Only two games into the season, the Texas Longhorns already have a resume-building win to their name after marching into West Lafayette and pulling off an impressive 70-66 upset win over the No. 23 Purdue Boilermakers on Saturday night.
After overthrowing a pass into the stands during the first possession of the game, Matt Coleman produced the first points of the matchup with a catch-and-shoot three from the wing. It was a sign of things to come for Coleman, who essentially served as Texas’ only reliable offense throughout the first half.
Moments later, another Coleman three provided Texas with an early five-point edge, 8-3, and the Longhorns were able to maintain some semblance of some breathing room throughout the first half of the first half. This held true despite some exceptional shooting from Purdue’s sophomore guard Sasha Stefanovic.
After coming off the bench, Stefanovic connected on his first three of the night with 14:32 remaining in the first half. By the 9:09 mark, Stefanovic was a perfect 4-of-4 from deep, with his latest providing Purdue with its first lead, 20-19.
This time around, it was the Boilermakers maintaining a lead for an extended stretch, largely due to the Longhorns committing five turnovers throughout the final nine minutes of the half and connecting on only 3-of-9 field goal attempts.
Among those three rare connections, though, was yet another three-pointer from Coleman, who added a pair of free throws in the final minute of the half to bring his total to 15 and trim Purdue’s lead to 34-31.
Coming out of the break, Texas needed only a few seconds to tie the action, again courtesy of a three, this time from Gerald Liddell, who certainly looked worthy of his role as a starter. Then, after spending the majority of the first half serving as a spectator while in foul trouble, Jericho Sims enjoyed back-to-back dunks off of assists from Jase Febres and Coleman, with the second coming on a silky pass to put Texas ahead, 38-36.
Not to be outdone, a pair of close looks at the rim and a pair of free throws paved the way for an 8-0 Purdue run and thus, a 44-38 Boilermakers lead. But just as the Boilermakers appeared to be enjoying bit of a cushion, Texas began making a push of its own, sparked by a fast-break layup from Liddell, who registered a new career-high in scoring (14). A Coleman steal then led to an Andrew Jones three, which marked his first points of the evening after scoring a career-best 20 points against Northern Colorado.
Trevion Williams and Coleman then exchanged buckets at the rim before Purdue took a 46-45 lead into the under-12 media timeout, but within a matter of seconds, the lead belonged to the Longhorns after a steal from Jones was quickly dished to Febres for a three to capture a 48-46 edge. On the ensuing series, Purdue couldn’t get a clean look before the shot clock buzzer sounded.
And in familiar fashion, Coleman got back into the scoring column from deep, drilling a three to give Texas a 51-46 lead and force a Purdue timeout.
Coming out of that brief break, though, Jahaad Proctor responded with a three of his own just before the shot clock expired, and a Matt Haarms put-back tied the action up at 51-51.
A bouncy layup from Sims allowed the Longhorns to enter the under-8 media timeout with a narrow lead, but a layup from Stefanovic tied the action again coming out of the break.
Seemingly in a moment of acting without thinking — or at least processing the play — Royce Hamm threw the ball away on the inbounds pass and immediately picked up his fifth foul. Wheeler split his free throw opportunity, and moments later, Williams did the same, though their two makes were good for a 55-53 Purdue lead. That was until Liddell added to his career night with an offensive rebound and a successful and-one in the paint to put Texas back ahead, 56-55.
The back-and-forth affair continued until a pair of free throws from Wheeler appeared to provide Purdue with some late breathing room, 62-57, with less than three minutes remaining.
But then, after a careless turnover from Purdue, Liddell cashed in on a deep jumper to trim the lead to a single score, 62-59, with 2:31 to play. On the other end, Haarms was whistled for an offensive foul on a moving screen, and Texas cashed in with Coleman finding Sims for yet another dunk.
On the following possession, another bad pass resulted in another Purdue turnover, and once again, Texas capitalized, as Febres drilled a three to capture the lead, 64-62, with only 1:12 to play.
Throughout much of the following minute, Texas was unable to add to that lead, but Purdue was unable to cut into it, either, and that proved especially costly after Eric Hunter Jr. missed a potential game-tying layup with 23 seconds remaining.
Instead, Jones came away with the rebound after after being fouled, he calmly sank both looks to give the Longhorns a two-possession lead, 66-62, with 20.1 seconds remaining. Purdue did respond, though, as Haarms found the net with a fadeaway jumper with 10.5 ticks remaining. Purdue then nearly came away with a turnover, but it was whistled as a foul, sending Jones back to the charity stripe, where he once again sank both attempts to keep Texas ahead by two scores.
Hunter kept attacking the basket, and this time around his layup was good, but after Coleman was fouled with only four seconds to play, he iced arguably his best game as a Longhorn with the game-clinching free throws.
Coleman finished with a game-high 22 points on 7-of-9 field goals, including 4-of-5 from deep, and added seven assists and four boards, as well. Liddell, of course, finished with those career-high 14 points and added eight rebounds. Febres and Sims joined Coleman and Liddell in double figures with 11 points and 10 points, respectively.
Aside from the 11 first-half turnovers and Courtney Ramey struggling to score, adding only one point after missing each of his four field goal attempts, this was an undeniably impressive early-season win for Shaka Smart’s group. The defensive intensity was apparent and the offensive ball movement and flow was often crisp, as evident with Texas dishing out 18 assists on 24 made field goals.
And, of course, it certainly helps when veteran guards such as Coleman, Febres, and Jones make big plays in big moments, which, in turn, lead to wins, as it did in West Lafayette.
Now 2-0 on the season, Texas will be back in action and back in Austin on Tuesday to welcome California Baptist.