- “I looked at Royce (Hamm) and said, ‘Royce, I’m about to win this,’” Coleman said.
- In 40 minutes of the Red River rivalry, Texas attempted only two free throws. OU attempted 29.
- “We were roundly criticized early in the season for not being tough or not playing for the right things. Not having heart.”
NORMAN, Okla. — If you can dream it, you can do it. At least, that’s what Matt Coleman III and Courtney Ramey believe. So when the moment arrived Tuesday night, the two Texas guards were prepared.
“I just know that Matt and I talked about this situation in the hotel room,” Ramey said. “What would happen if he ever hit a game-winner? He said he’d stand on the scorer’s table!”
Last year against Oklahoma, Coleman had a potential game-winning shot blocked at the buzzer. Lo and behold, here he was again, racing up the floor with six seconds left against the Sooners.
“I looked at Royce (Hamm) and said, ‘Royce, I’m about to win this,’” Coleman said.
Sure enough, Coleman came barreling through as Texas trailed by two. Hamm screened OU’s Austin Reaves, and Coleman let loose an off-balance 3-pointer that banked in just before time expired. “I didn’t call bank, but I knew it was good,” Coleman said.
Texas 52, Oklahoma 51.
“Oh, my goodness! The season stays alive!,” ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla screamed to a national TV audience. A crowd of 10,110 at the Lloyd Noble Center that had been shouting “Texas sucks” just stood in stunned silence.
“It’s a combination of a little passion, a little luck and a little of March,” Coleman said.
Forget the bubble. The Longhorns (19-11, 9-8 Big 12) have now won five straight and are likely playing their way into the NCAA Tournament as a solid at-large pick. The Horns are now tied for third in the Big 12 standings while the Sooners (18-12, 8-9) are now in a tie for fifth.
A coach once sitting atop an awfully hot seat now commands a group on a five-game winning streak playing its best basketball in Shaka Smart’s five seasons at Texas.
“We were roundly criticized early in the season for not being tough or not playing for the right things. Not having heart,” Smart said. “And I think this is a great lesson for our guys. When they lose themselves in the fight and play for each other, then all of sudden you become tougher. All of a sudden, your heart shows. It tends to work out better in the win-loss column.”
This particular box score is an eye-sore, though. Coleman was the only Longhorn in double figures with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting. Finally, some good injury news. He flashed terrific stop-and-go motion and appears to be over that heel injury.
But Texas was 8-for-28 shooting from 3-point range. This group went 8-for-29 from beyond the arc in the first matchup against OU on Jan. 8 and lost by 10.
Smart did not get a technical foul for the first time in three games, yet it would’ve been well-earned. Despite being aggressive, the Horns were not awarded a single free throw attempt until there was 1:32 remaining. And that happened only because Reaves was called for a flagrant foul when he grabbed Andrew Jones’ leg.
So in 40 minutes of the Red River rivalry, Texas attempted only two free throws. OU attempted 29.
Coleman’s final play will be what fans remember. Yet there were a ton of smaller hustle plays, some big, some small, all throughout the night.
For example, the coaches made the decision to get Hamm going early. On Texas’ first two possessions, he hit a jumper in the lane and a 15-footer for four quick points. He finished with eight points and 11 boards in 30 minutes.
“Got to eliminate some of these (six) turnovers. Gotta get those down,” Hamm said. “But I feel like my teammates did a good job uplifting me and giving me the courage to go make a play.”
Fraschilla was going crazy on the broadcast about Brock Cunningham’s tenacity. And yes, Cunningham hit two 3-pointers and went crazy on the glass, grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds.
One particular play stood out late in the first half. Kamaka Hepa missed a long jumper, and Cunningham came screaming halfway across Cleveland County. Cunningham hustled so fast, Reaves couldn’t corral the loose rebound and the ball went out of bounds. Texas ball.
What happened next? Hepa got another chance and buried a 3-pointer, giving Texas a 28-25 lead. That doesn’t happen without Cunningham’s hustle.
“I pride myself on how how I play,” Cunningham said. “I’m not going to fill the stat sheet on points or assists or steals, but I’ll do the little things like that. Just doing whatever I can to help the team.”
The Horns played terrific hand-high defense on the perimeter. That includes Ramey and Jones, neither of which had a memorable offensive night. The Sooners went 2-for-20 from long range while Kristian Doolittle had a team-high 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Jones’ two free throws gave Texas a 47-46 lead, but OU pulled back ahead on Doolittle and Brady Manek’s free throws in the final 40.5 seconds. Coleman ran down and hit a baseline jumper with 19 seconds left. Then, it was up to Doolittle, who missed two free throws and left the door open.
“On the road, I’ve always been taught to go for the win,” Coleman said.
Texas can go for the NCAA field of 68 during Saturday’s home finale against Oklahoma State. A fan base that’s put up some ragged attendance numbers this season has a chance to finish strong, too.
“Today was a great step forward making our dreams come true,” Coleman said. “Just gotta take care of business on Saturday.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email email@example.com.