Sometimes, like when your team is trailing by five with 19 seconds left, it’s OK to ask for divine intervention. Fans do it every day, so why not the participants?
Texas senior Shaq Cleare wasn’t shy about summoning a higher power while sitting next to assistant coach Darrin Horn in the closing seconds Monday against Oklahoma. After five straight losses, this became a Red River prayer session.
“We needed a miracle right now,” Cleare said. “Coach Horn, something amazing is about to happen.”
Asked and answered. Eric Davis Jr. hit a 3-pointer with 11.5 seconds left. OU’s Kameron McGusty, an 83 percent free throw shooter, somehow missed twice. And then Andrew Jones swished a high, arching 3-pointer with 1.8 ticks left to help the Longhorns clinch an 84-83 thriller over the Sooners.
Had the Horns lost, they would have fallen into last place in the Big 12 standings. Instead, Texas (8-12, 2-6 Big 12) can use this as a springboard into an easier portion of the schedule over the next few weeks.
“When it left my hand, it felt real good,” said Jones, who had 16 points and was 3 for 3 from downtown. He rushed the ball up the floor after McGusty’s miss, dribbled once between his legs, crossed over and unleashed a 25-footer over the 6-foot-7 Kristian Doolittle.
It was equally as dramatic than Javan Felix’s game-winner against No. 3 North Carolina last season but came from twice as far.
“I was like, ‘Yes!’ We finally ended our drought, beat OU,” Jones said. “Now with this win, which we really needed, I feel like it’s going to give us a lot of momentum and carry on.”
Jones said Smart wanted him to look for Davis, who had 18 points and was 5 for 10 from beyond the arc in a confidence-boosting performance. But Jones had no second thoughts about turning it loose. “I was just hoping it went in, man,” Smart said. “That’s all you can do at time like that.”
When Doolittle turned to see the ball splash home, he just dropped his shoulders. It ruined the freshman’s incredible night. Doolittle was practically unstoppable on the other end, scoring 29 points on 10 of 18 shooting. He came in averaging a pedestrian 7.8.
“Congrats to him,” Doolittle said. “I know he’s going to cherish this moment for a long time.”
It’s hard to overstate how relieved the winners looked afterward. Texas needed this one after five consecutive losses, the last three coming against top-10 ranked teams.
Cleare had 23 points on 10 made field goals, both career highs. Jarrett Allen, coming off a blockbuster showing at Kansas, had 10 points and 12 boards. Kerwin Roach Jr. had 11 points and eight assists.
As the losses piled up, this group didn’t lose faith. But like any other team, they want to see victories, too. The Horns improved to 2-5 in games decided by three points or less.
“Obviously a tough one, the way it finished,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “Texas played well all year. They’ve been close. They’ve been knocking on the door.”
This was an odd series of back-and-forth runs. Texas went on a 9-0 run. Oklahoma answered with an 11-0 spurt. Jones’ two-handed dunk gave UT a 63-54 lead with 10:39 remaining. The Horns still had a six-point lead with 5:03 left.
But the Sooners scored six straight points. Minutes later, they were off and running again as Rashard Odomes’ dunk capped a 7-2 flurry. OU was up 83-78, and even Smart said, “It sure felt like, ‘Uh oh, this one kind of is slipping away.’”
Said Davis, “From previous games, you can tell the vibe of different players, even me at times. Don’t give up. In fact, that was my whole message, don’t give up. We still can go and win this game.”
Davis’ bucket, McGusty’s misses and Jones’ final shot all set the stage for the final scene. UT’s James Banks used his 6-foot-10 frame to tip OU’s inbound pass just enough that the Sooners were off kilter. Their desperation prayer went unfulfilled.
Several Horns let out primal screams, and the students in the announced crowd of 10,898 at the Erwin Center came forth with their favorite chant — “OU sucks.”
“That was an unlikely finish, for sure,” Smart said. “But I like the way our guys hung in there.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.