NEW YORK — Eventually, the specifics about what happened this season in various outposts like Stillwater, Athens or Lubbock will fade into oblivion.
How big were those leads against Michigan State and Baylor? What was the name of that dude who blocked the shot at Oklahoma? What happened on the final play at Kansas? All the answers will turn fuzzy, if not forgotten entirely.
What happened this week at Madison Square Garden is another, more permanent story.
Every Texas Longhorn that journeyed to New York will remember what happened this week in the NIT. The events of Thursday’s 81-66 win over Lipscomb will be filed and catalogued in one’s grey matter as if it’s the Library of Congress.
Texas, a team that was wildly inconsistent throughout the regular season, somehow pulled together to win five games and the NIT championship. The Longhorns finished the year 21-16. It’s the program’s second NIT title; Texas also won the event in 1978.
“If we could get everybody on the same page like that throughout the whole year,” guard Matt Coleman III said, “we’ll be a really high-level team.”
These Horns will remember how Kerwin Roach II finished his UT career with a soaring 360-degree slam dunk at the Garden. “It was a breathtaking moment,” Roach said. He’s done that playing NBA 2K, the popular basketball video game. “But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do in real life.”
They’ll remember how Courtney Ramey’s lock-down defense just locked out Lipscomb sharp-shooter Garrison Mathews. Ramey said “it was an honor” to be tasked with such responsibility. He would have little to no help, as per the game plan.
Mathews, who strolled in averaging 21.1 points, was 0-for-3 in the first half and didn’t score a bucket until there was 8:22 remaining. It was his ninth attempt. He finished with 15 harmless points on 2-for-10 shooting.
The Eyes at the Garden. pic.twitter.com/Nm9omHK9Dw
— Brian Davis (@BDavisAAS) April 5, 2019
“He was locked in,” Coleman III said of Ramey. “That’s all he cared about was guarding Mathews and taking him out. He did a hell of a job — a hell of a job! Probably the best job anybody’s done all year.”
And they’ll remember climbing the ladder and cutting down the net after winning the NIT. They’ll tell friends and family members about posing for a team photo in the New York Knicks locker room and spending the night out in the city that never sleeps.
“We all said f— it, basically,” Ramey said. “I feel like we could have done this earlier, but I’m just glad we did it at the right time and finished with a championship. We should have won a lot of games this year.”
The coach will never forget this, either. Shaka Smart got surprised with a celebratory water bottle bath, something that’s become de rigueur in the NCAA Tournament. Alas, this is the NIT, where the winner is jokingly considered “the 69th best team in America.”
Still, Smart met with reporters wearing a NIT champions T-shirt while his soaked, white dress shirt was wadded up on the desk.
“The goal every year is to not just make the NCAA Tournament but advance in the NCAA Tournament,” Smart said. “That being said, I’m proud of the fact our guys have won a championship. It’s not like we’ve been overflowing with those. Hopefully this is something we can really, really build on.”
So proud of the work these guys put in all year. 🤘🏽 pic.twitter.com/o9rkoK9UKT
— Shaka Smart (@HookEmSmart) April 5, 2019
The athletic director sure believes so.
“We want to be an NCAA championship program. That is our goal,” Chris Del Conte said afterward. “We have a good coach. They’re good people and they do it the right way.”
Del Conte has steadfastly refused to talk about Smart’s job status the last month when things went haywire and UT finished the regular season 16-16. “We’re not where we want to be,” he said. “But the won the NIT. We’re making progress. I’m happy.”
Most everyone will remember how Texas’ two seniors went out in a blaze of glory. Dylan Osetkowski had 19 points and hit three 3-pointers and grabbed 11 rebounds. His mother showed some awesome moves on the Dance Cam, so that’ll be a fun story around the holidays.
Roach had 16 points and a career-high nine assists. A player that got suspended three times during his collegiate career, and arguably ran out of chances, made the most of his last one.
Coleman, Ramey and Roach all made 3-pointers in the second half when Lipscomb got its mojo back after a rough first half. Then, Royce Hamm Jr., an energizer off the bench, had a dunk and Texas led 57-45.
Speaking of Hamm, his first-half block must earn special notation. He practically jumped up and slapped Wilt Chamberlain’s banner to swat away Kenny Cooper’s layup attempt.
By this point, the Bisons (29-8) were starting to talk smack to the Horns, the officials and just about anyone who would listen. Rob Marberry screamed profanities like a guy struggling at the rec center during lunch hour. And he still finished with a team-high 17 points.
This time, when the opponent got momentum, Texas pushed back even harder. Coleman’s trey and Osetkowski’s easy jumper made it a 14-point game down the stretch. Coleman even drew a charge with 5:05 left, and even though this wasn’t UT’s season, you knew it was the Horns’ night.
Roach’s incredible dunk with 2:33 left was just the capper.
“It’s going to be a nice pic on Instagram. That’s all I’ve got to say,” Ramey said. “That’ll get a lot of likes on that one.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.