If you wanna know why Javan Felix was so wide open, watch what happens to Marcus Paige lol https://t.co/IRDPlAxQgu— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) December 13, 2015
Basketball is fun. Javan Felix picked up a loose rebound and put up a shot just as time was expiring. The shot fell, giving Texas the final basket of the game, which was confirmed after a video review.
And so Shaka Smart has his first big win at Texas, as the Longhorns beat North Carolina 84-82 in an exciting and competitive game.
North Carolina coach Roy Williams is probably happy that this will be Felix's last season at Texas. Felix has over his career been a North Carolina killer; the last time these teams met Felix was closing out a surprising road win by the Longhorns with big shots down the stretch.
But Felix did more than just knock down a big shot today. He played perhaps the best game of his college career, scoring 25 points while going 5-7 from three point range. And at one point during the game, ESPN's Jay Bilas called him a "fire hydrant with a head."
Marcus Paige led the Tar Heels with 20 points, and made seemingly every play that his team needed in the final minutes of the game. It is just that Texas got the ball last.
North Carolina started the game strong, pulling out to a 7-0 lead, limiting Texas ball movement with an aggressive man to man defense. After several minutes, the Longhorns settled in and closed the gap. The game was tightly contested until Williams' squad went on a small run after the final media time out of the first half, briefly pulling ahead by eight. But Texas freshmen Eric Davis, Jr. and Kerwin Roach, Jr. closed out the half with a few quick scores, and the Longhorns went into the locker room down two.
Both teams had struggled with foul trouble in the first half. For Texas, Isaiah Taylor and Cameron Ridley both picked up two fouls in the first period, while UNC forward Brice Johnson picked up his third foul just eight minutes into the game. (Johnson wouldn't foul again, and would return strong in the second half, ultimately finishing the game with 14 points.)
As entertaining as the first half was, the second half was even better. North Carolina nursed its small lead until with 7:51 remaining Isaiah Taylor found Javan Felix in transition for a three, which put Texas ahead by a point. From that point on, the margin never grew larger than three points.
The two stars, Isaiah Taylor and Marcus Paige, saved their best for the late stages of the game. When Texas was on offense, Taylor took over, scoring 12 of his 18 points in the last six and a half minutes. But Paige also balled out to end the game, scoring a key bucket with 50 seconds remaining that tied the game.
After the Paige basket, Taylor drove into the lane and missed a floater with 32 seconds on the clock. But the miss bounced right back to the Texas guard, and he put the ball back up and in, putting Texas ahead.
After a North Carolina time out, there was no doubt who Roy Williams would lean on to tie the game. Marcus Paige drove the basket, but instead of shooting found Brice Johnson for a game tying layup with ten seconds left. It was a great play.
With little time left, Shaka Smart elected to not call a time out, and instead let the team play. Isaiah Taylor dribbled the ball up the left hand side of the floor and pulled up for a three pointer with five seconds left that missed. But the rebound bounced out to a wide open Javan Felix, who picked up the ball and shot it through the rim.
- The Texas Longhorns barely pressed during the game. In a few years, it is likely that we will see Shaka Smart electing to press virtually all the time, but he clearly didn't want to get into an up and down game with the Tar Heels. This was probably a good choice.
- If the Longhorns would have lost this game, we would have been talking about the free throw shooting right now, so I guess we should talk about it anyway. UNC was 24-28 from the line, while the Longhorns only managed to go 14-23. Bad free throw shooting has been a problem for Texas through the early part of the season, and it almost cost the Longhorns the win tonight.
- Eric Davis was huge for Texas, scoring 16 points off the bench, including going 4-5 from beyond the arc. And when Taylor was sitting in the first half with foul trouble, it was Davis' scoring that carried the team through a period of time where North Carolina could have built a decent sized lead.
- Cameron Ridley played really well. He scored 12 points, and several came on nice post moves when the Longhorns went inside. And he also pulled down 12 rebounds. The rebounding was critical, as Texas outworked Williams' huge front line on the glass, limiting UNC to only five offensive boards. (The Longhorns had 15 offensive rebounds. That ended up being quite a big deal.)
The Longhorns play Appalachian St. on Tuesday.