Kerwin Roach, Matt Coleman turn in career-defining performances, but Nevada still escapes in thrilling OT in NCAA Tournament
Posted March 16th, 2018
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — In Music City, sometimes the song ends on a sour note.
Texas was humming a heck of a tune early Friday against Nevada. Solid ball movement, no panic, excellent defense. Mo Bamba had a big-time block on one end and a sizzling dunk on the other. Heck, even the UT mascot won a dance contest over his Nevada counterpart during a timeout.
In the second half, UT players walked back onto the floor laughing and slapping high-fives after taking a 14-point lead. This first-round game over seventh-seeded Nevada was a symphonic delight. Or so it seemed.
In that same timeout with 18:40 left in regulation, Nevada coach Eric Musselman was singing a different tune with his players. One of the nation’s oldest and best 3-point shooting teams wasn’t going to get strung out in the NCAA Tournament like this, were they?
And a one, and a two and a whole bunch of threes.
Nevada began a slow climb back into the game, one that went into overtime and typified March Madness. Kerwin Roach II and Matt Coleman turned in blockbuster, career-defining performances for 10th-seeded Texas. Still, the Wolf Pack escaped by hitting eight 3-pointers after halftime and captured an 87-83 victory at Bridgestone Arena.
“It’s a devastating loss,” UT coach Shaka Smart said.
The Longhorns’ unpredictable, emotional, roller-coaster season ended with a 19-15 record. Roach had a career-high 26 points on six made 3-pointers, also a new career best. Coleman showed his mettle all game long, piling up a career-high 25 points and going 4 for 5 from 3-point range.
“I’m making a vow to get to the tournament ever year from now on,” Coleman said. “It just sucks because I feel like we had the right pieces to survive and advance and play another day. It just hurts to lose.”
Both players make up a terrific core going forward for Smart, who is now 50-50 in his three seasons. He knew this was the end of the road for freshman Mo Bamba, who is now off to make millions in the NBA. In what became Bamba’s last game in burnt orange, he had 11 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out late in regulation.
“This was a game we should have won, even by double digits,” Bamba said. “But we fell flat. It’s a tough one.”
Unfortunately for Texas, Bamba was chained to the bench in OT after fouling out with 3.8 seconds left in regulation. Suddenly, everything was up for grabs. That’s certainly not the way it looked after halftime, and definitely not how it looked after Dylan Osetkowski’s bucket that gave Texas a 45-32 lead.
Just how good were things going? When the second half began, Coleman threw a bullet pass to Young in the right corner. The point guard didn’t even look. Coleman turned around and ran the other way with his arms in the air as Young’s shot splash through the net. That’s when Mussleman called timeout and let his team have it.
The next play is one that Nevada fans will talk about, though. Caleb Martin hit a 3-pointer with Coleman in his face and drew a foul. He converted the four-point play, and while Texas still had a 10-point lead, something was clearly different.
“Dumb foul on my behalf, and that just got ’em going,” Coleman said.
The few UT fans that made the trip to Nashville might’ve been too scared to look at the scoreboard as the game progressed. Kendall Stephens hit a 3-pointer. Josh Hall scored. Cody Martin got two free throws, and Stephens then drilled another 3-pointer.
But Texas hung tough. Bamba scored on a reverse layup. He scored again, and Texas had a 50-44 lead. The two teams trade proverbial punches down the stretch. Roach dunked, then scored on a floater and Coleman hit two free throws, giving Texas a 56-48 lead.
Here came the Wolf Pack, suddenly down by one after a flurry of buckets.
It was a three-point game with two minutes left, when it came down to free throws. Osetkowski hit two with 45.3 seconds left. Then Roach missed the front end of a one-and-one with 18.3 ticks left. Nevada’s Jordan Caroline went right at Bamba, getting the 6-11 big man to foul out. Caroline hit one free throw tying things up.
Texas had a chance to get a decent play. But Osetkowski threw a half-hearted pass to mid-court where Jericho Sims had to go up in traffic. As soon as the ball left Osetkowski’s hands, his face indicated he knew he’d made a mistake.
Sims couldn’t corral it, and the ball bounced out of bounds. Nevada didn’t get a clean look on a final 3-point attempt, and the game went into OT.
“Being up nine in an NCAA tournament game, you know the other team’s going to do everything they can to make a run,” Smart said. “The crucial part of that second half was they took control in terms of begin the more aggressive team. Obviously at that point, they had nothing to lose.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email email@example.com.