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Someday, many years in the future, Jericho Sims will look back upon his 16-point, 12-rebound game at Oklahoma during his senior year with fondness.
Maybe he’ll even smile.
He’d have good reason to do so. His performance against the Sooners helped Texas zoom to a 10-point halftime lead, recover from a one-point mid-second half deficit, and hang on to a four-point win in Norman, 69-65.
Sims attempted 10-plus field goals for just the fourth time in his career and converted on eight of them. Against an Oklahoma lineup that utilized shot-blocker Kur Kuath for only 12 minutes, Sims was able to create space inside and attack the rim from the opening two points to the final minute of the second half.
“This is one of his most complete games that he’s played,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “The guys did a good job of finding him. To get him 10 shot attempts is a big deal.”
All eight of Sims’ makes were dunks or layups. While there were some occasions where he was able to take on a defender on the dribble, most of the time he had the ball fed to him in the post from one of the UT ball-handlers.
“Early on, for him to get some dunks around the basket and some good finishes, it really loosened up the game for us and I think it really makes things easier for our guards,” Smart said. “Over the course of his career, it’s not always been easy to get him 10 shot attempts. I don’t know how many times he’s gotten that many because he’s a unique player, but I thought our guys did a good job of looking for him.”
Sims’ effect on the game was felt on both ends of the floor. He was able to use his athleticism to guard not just Oklahoma’s five, Brady Manek, but anyone he was switched on including De’Vion Harmon, Austin Reaves, and Elijah Harkless.
“If I can stay in the game and not foul out like last game, I think that’s good for us,” Sims said.
It was not good, but rather great for Texas. Sims committed one foul in his 33 minutes.
“It allowed us to keep him in the game,” Smart said. “That’s a huge key. When he gets two fouls early in the game, it’s a little bit of a dark cloud because it affects the rotation and being able to get him in and keep him in.”
Kuath’s second-half presence caused some measure of problems for the Longhorns. His ability to defend the rim hampered Texas’ offense, and Oklahoma turned a 10-point halftime deficit into a one-point lead with 7:56 remaining.
The game would continue as a back-and-forth affair from that point, but that would be Oklahoma’s final lead of the game.
Sims’ had help from several different Longhorns. Andrew Jones tied Sims’ game-high 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-2 from three-point land and 4-of-4 from the line. Courtney Ramey added 11 points, none more important than the six points off two three-point attempts with under seven minutes remaining to regain the lead and end an almost six-minute scoreless stretch for the Longhorns.
Jones, Ramey, and Jase Febres needed to perform as Matt Coleman, one year after sinking a game-winning buzzer-beater in the Lloyd Noble Center, was a non-factor for most of the game. He had five turnovers to a single assist and didn’t score until the final 20 seconds of the contest.
His lone score though couldn’t have come at a better time. His midrange jumper gave Texas a four-point lead with 13 seconds left.
“We put a lot of trust into Matt,” Smart said. “Even if he’s 0-for-4 from the field with five turnovers, we’re still going to put the ball in his hands to let him make a play late.”
Still, Texas needed to sink two free throws after Coleman’s field goal to seal the road Red River Shootout win.
Greg Brown, who was opened up under his right eye via a stray elbow earlier in the game from Royce Hamm, walked to the line up two with five seconds remaining. He stepped up and calmly sank the first. Prior to receiving the ball from the referee for the second attempt, ESPN cameras picked up Brown smiling and laughing ahead of one of the most important free throws of his brief college career.
He received the ball, went through his routine, and found the bottom of the net with his shot ensuring Texas would travel south of the Red River with 10 Big 12 victories.
Smart’s team could end up anywhere between a three-seed and a six-seed in the Big 12 Tournament, but the most likely outcomes have Texas as either a three- or a four-seed in Kansas City.
Texas has one regular season game remaining versus TCU this Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPN+. Defeat the Horned Frogs and get a little help from Oklahoma State, and Texas can finish the season as the No. 3 team in the Big 12.
“It’s a ton of fun being in these games,” Smart said. “Now, we’ve got to turn the page. We can’t dwell too much on this one because we’ve got another one coming up.”
Cover photo courtesy of Texas Athletics