Shaka Smart

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

A three-game losing streak paired with a trip to Norman to battle No. 23 Oklahoma didn’t appear to be an appetizing meal for Texas’ plate.

But with the Longhorns’ season seemingly pushed to the brink, Texas head coach Shaka Smart’s squad made a concerted effort and played the best brand of basketball the program has seen since the Longhorns’ win over Oklahoma in Austin on Feb. 3.

Texas completed the season sweep over the Sooners on Saturday with a 77-66 road victory — the program’s first win in Norman since 2012. The Longhorns (16–11, 6–8 Big 12) completed a rare wire-to-wire win and surged in the second half on a 12-0 run from about the 13-minute mark to the 9-minute mark to spoil Oklahoma’s Saturday in front of its home fans. Oklahoma has now lost five in a row.

Smart recycled several key strategies that vaulted Texas over Oklahoma back on Feb. 3.

The primary way to beat the Sooners is to lock down the likely Naismith Award winner, Trae Young. The star freshman point guard scored 26 points on Saturday, but for the second time this season, the Longhorns forced him to earn those points in an inefficient manner.

Young shot 33 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three. It wasn’t until Texas had built a comfortable lead in the second half that Young connected on his first triple, ending a cold streak of 20 consecutive misses from long range.

The Longhorns employed freshman point guard Matt Coleman and junior guard Kerwin Roach II as the chief “Trae Young stoppers.” The two played incredible defense and didn’t allow anything easy from beyond the arc, where Oklahoma shot 8-of-30 as a team. Roach and Coleman combined for 23 points, but Texas received its greatest offensive boost from a familiar contributor.

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski had struggled with his shot lately, faring 14-of-49 in his last five games. But the junior finally delivered the critical performance Texas fans have been longing for with a 21-point, six-rebound outing.

Although his shooting efficiency and resurgence from beyond the arc showed up in the stat sheet, Osetkowski’s game was defined by his hustle. He anchored key sequences in the second half, including rejecting a 3-pointer that led to a fast break, collecting a key offensive rebound and finishing with a momentum-swinging dunk to stave off an Oklahoma comeback with five minutes to go.

With Osetkowski returning to his high offensive caliber from nonconference play, Mo Bamba wasn’t relied on as much offensively. But the touted freshman center corralled a season-high 18 rebounds and stuffed four Oklahoma shots in the 11-point victory. Bamba’s interior presence, combined with the Coleman-Roach backcourt combo, hampered Oklahoma’s ability to score from anywhere on the court.

The win is especially vital for a multitude of reasons. Texas’ tournament odds sharply increased after knocking down another ranked opponent. The Longhorns now share the same conference record as the Sooners (6–8) and match them in the overall win column (16), inching Texas closer to the upper tier of the Big 12.

Texas failed to build momentum after its last victory over Oklahoma, but Smart knows the Longhorns cannot afford to release their foot from the gas pedal in the team’s final four games of the regular season if they want to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

Texas can sustain this level of play, but it'll require a collective effort from the team’s starters, as evidenced by Saturday’s win. The Longhorns take the floor again on Wednesday night when they face Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas, hoping to avenge a home loss to the Wildcats on Feb. 7.

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

One play away, and it changed everything. 

Tension lingered in the air at the Frank Erwin Center on Monday night. Frustration overwhelmed several members of the Texas roster following the Longhorns’ 74-73 double-overtime loss to Baylor. A chair was punched, and a players-only meeting was held immediately after the game.

“We were one play away,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said after the loss. “When it doesn’t go your way, you have to immediate analyze why and how to get better.”

After over 49 minutes of fighting and almost clawing their way to a much-needed victory, the Longhorns saw their brief 73-72 lead in double overtime dissipate before their eyes when Baylor guard Manu Lecomte’s layup rattled off the rim and into the waiting hands of Baylor center Jo Lual-Acuil Jr., who rose up for an uncontested putback slam.

