What a difference a half of basketball can make. After entering the intermission trailing the Alabama Crimson Tide 38-26, Shaka Smart’s Texas Longhorns put together their most impressive and complete half of the season to snap a three-game skid with a 77-68 victory.
The first 20 minutes of action looked to be much of the same for the ‘Horns. Smart implemented a new starting five with the insertion of Tevin Mack and Andrew Jones in place of Eric Davis Jr. and Kendal Yancy, but to no avail.
A mere three assists for Texas were overshadowed by eight turnovers and the poor shooting continued across the board. Mack, Jones and Davis entered the half scoreless on a 0-10 shooting effort, while Alabama took whatever it wanted around the rim and drained six first half threes.
Whatever Smart told the team in the locker room worked.
Texas opened the second half by forcing thee turnovers to spark a 5-0 run, which trickled into a 10-1 run and ultimately, a 19-6 run, which gave Texas it’s first lead of the game at 45-44 with 12:47 remaining following a Kerwin Roach Jr. and-one. From this point on, it became a back-and-forth sprint, which actually proved ideal for a young Texas team lacking confidence and resiliency.
It needed a win like this.
Best effort I've seen from Texas this season. Tevin Mack leading the way with plays like this #HookEm pic.twitter.com/grRn8A5Edc— Cody Daniel (@CodyDanielSBN) December 3, 2016
After a pair of Roach free throws were answered to put Bama on top, once again, Shaquille Cleare then responded with a layup to put Texas on top 58-57, before Davis joined the action with his only points of the night at a key moment.
Eric Davis Jr. getting in the mix, as well. Texas' veterans shouldering the load. It's clear they want this win pic.twitter.com/c5k7Fp38Kq— Cody Daniel (@CodyDanielSBN) December 3, 2016
A Dazon Ingram dunk to give Bama the lead 62-60 was answered with a Mack floater and the following play, Donta Hall split a pair of free throws to put the Tide up 63-62 with under three minutes to play.
That would be the last time Alabama held the lead.
A Jarrett Allen blocked shot fell into the waiting hands of Davis, who kicked it to Jacob Young for a momentum-building three, which was then followed by an Andrew Jones layup.
The veterans sparked the comeback and the newcomers finished it off.
The final two minutes would become a matter of Texas hitting clutch free throws, and aside from a few initial misses from Roach. The ‘Horns did just that, as Roach, Allen, and Jones collectively connected on 10-15 attempts.
Five Longhorns scored in double figures, with Roach leading the way with 16 points after converting 12 free throws.
Cleare, Mack, Allen and Young all scored 11 each, which became a season-high for Cleare and Young. Every Longhorn that played scored.
Dazon Ingram and Avery Johnson Jr. led the way for Alabama with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Texas won the battle on the glass (35-to-27), from the charity stripe (22-30 to 10-18) and shot a slightly higher percent from the field, despite the first-half struggles. Texas outscored Alabama 51-30 in the second half.
Next up, Texas heads to Ann Arbor to face a talented Michigan team. Without tonight’s victory, though, it’s unlikely Texas would have the confidence it radiated in the second half to compete in a hostile environment on the road.
For such a young team, improving to 4-3 with the 77-68 victory over Alabama could prove to be a solid building block for the remainder of the season.