With Texas fans and players still reeling from Wednesday morning’s announcement, the Longhorns hit the hardwood for their second Big 12 home game of the season.
It was a day bigger than basketball.
Nine hours earlier, the team announced sophomore guard Andrew Jones had been diagnosed with leukemia and was undergoing treatment.
The players sported temporary “AJ1” patches on their white jerseys in honor of their absent teammate. Fans erupted in cheers when Jones’ name appeared on the jumbotron during the game. Shirts with the hashtag “JonesStrong” could be seen around the arena as the Longhorns faced off with No. 16 TCU at the Frank Erwin Center.
Two overtimes and several career performances later, Texas escaped at the buzzer as a layup by TCU guard Jaylen Fisher fell off the front of the rim. The Longhorns earned a 99-98 upset win, their first over the Horned Frogs in the last three meetings between the two programs.
“I could feel an energy from our crowd tonight because of Andrew,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “They really understood it was a game we wanted to go win for him, and they were a big part of that.”
Texas was also without a second piece of its starting lineup. Junior guard Kerwin Roach II sat out with a left hand injury, prompting a three big-man start with junior forward Dylan Osetkowski embracing a role on the wing.
Without two of their top scorers from the guard position, the Longhorns needed a special effort from its supporting cast. And that’s exactly what they got.
Freshman guard Matt Coleman scored 17 points and dished out a career-high 12 assists. Along with career-highs in points from junior guard Eric Davis Jr. and freshman forward Jericho Sims, the Longhorns rallied after losing a late lead to move to 2-2 in Big 12 play.
“I wanted everyone in the building, the team to realize that this isn’t about us,” Davis said. “It's about (Andrew). And like Matt said, playing with joy. He was just with us. He’s fighting a different battle. We still have to fight. I wanted to show everyone that it's deeper than basketball. And just enjoy it.”
Coleman looked aggressive from the opening possession. Burdened with carrying the bulk of the ball-handling and playmaking duties, the freshman point guard sliced through the defense with a long floater to give Texas the first points of the contest. A play later, Coleman found Sims for an easy bucket in the lane, one of his eight first-half assists.
Sophomore guard Jacob Young entered the game and scored five in a row to help Texas jump out to an early 18-8 advantage. Texas started a white-hot 7-of-8 from the floor, including two threes.
Everyone had it going in the first half. Freshman guard Jase Febres, coming off a career-high 18 points against Baylor, started 2-2 from deep to help Texas pull ahead 21-14. Texas headed to halftime up 10, looking dominant after 20 minutes.
The Longhorns executed out of the break with surgical precision. After two games with a clear second-half slump, Texas was locked in during the first five minutes and appeared poised to run away with it.
Freshman forward Mo Bamba recorded a block on the opening possession of the second half, and Coleman immediately got to the line on the other end and drilled both shots to add to the lead. Texas pulled ahead by double-digits, 51-38, on a pair of buckets in the paint.
With every TCU run, Texas seemingly had an answer. Osetkowski completed an and-one to put the Longhorns ahead by eight with 11 minutes left.
But as time ticked on, the momentum slowly shifted in favor of the Horned Frogs. With 10 minutes to play, TCU moved to full-court pressure to try and shake up the Longhorn rhythm, beginning to chip away at the lead.
TCU guard Kenrich Williams cut the Texas lead to five with a huge 3-pointer, then made a free throw to cut it to just four. With seven minutes left the Longhorns were up 63-61 and could only look up and wonder how they had let the lead get away.
TCU completed its furious comeback to tie the game at 77 with time expiring in regulation. Coleman had an off-balance look from deep but it was just short and the two teams headed into overtime.
Davis hit a three early in extra minutes to reclaim the lead. The Horned Frogs answered with a putback before hitting a three of their own to go up by two with two minutes to play. Texas used its final timeout to draw up a play, and Osetkowski buried a three in the corner off the assist from Davis to keep the Longhorns’ hopes alive.
TCU managed to force a second overtime off an uncontested jumper from the elbow, but Bamba fouled out.
With five seconds left in the second extra period, Sims headed to the line. The game was tied. He sank the first shot but the second clanked off the back iron, and TCU called timeout with an opportunity to win the game with a bucket.
But through fortune, fate or an unfriendly roll, the final layup at the buzzer was off the mark, and Texas (11–5, 2–2 Big 12) escaped with the upset at home.
“I think everyone left everything they could on the floor tonight,” Osetkowski said. “For one reason. That was a big win for us.”