The clock’s life was limited to just 10 ticks, and Texas was unable to respond, allowing Baylor to prevail in Austin.

Lual-Acuil’s dunk meant a lot more to this Longhorns team than just a devastating home loss. It meant their season.

After a statement victory over then-No. 12 Oklahoma in front of a sellout home crowd, Texas had everything trending in its favor. But in the nine days after, the Longhorns dropped three straight games, including two home games to teams equal or lower to Texas in the Big 12 standings at the time.

On Monday morning, prior to the Baylor game, Joe Lunardi, ESPN’s chief “bracketologist,” listed Texas as a 10-seed in his projected NCAA Tournament bracket. But after Monday’s loss, it appears unlikely that the 15–11 Longhorns can sneak into the tournament, which seemed to be a certainty just a month ago.

Texas’ upcoming schedule consists of five games: three are on the road, three are against ranked opponents and four are against opponents Texas has already lost to this year. Road games against No. 23 Oklahoma and No. 13 Kansas seem like longshots with the way this Texas team has played away from Austin this season. No. 20 West Virginia, which shredded Texas by 35 points in the teams’ first meeting, will pay a visit to Austin in the regular season finale.

The lingering question is this: how many games can Texas (15–11, 5–8 Big 12) afford to lose?

One way the Longhorns can clinch a tournament bid involves winning the Big 12 conference tournament in early March. But a more likely way is to earn a coveted at-large bid. In 2017, just four teams with less than 20 victories secured at-large bids, with Vanderbilt sporting the worst record at 19–15.

But the biggest problem with Texas dropping games to Kansas State and Baylor — especially in its own arena — is that the Longhorns are feeding and providing fuel to their at-large competition. Texas now possesses worse conference and overall records than Kansas State and Baylor and the same record as Oklahoma State — the latter of the three aren’t even in Lunardi’s field of 68 yet.

Texas failed to separate itself from this competition, compiling an 0–4 record against the aforementioned opponents this season. And in most of those games, Texas was, as Smart said Monday night, just one play away.

If Texas doesn’t hear its name called on Selection Sunday on March 11, they’ll likely lament on all of the game-changing plays that cost the team from creating greater gap between the win and loss columns. 

Allowing two offensive rebounds and a game-winning tip-in against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, allowing an offensive rebound and a game-winning putback dunk versus Baylor on Monday, missing a potential game-winning free throw versus Duke and blowing a four-point lead in the last 50 seconds against Texas Tech in Lubbock are just a handful of sequences that could come back to haunt Texas.

Texas is 2–4 in one-possession games and 2–4 in overtime games this season. Perhaps struggling to closeout those games could provide a different, frightening closeout to Texas’ 2017–18 season — the NIT.

Photo Credit: Gabriel Lopez | Daily Texan Staff

After the Longhorns’ thrilling victory over arch-rival Oklahoma at the Frank Erwin Center on Feb. 3, they were on a perfect pace to get into the NCAA Tournament.

Now, Texas has lost three straight — most recently a double overtime loss to Baylor on Monday night — and has plummeted toward the bottom of the Big 12 standings, leaving serious doubt as to whether the team can muster the strength to sneak into the big dance.

Texas is 15–11 overall and a measly 5–8 in conference, which is tied for eighth in the Big 12 standings. The Longhorns have had the lowest-scoring per-possession offense thus far in Big 12 play. Their offense has been extremely inconsistent, with the only reliable source of buckets coming from freshman forward Mo Bamba.

But Texas head coach Shaka Smart’s team has some things going for it: the Longhorns have the second-best strength of schedule and also remain in the top 50 for both RPI and BPI, which are all important factors in the committee’s selection process when the bracket is released next month.

Moving forward, Texas will hit the road to face Oklahoma, Kansas State and Kansas in addition to hosting Oklahoma State and West Virginia in Austin. That’s it — the Longhorns only have five games left plus the Big 12 tournament to decide their fate.

