A late surge was just a little too late.
On the road on Saturday against the Oklahoma Sooners, the Texas Longhorns were without their leading scorer, Kerwin Roach II, and that was apparent, especially throughout the first half as Shaka Smart’s squad dug itself into too deep of a hole, falling to Oklahoma on the final possession, 69-67.
It took a tale of two halves for Texas to even put itself in position to capture a last-second win over Oklahoma, though that potential buzzer-beating three from Matt Coleman was blocked by Jamal Bieniemy; just his fourth block of the season.
The theme of the first half was essentially set from Oklahoma’s opening possession, as Brady Manek opened the action and scoring with a triple. Texas managed to match Oklahoma’s perimeter sharpshooting, at least initially, as a Jase Febres three knotted things up at 5-5 in the opening minutes. Christian James responded with one of his own, and then after another Kristian — Kristian Doolittle — added an and-one opportunity to stretch Oklahoma’s lead to 11-5, Courtney Ramey connected with his first three of the morning.
Coming out of the under-16 media timeout, though, James cashed in on another three, and then another, as his 3-of-3 start from deep pushed Oklahoma’s lead to 19-12.
Oklahoma’s offense continued to roll, as Jamuni McNeace and Miles Reynolds found points in the paint to answer an Elijah Mitrou-Long look from long range, and just like that, the Sooners were toying with a double-digit cushion, 24-15, entering the next media break.
But then, although only briefly, the Texas defense arrived.
Whatever Smart said during the under-12 media timeout hit home with the Horns, as the Texas defense began to swarm the Sooners, which, in turn, opened opportunities for easy points, as evident with a Jaxson Hayes block leading to a Coleman three to cap a 7-2 Texas run and trim Oklahoma’s lead to 26-22.
Texas’ daunting defensive stretch was short-lived, though.
A Miles Reynolds and-one opportunity took Oklahoma into the under-eight media break with a 28-22 lead, and the Sooners controlled the court throughout those final minutes of the first half.
Reynolds, Manek, and Rashard Odoms combined to score the next six points, and within moments, Oklahoma’s lead stretched to double digits, 32-22. Before things ballooned out of control — at least as far as the first half was concerned — Ramey sank another three-pointer, but Manek did the same on the other end of the floor to keep the cushion at 10 points.
Following more than a minute of scoreless basketball on both ends, Doolittle and James added buckets on back-to-back possessions, making good for a 13-3 Oklahoma run and a 29-25 lead while the Longhorns looked disoriented and disorganized on both ends of the floor.
Oklahoma took that same 14-point edge into the break, leading 42-28.
Once again, Manek produced the first points of the half, slamming home an alley-oop, and in familiar fashion, early threes from Febres and Ramey kept Texas in the scoring column and Oklahoma’s lead — one that exploded to as much as 17 — at 14, 50-36.
The latter Ramey three was the start of Texas chipping away at what initially appeared to be an insurmountable lead, given how the Horns had performed to this point.
Hayes earned an and-one opportunity coming out of the under-16 timeout, and though he didn’t capitalize, the lead was down to 50-38. Febres and Ramey each missed three-pointers to potentially cut the lead to single digits, but Hayes then cut it to 50-40 after finding nylon with a right hook, capping a 7-0 run. Just as momentum swung in Texas’ favor, though, an and-one from Dootlittle gave Oklahoma some additional breathing room, entering the under-12 timeout with a 53-40 lead.
Fortunately for the Horns, already down one starter in Roach, Dylan Osetkowski finally arrived. After scoring only two points in the first half, Osetkowski went to work on the block, utilizing a spin move to finish at the rim with an emphatic dunk. On the following possession, Osetkowski split a pair of free throws, but the effort was good enough for a 12-4 Texas run; that was until McNeace met the rim moments later with a thunderous alley-oop.
Nevertheless, Osetkowski continued to find scoring opportunities, tipping in a missed Ramey three. Moments later, after what amounted to a four-point possession for Texas courtesy of a Flagrant 1 foul on Reynolds, Osetkowski followed another miss at the rim; this time his own, cutting Oklahoma’s lead to 60-53.
But as Texas delivered offensive punches, Oklahoma responded with counters of its own.
A James turnaround fadeaway jumper ended with a trip to the free throw line and a three-point play, and after a brief 4-0 Texas run behind a Coleman jumper and Hayes right hook, Doolittle sank a pair of looks from the free throw line to keep the lead at eight, 65-57. Seemingly as soon as Osetkowski added his own right hook, Bieniemy found the net with a floater, once again keeping the lead at eight, 67-59.
It was almost all Texas from this point, but of course, almost doesn’t equal wins.
Shortly after Coleman connected with a quick layup, Osetkowski forced a steal, which led to a Febres three on the other end. Somehow, what was once a 17-point Sooners lead was now just a one-possession edge, 67-64 with 2:45 remaining. A James offensive foul coming out of the under-four media timeout opened the door for Texas to potentially tie the game, but Osetkowski air-balled a fadeaway turnaround jumper, while Dootlittle then hit one of his own on the other end.
Less than a minute later, though, Febres found his mark from deep, cutting Oklahoma’s lead to 69-67 with 52 ticks remaining, but those would be the final points either team produced.
Another Osekowski steal provided Texas with an ideal opportunity to finally capture the lead in the game’s waning moments, but an entire possession in which the Longhorns offense looked unorganized ended with a failed Febres three, which was initially rules as a shotclock violation before being overturned and overturning the ball to Oklahoma with 6.8 seconds to play.
In must-foul mode, Texas did exactly that, and Dootlittle failed to make Texas pay, missing the front end of the one-and-one, but the final seconds didn’t end in the Horns’ favor. Despite Texas owning a timeout, it wasn’t utilized, and the end result was Coleman hurrying up the floor before pulling up for a tightly-contested triple, which, as noted, Bieniemy blocked to seal a win for the Sooners.
With Roach, the team’s leading scorer, suspended and sidelined due to a violation of team rules, Febres led the Longhorns with 15 points on 5-of-15 from the perimeter. The rest of the Texas starting cast joined Febres in double figures, with Osetkowski and Hayes contributing 13 and 12, respectively, whole Ramey and Coleman each added 11 points. Hayes also totaled six blocks.
The bench — a shortened one, as Kamaka Hepa was also sidelined as he recovers from a concussion — on the other hand, contributed only five points.
Now 15-12 on the season and 7-7 in Big 12 play, the Longhorns will be back on the road on Wednesday, visiting the 17-9 (8-5) Baylor Bears.