Want information on Texas basketball from Eric Nahlin, Justin Wells, Joe Cook, Gerry Hamilton, Tim Preston, and Bobby Burton? Sign up for Inside Texas HERE today!
No. 5 Texas lost a close one to No. 24 Oklahoma at the Erwin Center on Tuesday, 80-79. The Longhorns were missing Jericho Sims, Courtney Ramey, Brock Cunningham, and Shaka Smart, and despite once trailing by 12, almost pulled out an improbable come-from-behind victory.
The Circumstances – Before diving into this game, it’s worth acknowledging Texas’ situation. Head coach Shaka Smart is currently in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. Two starters in Sims and Ramey, plus a contributor in Cunningham, were not available. Texas had eight scholarship players available versus the Sooners, and those eight were not able to practice together until Monday according to interim coach KT Turner.
That is a large amount of variables for an interim head coach to manage and for a team to face before the ball is in the air. Turner said he tried to manage Monday’s practice so that players could knock the rust off while also building their conditioning for a 40-minute conference game. It’s a unique position for anyone, let alone an assistant in his first year in Austin.
Despite all of the circumstances, Texas remained in the game until the very end and lost by a single point to a surging Oklahoma. Turner was vague in his response when asked postgame if he would have to serve as interim at Kentucky on Saturday, saying he is “taking it one day at a time right now.”
A bad first half segment – Much of the focus on this game will go to the latter 20 minutes, including an excruciating opening portion of the second half where the officials called 12 total fouls before the under-16 timeout. Matt Coleman and Kamaka Hepa each picked up their fourth fouls during the segment and were part of a group of five Longhorns who finished the game with at least four fouls.
However, the first 20 minutes included a pivotal section of the game. With 12:35 remaining in the first half, Texas held a 14-6 lead after a Coleman jumper. The Sooners then went on an 11-0 run over the next 90 seconds to take a 19-14 lead. Turner elected not to use a timeout during the stretch. After the game, Turner said he wanted his team to play through it and save the timeout for a late-game situation. Texas ultimately finished the game with no timeouts remaining.
Texas had defended Oklahoma well prior to the run, forcing the Sooners into plenty of difficult midrange shots. Beginning with the 11-0 run, Oklahoma started to settle in more and more on offense on the way to an 80-point evening. From the point when UT lead 14-8, OU finished out the half scoring 37 to Texas’ 20.
The Whistles – Significant portions of Tuesday’s game featured the officiating crew. Three Longhorns, Coleman, Greg Brown, and Royce Hamm, fouled out. 49 total fouls were called in 40 minutes of basketball.
Both teams made good use of their nights at the free throw line. Oklahoma hit 21-of-34, while Texas was 15-of-19.
Those whistles still had consequences. Hepa and Coleman each received their fourth foul during the period of constant whistles early in the second half. Coleman played just 23 minutes when he is normally north of 30, sometimes 35. For much of the second half, he was on the bench. On a night where every available Longhorn saw some game action, Texas losing its catalyst proved to be detrimental.
The failed comeback effort – Texas trailed by 11 with 12:40 remaining in the game. Over the next three minutes, Texas cut the lead to four points before the Sooners punched back and made the margin double-digits once again.
The Longhorns then cut it to a five-point game with 3:37 remaining, then a three-point game with 1:13 remaining before making it a one-point game with 37 seconds left.
Despite the comeback, Texas could not overtake the Sooners. After his layup cut the Sooner lead to one, Coleman picked up his fifth foul no more than 10 seconds later. Oklahoma, already safely in the double bonus, made both free throw attempts.
Texas asked former high school quarterback and UT football walk-on Blake Nevins to inbound the ball for an attempted heave to Kai Jones down the floor. The plan was for Kai Jones to hand it off to Andrew Jones for a look, in addition to other available options.
The pass was errant, Jones never laid a finger on it, and Oklahoma escaped Austin with a one-point win.
Cover photo courtesy of Texas Athletics