Texas will most likely have to win at least three of those five and do some damage in the Big 12 tournament to punch its ticket to the dance. They’re not done yet, but the Longhorns will need a valiant effort from everyone to keep the NCAA Tournament dream alive this season.

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

With eight seconds left on the clock in double overtime and a one-point deficit for Texas, junior guard Kerwin Roach II drove right and threw up a long runner in a desperate, final look.

But like so many of Texas’ shots on Monday evening, the floater fell short and Baylor grabbed the rebound.

Baylor 74, Texas 73.

It was a pivotal loss for a sliding Texas team that dampened any hopes of making the NCAA Tournament. After posting an impressive 11–2 home record through its first 13 games, Texas has now dropped back-to-back games at the Frank Erwin Center for the first time this season.

“They are really upset,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “And some of these guys are really angry, because some of those guys put their egos aside and came together in terms of attacking and battling. But obviously we came up one stop short.”

Texas missed 11 of its first 12 shots as Baylor took an early 13-6 lead.

The Longhorns rank at the bottom of the Big 12 in 3-point shooting, a fact that Baylor took full advantage of in the opening half. Even with freshman guard Jase Febres — the team’s top marksman from three — back in the starting lineup, Texas shot a miserable 2-of-11 in the first half from deep.

The Longhorns converted on just one field goal at the midway point of the half. And even then, the points came on contested mid-range jumpers. The offense was flat.

With under 10 minutes to play in the first half, Baylor scored on an easy layup off an inbound pass, forcing Texas head coach Shaka Smart to burn a timeout. That break proved to be the turning point of the opening period.

“Particularly in the first half, they didn’t let (poor shooting) get them down,” Smart said. “We had some good looks we didn’t make. We got the ball inside pretty well a few times where we didn’t put it away. That happened a couple times.”

Out of the timeout a three by junior guard Eric Davis Jr. gave Texas a badly needed spark. Roach got a dunk off a steal, then freshman forward Mo Bamba brought the crowd to its feet with a thunderous dunk off the lob from the junior guard to cut the lead to one.

Moments later, the same duo connected on an identical, yet even more spectacular, alley-oop, and Texas took its first lead since the opening seconds.

The two teams traded baskets and entered halftime separated by a single possession, with the Bears clinging to a two-point advantage.

The Longhorns missed four uncontested shots from behind the arc to open the second half, including an airball from Davis as Baylor jumped out to an early five-point lead.

But it was Bamba who set the tone again for Texas. A huge rejection on Baylor forward Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. led to a layup on the other end for Bamba — Texas’ first points of the second half after nearly five minutes.

Baylor maintained a two-possession advantage until the 11-minute mark. Whether it was mismatches or a lack of effort from Texas, the Bears had little trouble abusing the Longhorns on both ends of the court. Texas looked deflated as Baylor pressed the attack, pulling ahead by eight with four minutes to play.

But the Texas players kept grinding. On the heels of a technical foul by Baylor, a late three from freshman guard Matt Coleman and a scoop layup under the rim brought the Longhorns within one with 30 seconds left in regulation. Moments later, Coleman went to the line, calmly hitting two free throws to tie the game for the Longhorns at 56.

Baylor missed a final look from deep as the two teams headed into overtime. Neither squad was able to command an advantage in the ensuing five minutes. After a pair of free throws from Roach tied the game at 64, the two teams headed into a second overtime period.

Again both teams failed to create any meaningful separation.

Texas and Baylor traded layups on both ends as time ran down. With under 15 seconds to play, Baylor took a one-point lead on a dunk inside.

“I knew that Mo was going to block the shot, and I was just hoping for a good miss,” Lual-Acuil Jr. said. “And thankfully I went up and I got it.”

The late runner by Roach proved just off the mark, and Texas (15–11, 5–8 Big 12) saw its postseason hopes suffer a massive blow in disappointing fashion.

