In a game that was an absolute must-win, Texas delivered against No. 20 West Virginia.
In a nail-biting overtime period, the Longhorns went on an 11-0 run to break open a tight game and claim a 87-79 victory at the Erwin Center.
Matt Coleman hit a 3-pointer in the right corner. After a wild scramble just to get the ball down the floor, Kerwin Roach II found Jericho Sims for a dunk. And Jacob Young hit a massive 3-pointer with 2:18 left in OT to give Texas a seven-point lead.
The Longhorns (18-13, 8-10 Big 12) were without Mo Bamba, who was still sidelined by a sprained toe, and Eric Davis Jr.. But the victory most likely helped UT clinch an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament on the final day of the regular season.
Roach and Coleman both had 22 points each, both tying their career highs. Dylan Osetkowski had 15 points and went 5 for 7 from 3-point range. Jericho Sims also had a career-high 17 points and eight rebounds for the Horns, who shot an eye-popping 56.9 percent from the floor.
Texas also shot 57.9 percent (11 of 19) from 3-point range. It was the highest total in coach Shaka Smart’s three seasons in Austin.
The Mountaineers (22-8, 11-7) didn’t make it easy, though. Texas took a seven-point lead thanks to a 15-2 run midway through the second half. But that was gone in a flash as Esa Ahmad scored twice, and James Bolden hit a 3-pointer.
But instead of folding, the Horns held strong. Roach hit a difficult 17-footer just before the shot clock expired. Then, Roach found Sims for an eye-popping, alley-oop dunk. Sims also got two free throws on the next possession after a difficult rebound in traffic.
It was back and forth down the stretch as WVU eventually went back ahead on Ahmad’s free throws with 2:40 remaining.
Young got a terrific steal in the open court with 1:25 left, but Texas couldn’t cash in as Coleman’s pass went flying. But WVU’s Lamont West missed a 3-pointer, and Texas got it back. This time, Coleman nearly dribbled out the shot clock and never got a clean look at the basket.
West sure got a clean look with less than 10 seconds to play. But Dylan Osetkowski contested the shot, which bounced over the rim and went right to Sims. He made the second of two free throws, giving Texas a two-point lead.
West Virginia had no timeouts, but Smart called one to set up his defense. WVU’s Jevon Carter got the ball at mid-court and literally raced in for an easy layup with 1.6 seconds left. Then, Young missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer that bounced off the rim as time expired, sending things into an extra frame.
This season will now ride or die with Roach. Smart opted to start him at point guard against WVU’s Jevon Carter, who ate up Matt Coleman in Morgantown. That was a major reason how the Mountaineers won by 35. But Roach settled in after a difficult start and showed no fear, pulling the trigger on multiple 3-pointers and driving to the hoop.
Sims gave the Horns good minutes last Monday at Kansas. “I know that Mo has a big presence,” Sims said afterward. “I just tried to match that.” Sims had another strong showing against West Virginia. He opened with a thunderous two-handed dunk that left just about everybody awestruck. His turnaround hook in the second half shows promise. And the crowd came roaring to life when Sims caught an alley-oop pass from Roach for a jam.
Knowing they needed a good start, the Longhorns opened with five turnovers — all by Roach and Osetkowski. Some early sharpshooting helped cover it up, though. Young hit a 3-pointer, and Coleman followed with another from the right corner. Osetkowski’s 3-pointer and another by Roach gave Texas a 17-16 lead. The Horns would finish the half 7 for 12 from beyond the arc in the period.
INSIDE THE BOX SCORE
West Virginia is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. That was clearly apparent in the first half as the Mountaineers grabbed seven. But at least three were due to slippery fingers. Texas had their hands on three defensive boards, only to see a Mountaineer swipe at it and knock it away. WVU had eight second-chance points in the first half, which fueled its 42-40 halftime lead.
It’s unclear where Texas will be seeded in next week’s Big 12 tournament. Several other games Saturday afternoon will be needed to shakeout the jumbled mess in the lower half of the standings. The Longhorns will likely play in the first-round matchups on Wednesday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The league will announce a final bracket and pairings by Saturday evening.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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