it Rodney Terry’s turn to call timeout.
And the response came from the Longhorns as Abmas made a nice move in the paint to score and a turnover led to a dunk by Mitchell in transition.
Down the stretch, Texas did enough to win the game, an important road victory with a trip to Morgantown to play West Virginia looming on Saturday.