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No. 18 Texas Tech 68, No. 14 Texas 59: Desperate Red Raiders capitalize on Horns’ missed 3s

Texas starts second half going 0-for-11, mostly from outside; “We didn’t do a good enough job of getting in the paint”

Texas' Jericho Sims (20) misses a dunk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Justin Rex)

At some point, losing like this just gets old for No. 14 Texas.

Put Saturday’s loss in the pile with so many others in recent years. Too much reliance on the 3-point shot and not enough on what is annually one of the most athletic front lines in the Big 12. 

In the first eight minutes of the second half, the Longhorns missed their first 11 shots. Seven of those were missed 3-pointers on a day the Horns were having clear success driving inside or looking for big man Jericho Sims.

Texas coach Shaka Smart saw something totally different, though. He watched 18th-ranked Texas Tech score on eight of nine possessions after halftime to build up a double-digit lead at United Supermarkets Arena.

“Defense, because that’s the end you have more control over,” Smart said.

Seems like Texas has some control of its offensive prowess, though, no matter how good Tech’s defense may be. Taking 22-foot shots, having 6-foot-10 big men force contested 3-pointers or having your top three guards go 4-for-13 from long range is a new strategy Texas is workshopping.

Or maybe the Horns simply can’t see the forest for the trees, which is how it looked in a 68-59 loss. Another winnable game ends up in the wrong column.

“We didn’t do a good enough job of getting in the paint,” Smart said. “We had close to a season high in paint touches in our last game. It’s something we really emphasized the last couple practices. But Tech did a nice job.”

Texas' Kai Jones dunks the ball during the first half Saturday.

Who did Texas beat earlier in the week? No. 17 Kansas, for the second time this season, too.

At least one trained eye was practically begging Texas (14-7, 8-6 Big 12) to go inside more. Former coach Pete Gillen, now working for CBS, was screaming for the Horns to look for Sims inside. 

“Spread the sugar!” the one-time Xavier coach yelled when the guards did penetrate. Sims had 11 points on just 4-of-5 shooting on a day he deserved double-digit shot attempts. Sims and Matt Coleman III (10 points) were the only two UT players in double figures.

“Make your free throws!” he boomed when the Horns were the aggressors but couldn’t convert at the stripe. Texas made only 18 of 27 free throws.

Instead, the Horns finished 7-for-24 from 3-point range and shot 34.7% overall as the Red Raiders (15-8, 7-7) snapped a three-game losing skid.

“Felt like a last day of February-type game. For the first time in a while, it felt like we played stretches of Texas Tech basketball,” Tech coach Chris Beard said. “Our defense showed up in the second half when we needed it most.”

Senior forward Marcus Santos-Silva, who battled Sims most of the day, was one of five Red Raiders in double figures. He had 10 points and nine rebounds. 

“We missed this moment,” Santos-Silva said. “Beard would tell us this week, ‘We could give you all these tactics, all these different type of defenses, but it’s not going to work if we don’t compete.’ ” 

Smart said his top three leaders — Coleman, Courtney Ramey and Andrew Jones — have made those shots before and helped Texas win games.

“I’m sure we’ll look at the tape and there’s quite a few that we’ll pull off and say we didn’t need that shot with 15 seconds on the shot clock” he said. 

Then he added, “I thought our level of willingness to just keep moving and keep attacking was not good enough today.”

Beard must give one hell of a halftime speech. His troops turned things up a notch after the break and seized all the momentum from a 33-33 game.

Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard points to Chibuzo Agbo as the Red Raiders celebrate their victory Saturday.

Santos-Silva scored on a quick layup, Clarence Nadolny scored, and then Tyreek Smith dunked on UT’s Kai Jones. The Horns were a step slow on everything. Mac McClung buried a 3-pointer, and Terrence Shannon scored on a quick run-out after a Texas turnover.

The Raiders were up 44-37, and with some dunks, some buckets in transition and sheer hustle, it mushroomed into an 11-point lead.

“We’ve got to guard better,” Coleman said. “The formula is defending. Make it tough for them.”

Meanwhile, Texas was missing from here, there, everywhere. If you guessed correctly that Brock Cunningham would hit a corner 3-pointer to break the 0-for-11 skid, please share next week’s winning lottery numbers.

Finally, the Horns got the message. Greg Brown scored on a layup, and Kai Jones tried to score on a fast-break dunk while getting fouled by Kyler Edwards. Officials looked to see if it was intentional and decided it wasn’t.

This officiating crew is now in the running for my ridiculous whistle of the season when McClung threw himself into Kai Jones on the perimeter. With the shot clock winding down, McClung just bodied into Jones and got the bail-out whistle, James Harden style. McClung hit all three free throws as Tech went up 57-48.

Still, Texas came crawling back and made it a two-possession game down the stretch. Ramey missed a critical layup attempt, and Coleman lost the ball on the next possession for a turnover. 

But the Horns couldn’t get any closer than four in the closing minutes.

“We don’t really have a plan to stop Texas with that kind of talent, that kind of spacing. We want to be the more aggressive team,” Beard said. “If you sit back and hope that that team misses, that’s not going to work.”

It did Saturday.

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