“Slow starts make it tough,” Smart said. “That being said, our guys battled and forced overtime, forced double overtime. But even as we took the lead, they weren’t able to stop them.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

FORT WORTH — February marks the last whole month of the college basketball regular season, and there’s only one thing teams fight for — an NCAA Tournament bid.

With TCU having dropped two straight and Texas having lost a heartbreaker at home to Kansas State on Wednesday night, Saturday afternoon’s matchup between the two in-state foes was welcomed with high stakes. But the Horned Frogs left little doubt of their worthiness in their home arena, thrashing Texas, 87-71.

“If we go out and play and bring the same level of spirit and energy to the court that we did today, it really doesn’t matter who we play in the Big 12,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said, “because everybody is good enough to beat that team that played today.”

After tipoff, two immediate Texas turnovers were exchanged for a quick 5-0 TCU lead. The Horned Frogs controlled the game from that moment until the final horn sounded at Schollmaier Arena, never allowing their lead to shrink below eight in the second half.

“We knew that we were gonna have to come in here and make them miss and grab the ball,” Smart said. “We didn’t do either of those things at anywhere near a high enough level in order to win the game.”

TCU sliced and diced Texas’ defense in every way imaginable. The Horned Frogs came out of the gate firing from 3-point range to build a respectable lead in the early stages. Then, TCU began penetrating the lane, passing quickly and finding cutters for open layups.

TCU shooting guard Kenrich Williams and point guard Alex Robinson were key facilitators, and 6-foot-11 power forward Vladimir Brodziansky dominated on post moves to score 25 on the Texas bigs.

“We’re a team that shoots the ball well from three, but it really all starts with penetration,” TCU head coach Jamie Dixon said. “To be as good as we are offensively, you have to do a lot of things well and you have to be well-rounded. We can drive it, we can post up, score inside and we can shoot threes. The combination allows us to be pretty good.”

TCU reverted to draining threes late in the second half and ended up converting on 10 triples during the 16-point win.

“We didn’t show enough intensity,” freshman center Mo Bamba said. “We were basically just hoping they’d miss.”

Although Texas’ defense struggled to contain the Horned Frogs throughout the 40 minutes, the Longhorns unleashed one of their best offensive showings of the year.

Two facets of Texas’ offense were highly functional — Bamba, and surprisingly, the 3-point shooting. Bamba, who has consistently been efficient during the last month, pitched in 23 points in the Longhorns’ highest-scoring road game since Jan. 1.

Texas entered the game shooting just 31 percent from long range, but the team excelled by sinking 10-of-20 threes, including a handful that seemed from NBA range. But TCU’s offense managed to respond every time Texas’ shooters caught fire.

“It was really draining. They made a couple in the second half that were really good defense,” Smart said. “TCU’s a really good team. They move the ball and attack. We needed to do a better job of running them off the line and playing with active hands.”

Texas (15–10, 5–7 Big 12) has dropped two games in a row and five consecutive matchups on the road. The Longhorns’ upcoming schedule bodes unfavorably for a potential NCAA Tournament invitation, but the team can reverse this sudden decline by winning difficult upcoming games.

It will be a quick turnaround, as the Longhorns host Baylor on Monday night.

“This is adversity right here,” junior guard Eric Davis Jr. said. “It’s gonna show what we’re about as a team individually. We’re gonna stay together and get it right.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

Freshman guard Matt Coleman turned the corner near the baseline with his eyes on the rim.

With Texas trailing by two, the Longhorn point guard had an opportunity to tie or win the game against Kansas State on Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center in the final seconds. Coleman saw an opening and lobbed it up to freshman forward Mo Bamba, but the pass proved off the mark. The Wildcats collected the steal as Texas fell, 67-64, in another tight Big 12 game.

“It felt like our spirit wasn’t there all the way,” Coleman said. “We didn’t have enough energy going into the game. That just comes from within. They wanted it more than us.”

