What if I told you that the 10-win, No. 10-seeded Texas Longhorns, despite trailing by double digits with 10:09 left on the clock, would escape their Big 12 Tournament opener with a 61-52 victory over Texas Tech?
I know, it almost sounds unbeleivable, but it happened.
In what was by all accounts the worst half of the season for Texas amid a win-or-go-home situation, the Longhorns slogged through the first half, scoring just 20 points on a 7-25 shooting effort, including 1-13 from three.
Fortunately for Texas, the Red Raiders weren’t much better, and despite simply out-working Texas entirely in the first half, Tech Tech entered intermission with just a 26-20 advantage.
Very little changed in the second half, at least initially. Halfway through what appeared to be the final 20 minutes of Texas’ season, the ‘Horns looked to be fairly close to down and out. Shots weren’t falling, loose balls were rolling in favor of Texas Tech and with just over 10 minutes remaining, the Red Raiders lead had ballooned to 42-31.
Then Kerwin Roach Jr. happened, and in a flash that’s been rare this season, he sparked the ‘Horns enough to keep theirs alive.
Within minutes, the game was tied.
Behind the momentum that followed Roach’s dunk, and the same shooting woes that plagued Texas throughout much of the evening, Texas Tech’s offense stalled while things began to click for the ‘Horns.
Folllowing a Zach Smith flagrant foul on Roach and a subsequent pair of free throws, Texas was faced with its first opportunity to lead and did just that with a pair of Jarrett Allen free throws.
An Allen block and Roach-Jones transition combination later, more fireworks exploded from a Texas team that had taken complete control of momentum in crunch time.
Even as Texas Tech tried to claw back, and pulled things to 49-48 following a Keenan Evans jumper, Mareik Isom made the biggest play of his Longhorn career with the shot clock winding down, converting on a deep three-pointer to extend Texas’ lead to 52-48 with 2:45 to play. A Red Raider shot clock violation and Jones step-back jumper later and Texas was in cruise control down the stretch en route to a 61-52 victory, headlined by what was a 26-6 Longhorn run before garbage time with under a minute to play.
As evident by the highlights, Jones and Roach shouldered the load offensively, scoring 15 and 13, respectively. Allen again reached double figures with 10 points, and the team as a unit shot 14-25 from the field and 4-10 from three in the second half.
Evans, Matthew Temple and Anthony Livingston led the way for Texas Tech with 11, 10 and 10 points, respectively.
Although it wasn’t a true road victory, Texas’ Big 12 Tournament win over the Red Raiders represents the Longhorns first win away from home this season, and for now, that’s good enough to keep a glimmer of March Madness hope alive if Texas can continue to survive and advance.
That’s a tall task, though, as the ‘Horns will face off with No. 2-seeded West Virginia Thursday evening at 6:00 p.m. CST on ESPNU.