PITTSBURGH — A disappointing Texas basketball season came to a similarly frustrating, disappointing end Thursday in the NCAA tournament.
No. 6 seed Butler did just enough in the final two minutes and pulled out a 56-48 victory in the Midwest Region at Consol Energy Center. The 11th-seeded Longhorns, who had a considerable size advantage, blocked five shots and held the Bulldogs to 33.3 percent shooting, but it wasn’t enough.
Senior Jon Holmes, playing his final collegiate game, scored a team-high 15 points. Sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor added 14 more. Freshman Myles Turner even gobbled up 10 rebounds.
Still, Texas finished the season with a 20-14 record. It could also be the end of coach Rick Barnes’ 17-year tenure in Austin.
Men’s Athletic Director Steve Patterson has been mum about whether he supports Barnes or wants to make a change. Barnes is signed through the 2018-19 season but has a $1.75 million buyout, according to the terms of his contract.
In many respects, this game was a microcosm of Texas’ entire season and the last few years under Barnes. The defense was good enough to win, but the offense can’t score enough points.
Butler went 11 minutes, 39 seconds in a span bridging both halves, yet Texas couldn’t take advantage. Holmes led a personal 9-0 run to end the first half with back-to-back 3-pointers and later converting a steal into an easy layup. Holmes finally gave Texas a 28-26 lead just after halftime with a free throw.
The Bulldogs couldn’t get anything going, other than a couple of free throws, through the first seven minutes of the second half. Kellen Dunham’s 19-footer finally broke the drought, and it was tied up again, 30-30. At that point, Butler found some rhythm and — with the help of some questionable fouls — got back to a nine-point lead.
The Horns had been standing around on each possession for long stretches. They finally got it going down the stretch. Myles Turner hit a turnaround jumper, and Isaiah Taylor scored using his penetration and floater.
But a critical no-call on what appeared to be a five-second inbound violation gave Butler extended life. Then, Dunham canned a critical jumper over a falling Demarcus Holland to give the Bulldogs a 47-43 lead.