To beat a team as talented as the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils, it often requires something resemblant to a perfect game.
The Texas Longhorns put forth that nearly perfect performance for approximately 32 minutes of game time, but after owning a 66-53 lead with 7:47 remaining, Texas watched — seemingly helplessly — as Duke roared back to force overtime and ultimately, escape with an 85-78 victory.
Just how close did Texas come to recording its first-ever win over the nation’s No. 1 team?
After Duke captured the first points of the game, 2-0, Texas regained the lead and maintained it virtually throughout. A pair of Kerwin Roach II free throws saw Texas climb on top, 4-2, and then 6-2, and then 11-4, as the early showings revealed the ‘Horns ability to go toe-to-toe with an elite foe.
In what proved to largely be a back-and-forth affair throughout the first half, with Duke inching closer before Texas would build upon its cushion once again, it became the Roach show for Texas. While potential No. 1 pick Marvin Bagley III fought through foul trouble, recording his second with 9:00 in the first half, the ‘Horns enjoyed Roach taking over on each end of the floor.
More specifically, matched up against elite Blue Devils senior guard Grayson Allen, Roach rose to the occasion, forcing Allen into three early fouls and forcing him to the bench still scoreless with 8:01 remaining in the first half.
With Duke’s two most potent offensive weapons watching from the bench, Texas built its lead to double figures, and maintained that edge throughout the final five minutes, thanks in large part to Roach partaking in his own personal dunk contest.
OH MY KERWIN ROACH #HookEm pic.twitter.com/4YKds6gjRd— Ezra Siegel (@SiegelEzra) November 24, 2017
By halftime, Roach was up to 10 points, and along with Andrew Jones adding 10 points of his own and Dylan Osetkowski remaining a versatile option with six points and four assists, Texas entered intermission leading 43-31.
Bagley entered the break with 10 points of his own, but the nation’s top-ranked freshman exploded in the second half, especially down the stretch.
After being held completely in check throughout the first half, Allen opened up the action after halftime with a three-pointer, and moments later, Bagley found the scoreboard again with another dunk for a 5-0 run to trim the deficit to 43-36. In a familiar fashion that helped Texas build its first half lead, though, the ‘Horns responded, and by the time the under-16 timeout rolled around, Texas was on top 49-38.
The ‘Horns continued to build upon that momentum coming out of the break.
An Osetkowski and-one increased Texas’ edge to 60-46 with 11:44 remaining, serving as the cherry on top of another major momentum swing favoring the ‘Horns, thanks to yet another explosive Roach jam.
Kerwin Roach doesn't care about Duke's feelings one single bit pic.twitter.com/DtVSLn3ppU— Ezra Siegel (@SiegelEzra) November 25, 2017
Throughout the following minute and a half, Texas extended its lead to 64-48, marking its largest of the afternoon, but Duke began to cut into the Longhorns lead soon thereafter.
After Mohamed Bamba went to the bench with his fourth foul with 9:40 remaining, Duke began to feast down low.
Texas was enjoying a 66-52 advantage coming out of the under-eight timeout, but then a turning-point sequence changed the game, and momentum, in Duke’s favor. After Gary Trent Jr. missed the tail end of two free throws, an Alex O’Connell offensive rebound opened the door for an Allen three-pointer. After an Osetkowski missed dunk on the other end, A Bagley layup and Jones turnover paved the way for yet another Bagley finish above the rim, and thus, an 8-0 Duke run in just 49 seconds to bring the score to 66-60.
Between Bamba being sidelined, and later forced to play timidly with four fouls upon his return, Bagley and and Wendell Carter Jr. began to take turns having their way with the ‘Horns down low. On the other end of the floor, Texas found a bit of success with Roach, Jones and Osetkowski attacking the rim, but as a team, too many attempts from the perimeter down the stretch proved damning.
Yet, with Texas owning a narrow 72-70 lead, Bamba appeared to make the defensive play of the game — a smothering help-side rejection on Bagley.
WOW. Monster block by Bamba on Bagley. pic.twitter.com/2I2nolzE4Y— Ezra Siegel (@SiegelEzra) November 25, 2017
With Duke retaining possession, though, Trent attacked the rim and finished for the and-one, giving Duke its first lead since the opening score of the game and sending Bamba to the bench with his fifth foul.
A Matt Coleman free throw seconds later evened the score up once more, but after failing to convert the second attempt, Texas and Duke headed for overtime; each without its respective stars in Bamba and Allen.
Already down a dominant big man, Texas opened overtime with Jericho Sims at center, who largely performed at a high level against an elite foe.
But on Texas’ first offensive possession of overtime, a Sims illegal screen earned the freshman his fifth foul, and in his place, Shaka Smart inserted Eric Davis Jr., pitting a small-ball lineup against Duke’s formidable frontcourt of Bagley and Carter.
The two would proceed to put Duke on their back down the stretch.
As Texas, noticeably panicked, began to heave unfavorable attempts throughout the extra period, Bailey scored the first five points of overtime and Duke’s first seven of the period. He finished with eight points in overtime, along, while Carter added another two en route to the 85-78 victory.
Bailey finished with 34 points and 15 rebounds for Duke, while Carter added a double double with 14 points and 11 boards. Trent finished with 17 points, while Allen scored all 12 of his points in the second half.
Osetkowski led the way for Texas with 19 points, seven points, five assists, and two steals, although Roach’s best performance as a Longhorn highlights each output from the Texas side. The junior finished with 18 points on 7-9 attempts, but forced Duke into several offensive fouls that ultimately altered the game significantly.
Bamba finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots before fouling out. Jones was the only other Longhorns to score in double figures, though, with 16 points, along with six rebounds.
For Texas as a team, the difference in what was well on its way to a win and a loss can be found in three key areas: The Longhorns were out rebounded, 50-39, connected on only 4-23 attempts from the perimeter, and made just 14-21 looks from the free throw line, with most of its misses coming down the stretch.
Friday served as a shinning example that this isn’t the same Texas team that it was last year, and the ‘Horns have the talent and athleticism to compete with even the very best in the nation. If the ‘Horns are going to take that next step forward, though, the shots simply have to start falling at a more efficient clip, especially the free ones.
After falling to 4-1 on the season at 1-1 in the PK80 Tournament, Texas awaits the loser of No. 7 Florida vs. No. 17 Gonzaga.