Damion James scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds Tuesday to lead Texas past Wisconsin at the sold out Kohl Center, 74-69.
It was a heated game on a snowy night in Madison that saw A.J. Abrams lead all scorers with 21 points. But it was a key defensive play from James that sealed the win.
Texas was up three with 23 seconds left on the game clock — thanks to a key 20-footer from Gary Johnson — and the Badgers called timeout to set up a game-tying bucket. But James padded his resume with a critical blocked shot with six ticks left. Abrams drained a pair of foul shots to put this one on ice.
It was Texas’ first true road game of the 2008-09 season after splitting a pair against nationally-ranked Villanova and Michigan State on neutral courts earlier this month. It was just Wisconsin’s eighth home loss in the past 121 games as the Horns avenged a buzzer-beating upset against the Badgers in Austin last December. No. 8 Texas raised its mark to 10-3 while the Badgers fell to 9-3.
It was also an impressive outing for Johnson. Texas needed every one of his 16 points (7-of-10 FG) and eight boards on a night when the Longhorn frontcourt was whistled for 11 fouls. The back-and-forth affair saw Wisconsin take its biggest lead at four points while Texas did not push its cushion to five until Abrams knocked down his final free throw. The Horns shot 45.2 percent (28-of-62) from the field while holding the home team to 41.8 percent (23-of-55). This one went down to the wire, in no small part, because Wisconsin was a torrid 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from three-point range while Texas misfired on 13-of-16 (18.6 percent) from outside the arc. Free throw shooting has been an adventure for the Horns this season, but Texas drained 15-of-16 from the charity stripe (93.8 percent). Meanwhile. Wisconsin connected on just 14-of-21 (66.7 percent) of its foul shots. Texas dominated the boards, 40-25.
Early fouls and Texas turnovers led to a 28-21 Wisconsin lead with just under seven minutes remaining until intermission. But Abrams ignited an 11-0 run when he bracketed an assist to Johnson with a pair of long-range jumpers. Johnson’s old-fashioned three-point play spotted Texas a 34-30 advantage. Tim Jarmusz’ trey knotted the affair at 37 before the Horns were guilty of their tenth turnover of the opening period. However, James’ buzzer-beating tip-in saw Texas take a 39-37 lead at the break. Dexter Pittman was whistled for his third personal less than 80 seconds into the second period, and the Badgers forced the sixth tie of the game at the charity stripe at 39-all. James’ baseline jumper gave Texas a slim 43-42 lead before he limped to the bench. Freshman Dogus Balbay picked up his fourth personal with 13:56 left as James checked back in with Texas trailing, 50-47. Connor Atchley was guilty his third personal less than a minute later as foul trouble continued to mount for Texas’ front court. He was whistled for his fourth just seconds later as both teams began to trade buckets.
Abrams’ first FG of the second half was a trey that forced a 56-56 tie with little more than 10 minutes left. Trevon Hughes gave the Badgers a brief 64-62 lead with 6:47 left — he would lead the Badgers with 18 points — before Abrams’ driving layup tied things up again.
Arguably, the turning point was Balbay’s steal and layup just before James’ jumper gave Texas a 70-67 lead with 2:16 left. It was Balbay’s only points of the night but it gave Texas the lead for good. Abrams first trip to the foul line would also be his last as Texas now takes a couple of days off for the holidays.
The Horns return to action January 2 when they host Appalachian State.
Video: Texas-Wisconsin Highlights