Buzzer-beaters and late-game heroics make for incredible theater when you’re on the winning side. Texas learned Wednesday just how miserable losing one of these heart-stoppers can be.
Texas Tech’s Mac McClung buried a 19-footer over UT’s Courtney Ramey with three seconds to help the 15th-ranked Red Raiders escape the Erwin Center with an 79-77 victory.
At least, that’s how they’ll tell it in Lubbock over the next few days. The post-game celebration in the visiting locker room was ear-splitting pandemonium. McClung even politely stepped away from ESPN’s post-game interview on national TV to go celebrate.
Talking about pulling one out of the fire. Tech (11-3, 4-2 Big 12) has now won three straight road games for the first time since 1997.
In Austin, the fourth-ranked Longhorns (10-2, 4-1) will look at this upset in much different terms. Sure, it’s just one loss but it’s their first loss in league play this season. It’s also the kind of loss that’ll eat you up inside if you let it.
“It hurts. It hurts,” Texas guard Matt Coleman said. “We won five or six straight. We’ve just been playing well, been connected. It’s been fun. Winning’s fun. It leaves a poor taste in everyone’s mouth, because we haven’t lost much this year.”
Down the closing stretch, a wide-open layup was blown. A defensive breakdown led to an easy Tech layup. A botched inbound play resulted in a turnover and gave the Red Raiders a freebie.
How did Andrew Jones ring up 18 points in the first half and then take only one shot in 16 minutes in the second half? Jericho Sims went 6-for-14 from the free throw line, too.
It boiled down to one final possession. Coleman’s last-gasp running 3-pointer was well off the mark. But in reality, the Horns probably won’t even look at that play much during Thursday’s autopsy.
Everything that led up to that shot will be front and center. And it’s a grim reminder that in this league, the margin for error is so ridiculously thin, nobody can take anything for granted.
“Yeah, it hurts a lot. But you have to be a big boy,” Texas coach Shaka Smart said. “First of all, as a coach and then as a player and watch the tape and look at where we can improve what we can do better.”
This was easily one of the most exciting games of the season — great back-and-forth action, incredible athleticism, some spectacular plays and barking between the players. And nobody was here to witness it.
No fans were allowed into the Erwin Center because of the pandemic. The only fans clapping in the building were UT administrators. Fake crowd noise was played over the loudspeakers just to give the place some ambiance. It was cranked up whenever Tech had the ball and turned off when Texas was shooting free throws.
The real fans at home probably fell off their couch watching Courtney Ramey miss a wide-open layup with about four minutes left. Texas was smack in the middle of a cold spell, having missed five of its last six shots. Credit Tech’s defense for that as the Raiders came into Wednesday night ranked eighth nationally in points allowed (59.4).
Ramey’s miss energized the socially-distanced Tech bench. Kyler Edwards came to the other end and buried a 3-pointer, giving Tech a 71-69 lead with 3:51 remaining.
Texas’ Greg Brown struggled with his shot all night but not with his defense. The freshman had four blocks and drew two charges in a rather sensational effort on that end. He finally got a 3-pointer to fall to give Texas a three-point lead.
The Horns appeared to be in good shape, but then here comes Tech’s Kevin McCullar. He drove through the defense for an impressive score, and it was back to a one-point game.
Ramey shook off the missed layup with a corner 3-pointer and Texas was back up by four. Everything’s looking good, right? Brown went and drew a charge on Micah Peavy with 53 seconds left, and Texas had the ball leading by two.
But on the inbound play, Ramey must’ve “got his wires crossed” with Coleman, Smart said, and threw it away. Terrance Shannon Jr. was there for the easy score and it was all tied up.
Coleman missed a step-back jumper from the side, and that set the stage for McClung.
“I’ve made a couple of bad plays. I wasn’t really myself down the stretch,” said Ramey, who is known for being brutally honest. “But I’m going to learn from it, and that’s what good players do. I’m not going to dwell on it. It hurts right now, because I to win every game. But I’m going to get past it and be there for my team. They’re going to be there for me.”
Several other statistical oddities stick out. Texas forced only seven turnovers. A team that prides itself on deflections didn’t score a single point off those seven Tech turnovers, either.
Meanwhile, the Red Raiders scored 19 points off 15 Longhorns turnovers. You’ll go a long time before seeing another 19-0 discrepancy like that again.
Texas also was outscored 18-4 by Tech’s bench. The only time the Horns’ bench got involved came after Brock Cunningham’s clear block of a McClung shot attempt at the top of the key. It was so clean, Cunningham even got a congratulatory slap from Tech coach Chris Beard.
But Cunningham was called for a foul, so the Texas bench went apoplectic. Kamaka Hepa was running around the enlarged bench area and drew an immediate technical foul.
Aside from that, the Horns really didn’t get much energy from their bench. The Raiders had players and coaches — and man, does Beard bring a lot of extra people — jumping for joy all night long.
“Some of it might have been frustration. Some of it might have been, you know, a little bit of avoidance,” Smart said. “But I just didn’t think we had the same juice overall that we needed to have as a team.”
Again, it’s just one game. Same as the win at Kansas was just one game. Or the win at West Virginia. But it’s one that’ll force Texas to regroup before going again Saturday against Kansas State.
“It was a couple of things that could have been avoided for us to not have the ending that it had,” Coleman said.