Freshman forward Jarrett Allen stood at the free throw line with 7.2 seconds remaining and a chance to break a 65-65 tie with Iowa State on Tuesday night at the Frank Erwin Center.
Allen, a projected first round NBA draft pick, has struggled from the line all year. He makes just 60 percent from the stripe, and had knocked down only one of his three attempts when he walked up to shoot two more. He made them both.
“I knew I could do it,” said Allen, who finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. “I knew my team had confidence in me, so I didn’t want to let them down.”
It all came down to one final play for the Cyclones.
When senior guard Matt Thomas’ desperation three rattled off the front of the rim, Texas’ 67-65 victory was sealed.
For much of the night, it felt like a typical Texas basketball game. The past two home contests saw the Longhorns run out to commanding early leads only to see them dwindle away.
At one point in the first half, Texas held a 17-point lead and looked in complete control. But it never felt like the Longhorns would truly run away with it. Texas hasn’t blown anybody out during the Big 12 schedule at all — its largest margin of victory in conference play is four.
Texas opened the contest red-hot from the field while Iowa State came out ice-cold. The Longhorns took a 22-5 lead with 8:42 remaining in the first half thanks to a three-point play from senior guard Kendal Yancy.
Four minutes later, Texas still held a strong lead at 30-13 before the Cyclones finally came alive.
A couple of free throws from senior forward Merrill Holden capped off a 16-2 run by Iowa State. In a span of just four minutes, the Longhorns’ 17-point lead had evaporated into just three at 32-29.
“The guys never got down,” senior forward Shaquille Cleare said. “They kept fighting, we kept executing exactly what Coach wanted us to do.”
Freshman guard Andrew Jones helped stop the bleeding when he heaved a three-pointer at the buzzer with two Cyclones in his face to send Texas into
halftime up 35-29.
Allen opened the second half with six points in the first three minutes to help Texas run out to a 43-32 lead.
But Iowa State once again would not go away. A jumper by senior guard Monte Morris cut the Texas lead to 53-50 with 10:47 remaining in the game. Minutes later, the Longhorns’ lead had been trimmed to one at 55-54 with just over six minutes left to play.
Allen’s monster putback slam finally woke a dormant Erwin Center crowd up and put Texas ahead, 57-54.
With 47 seconds left, senior guard Deonte Burton finally tied things up, 63-63, with a three-pointer from the top of the key. Cleare snagged an offensive rebound on the other end and laid it back in to give Texas another two-point lead.
Burton responded with a bank-shot to tie the game at 65. Texas, for a third-straight home game, was in jeopardy of letting things slip away — before Allen came through in the clutch.
“We know we have to get back to work,” Cleare said. “If anyone wants to take us for granted then that’s on them.”