The matchup featured two teams trending in opposite directions. Texas (15–9, 5–6 Big 12) sat as close as it has been since 2016 to a top 25 ranking after Saturday’s home upset win over No. 12 Oklahoma. Kansas State, meanwhile, entered on a two-game skid, including a 38-point blowout at the hands of West Virginia.

The game saw another stellar performance from Bamba. The forward scored a game-high 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds in the loss.

“It hurts to lose at home,” Bamba said. “No game in this league is easy, but home games are supposed to be the ones you can lead in spirit compared to who you are going up against. When you drop one at home it hurts a little bit. But we gotta reset for TCU.”

Texas entered Wednesday knowing this was a game it couldn’t afford to lose. In a conference ripe with ranked opponents, a home matchup with a middle-of-the-pack program is a must-win situation for any team eyeing a NCAA Tournament bid.

The Longhorns looked to create separation in the opening minutes. Texas rattled off seven unanswered points to take control early, 14-7.

Texas never pulled ahead by more than seven before Kansas State began its rally.

The Wildcats closed the gap with the help of eight early turnovers from Texas. The Longhorns coughed up the ball on a series of unforced errors which led to 11 quick points at the other end.

Bamba provided a highlight block and staredown to cut into the lead, but the late surge from Kansas State couldn’t be slowed, and the two teams entered the break tied at 34. Texas head coach Shaka Smart was visibly upset and could be seen exchanging words with his starters on the final possession of the half.

“Disappointing to say the least,” Smart said. “It wasn’t like we didn’t practice well or the guys didn’t give effort. But you can kind of see on our faces tonight, we didn’t have the same collective spirit or will to come together and be about one thing.”

Texas came out sluggish in the second half. A quick four unanswered from the Wildcats had Texas playing catch up through the first five minutes.

The Longhorns reclaimed the lead with 14 minutes to play on a long three from junior guard Kerwin Roach II. After leading the charge for the Longhorns in the first half, Bamba was held scoreless through much of the second. In his absence, junior forward Dylan Osetkowski came alive, scoring eight points in the second half to keep the score close down the stretch.

With just under three minutes to play, the lead was a single possession for Kansas State. With one final, furious rally, junior guard Eric Davis Jr. buried a triple, but Coleman committed a crucial foul on the other end. The error gave the Wildcats the ball with 18 seconds left and no shot clock, forcing Texas to start intentional fouling.

Coleman missed his final shot, and Texas fell below .500 in conference play with a tough road rematch against TCU just three days away.

“Well I think one of the things that really good teams do, and winning teams do, is they have a good result and they say we want more,” Smart said. “That was something I really wanted to put front and center in front of these guys coming off of Saturday. But at the end of the day we didn’t display that tonight.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Freshman guard Matt Coleman stood near half court and raised his arms to the sold-out crowd. The Frank Erwin Center, as electric as it has been all season, erupted in response.

The display came on the heels of a furious Texas rally as the Longhorns erased a 10-point second-half deficit to upset No. 12 Oklahoma, 79-74, in the Red River Showdown on Saturday evening.

The Longhorns (15–8, 5–5 Big 12) trailed for all but seven minutes of the game before a late run earned them the victory. Coleman finished with a game-high 22 points, including a number of huge shots down the stretch to lead Texas to its third Big 12 home upset over a ranked opponent this season.

“The crowd tonight was phenomenal,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “They really gave us a lift, because our guys didn’t have great energy early on. There was a level of fatigue that our guys felt from a long week. But I’m proud that they found enough to be within striking distance for the whole game and to make that big run at the end and come back and win.”

Oklahoma freshman guard Trae Young was the focal point for the Longhorns on defense — and for the home crowd. The Frank Erwin Center erupted with boos as his name was called in the starting lineup, and the jeers lasted all night.

On the first possession for the Sooners, Young caught the ball in the corner and faced up. His hesitation move was quickly cut off on the baseline, and the arena went wild as he was forced to pass the ball back to the top.

But early on Young never so much as glanced at the sea of burnt orange and white.

