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Villanova 68, Texas 64: Courtney Ramey, Matt Coleman know they let a big one slip away

Longhorns show they’re comfortable playing high-level basketball in a tight top-25 matchup but little things add up

Sunday’s 68-64 loss to Villanova provided the most accurate glimpse into how much different this Texas team is compared to Shaka Smart’s previous five.

These veteran Longhorns are comfortable playing high-level basketball. They don’t panic when things aren’t going well. And by no means do they let a quality opponent slam the door in their face.

No. 12 Villanova had every chance to turn a tight contest into a comfortable double-digit road win. But Courtney Ramey kept battling, Matt Coleman III kept driving, the role players made contributions and the defense continued to make life difficult for the opposition. 

Texas guard Matt Coleman dunks the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Austin, Texas. Villanova won 68-64. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

The 17th-ranked Longhorns (4-1) ultimately took their first loss of the season at the Erwin Center. Still, there was something different. The Horns were almost clinical in their dissection of what went wrong late. 

“Just the way we lost, it was frustrating,” Ramey said. “I just felt like, we let the game slip away. We beat ourselves at the end of the day.”

Coleman, who buried the game-winner Wednesday against North Carolina, was just as defeated. “We didn't execute well down the stretch,” he said.

And these were the two leaders who scored 17 points each. 

“I thought they really made big plays when they had to,” Smart said of Jay Wright’s Villanova squad. “That's what good teams do, winning teams do.”

Two specific plays made the difference late. Villanova’s Cole Swider used a slide step on the right wing to move Ramey aside so he could bury a 3-pointer. Then, Coleman threw a bad pass for a turnover, and the Wildcats went the other way for a run-out dunk.

Villanova suddenly had a five-point lead with 1:40 remaining. It should have been over. But Ramey drilled a 3-pointer, and it was back to a two-point game.

Texas’ defense held tight on the next possession, but Jermaine Samuels waited for the right moment and scored on a driving layup. It was ping-pong the rest of the way, as Villanova closed it out with free throws. And that was it. One or two possessions swung the balance of the whole game.

Smart said Coleman and Ramey both “had some things to say in the locker room.” 

Said Ramey: “People got on people. People just kept it real. That’s the biggest thing with our team.”

Then in an almost ominous fashion, Ramey said, “Some people we got after more than others.”

If this was a young team, Smart may not like if the Horns “just keep it 100,” as Ramey said. But it’s not. It’s a veteran team with only one freshman.

“I think sometimes when you lose a game, it certainly exposes certain areas where you need to get better even more so than if you would have won,” Smart said. “We need to continue to get better at our response during games where it's going to be less than perfect.”

Texas shot 45% overall even though only two players finished in double figures. Villanova shot 42.9% and had two players, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore, both finish with 19.

Texas forward Brock Cunningham, center, fights for a loose ball with Villanova forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, front, and Jermaine Samuels, back, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Austin, Texas. Villanova won 68-64. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

What Smart will show his guys on film Monday is how the little things add up. 

Like when Kai Jones missed a 3-pointer in the first half and then went to the other end and let Robinson-Earl drive around him for a baseline dunk. Or how Coleman drew a silly foul on Moore as he released a 3-pointer; Moore hit all three free throws.

Freshman Greg Brown had a terrific sequence where he had a block on one end and ran to the other and couldn’t sky high enough for an alley-oop dunk. Brown had the wherewithal to corral the loose ball and collect himself for a 3-pointer. 

Later, Ramey forced a turnover, then on the other end Brown was called for traveling.

The Horns must find a way to get Jericho Sims going. He’ll throw down a vicious two-handed dunk that will rattle the backboard and … that’s it. Sims finished with seven points on 3-of-7 shooting and is still picking up early fouls to mess with his mojo.

The Horns didn’t get to the foul line enough (six free throw attempts) and had only six assists on 27 field goals. It’s not like the Wildcats played lights out, either. They had only nine assists on 24 baskets, too. Talented guard Collin Gillespie was the only other Villanova player in double figures (12 points).

All in all, it was a balanced game, one that could have gone either way. And that’s why Texas’ captains and the coach were so put off by the outcome. They’ve been through too many of these together.

“This is our statement game,” said Ramey, who almost committed to Villanova out of high school. “You want to prove people wrong. You want to show how good we really are. It was just tough to see this one slip way down the end, but we’re going to grow from it. We're going to bounce back.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.