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An ugly basketball game ended beautifully for the Texas Longhorns, with Matt Coleman’s last-second three strengthening a tournament resume that didn’t exist a month ago.
Coleman’s running three-pointer to sink the Sooners 52-51 in Norman improved Texas to 19-11 overall and 9-8 in the Big 12, and potentially placed them in the NCAA Tournament field with one regular season game left to play.
In the first half of February, losses to Kansas, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Iowa State seemed to doom the Longhorns to their second straight year watching the NCAA Tournament at home. Then, the Longhorns went on a five game winning streak to go from 4-8 to 9-8 in conference.
Texas needed help in a contest where it shot only two free throws in the entire 40 minutes; two from Andrew Jones as a result of a flagrant foul on Oklahoma. It shot 33 percent from the field, 28 percent from three, and looked to be on its way to a crushing defeat.
It got that help when Oklahoma’ Kristian Doolittle missed two free throws with six seconds left and a two point lead. Brock Cunningham pulled down his 11th rebound, and passed the ball to Coleman, who dribbled the length of the floor. Royce Hamm set just enough of a screen to give Coleman space, and his running attempt banked off the glass and into the hoop with 0.04 seconds remaining.
The Lloyd Noble Center was crushed, but Texas’ tournament chances only became stronger as a result of a win over what is likely another tournament team.
Coleman was the only Longhorn who scored in double figures with 21. Jones added nine, and in a game where both gave max effort possession after possession, Royce Hamm and Brock Cunningham both added 8 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Courtney Ramey and Kamaka Hepa both had three points apiece.
The win moves Texas from ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s first team out into his last four in the field of 68. All this after head coach Shaka Smart lost the services of four players due to injury— Jericho Sims, Jase Febres, Donovan Williams, and Gerald Liddell — and with just eight scholarship players available.
Just a month ago, ugly losses to Baylor and Texas Tech at home seemed to put a hard ceiling on Texas’ season outlook. If Texas can defeat an Oklahoma State team Saturday they previously beat by 12 in Stillwater, not only will Texas finish 3rd in the Big 12, they could find themselves feeling confident they hold a spot in the NCAA Tournament.