With its season on the line, Texas opened its first-round matchup with Texas Tech looking uninspired, disinterested and destined for a quick trip back to Austin.
And when Texas fell behind by 11 midway through the second half, a return-trip looked even more probable.
But the Longhorns went on an improbable 30-10 run over the final 10 minutes, giving them the lead for good and catapulting a desperate squad to a 61-52 win over Texas Tech in the Big 12 Tournament first round in Kansas City, Mo. With the win, Texas’ season stays alive for another day.
The Longhorns opened the game looking exactly like a team that had entered the postseason 10-21 and dead-last in the Big 12 standings. Texas played anything but like a team with nothing to lose.
In what might’ve been the worst first half they’ve played all season, the Longhorns were only down by six at halftime. Texas shot 28 percent from the field and were 1-13 from beyond the arc in the first half.
The Red Raiders led by as much as 12 at 23-11 with just over five minutes left in the half. But Texas Tech never took control of the game.
A buzzer-beating layup by senior guard Kendal Yancy helped Texas go into the locker room only down 26-20. It was the fewest points Texas has scored in any half all season.
In the second half, the Red Raiders grabbed a 42-31 lead with 10:35 left in the game after a jumper from Texas Tech junior guard Keenan Evans.
But then Texas finally woke up from its deep sleep.
Five minutes later, the Longhorns looked up and had grabbed their first lead of the game with 5:30 remaining. Sophomore guard Kerwin Roach Jr. hit two free throws to cap off a 14-2 run. Roach scored 10 of his 13 points during the run.
From there it was all burnt orange. The Longhorns cruised while Texas Tech faltered offensively down the stretch.
A breakaway transition slam by freshman guard Andrew Jones put the exclamation point on Texas’ first victory away from the Erwin Center this season. The Longhorns are now 1-14 outside of Austin.
Jones led Texas with 15 points and five rebounds, while freshman forward Jarrett Allen added 10 points and four boards of his own.
Texas (11-21) draws No. 11 West Virginia, the No. 2-seed, Thursday in the second round of the Big 12 Tournament with another chance to keep its season alive. Texas dropped both meetings to the Mountaineers this season, falling 74-72 in Austin and 77-62 in Morgantown.
Tipoff is at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.