Young sank a deep three early before getting into the lane for a high floater over freshman forward Mo Bamba. Moments later Young found an open shooter in the corner, and then a man under the basket in transition. The guard collected six assists in the opening 10 minutes as Oklahoma jumped out to a 24-17 lead.

On the other end Bamba struggled to find his shot. The forward coughed up an easy turnover on a move to the rim before getting stripped in the lane on the ensuing possession.

Bamba’s hesitance on both ends turned into easy Oklahoma baskets as the Sooners torched Texas in the paint in the first half.

The Longhorns’ biggest advantage suddenly became a glaring weakness as the team found itself unable to get a stop in the lane. Thirty-four of the Sooners’ first 40 points came under the rim as they pulled ahead on what seemed like an endless array of dunks and layups. Oklahoma entered the break ahead 40-35.

“Early in the game we were a step slow,” Smart said. “They were getting wherever they wanted. Trae Young had guys on ice skates. And they were getting into the paint for drop-offs and lob dunks. So it was about picking up our defensive energy.”

The second half saw Texas bring a renewed emphasis on offense.

The Longhorns began with a multi-action set that ended in a Bamba hook shot. The next time down the floor, the team ran a similar series of screens and cuts which led to an open jumper by freshman guard Jase Febres to cut the lead to three.

But Young came out firing. After the nation’s leading scorer dished out nine assists in the first half, the guard scored a quick five points before finding a man under the basket for another uncontested dunk.

The Sooners made it a double-digit lead with 16 minutes to play, and Smart was forced to take a timeout. The momentum had shifted firmly in the favor of Oklahoma as the sound of the arena fell to an uneasy murmur.

“We were down 10, and I felt like our spirit wasn’t great at that moment,” Coleman said. “We just needed something — a stop, a block, a steal, a dunk — something to get us over that hump. And we found something and ran with it.”

But as fast as the lead came, it went. A second-half rally, fueled by the roaring crowd, saw junior guard Kerwin Roach II answer with a three and Bamba hit a pair at the line to cut the lead to four.

Texas immediately switched to full-court pressure and forced a turnover, leading to more Roach free throws.

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski tied the game at 66 with just over five minutes left in the game, before Coleman gave the Longhorns their first lead of the second half — a lead they would not relinquish.

The Sooners went ice-cold down the stretch with under two minutes to play as Texas extended the lead to four. Bamba iced the game on a reverse alley-oop, and Texas escaped with the upset.

“We just have each other’s backs, and it's working,” Roach said. “And that’s what separates us from any other team. We really do genuinely care for each other, and we just went out there and displayed it with our defense.”

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

With 10 games remaining in an up-and-down season, Saturday’s bout was about setting the tone for the final stretch.

And the message was clear.

Looking as dominant as the conference they represented, the Longhorns (14–7, 4–4 Big 12) cruised to an 85-72 victory over Ole Miss in the Big 12/SEC challenge at the Frank Erwin Center. The win gave Texas back-to-back wins for the first time in over a month.

“We came out here wanting to win,” junior guard Kerwin Roach II said. “We were just more hungry. We also wanted to win once we got back on the road, and this was a great way to start it.”

For a second straight game, freshman forward Mo Bamba recorded a career-high scoring performance, earning 25 points and collecting 15 rebounds to go along with four blocks.

“Mississippi came in with a level of physicality and aggressiveness — especially against Mo — but against all of our guys,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “We needed to stand up to that, and our guys did a nice job.”

Texas went straight at Ole Miss from the opening tip. The Longhorns’ starters came out firing, looking to punish the Rebels’ smaller lineup.

Bamba drew a foul on the opening possession while wrestling for position on the block. On the next possession, he motored into the paint and missed his first shot but corralled the rebound and laid it up amid the sea of arms around the rim.

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski built on the early aggression, getting to the line twice in the first five minutes to give Texas an early 7-3 lead.

Roach picked up right where he left off after a career night against Iowa State on Monday.

Osetkowski skipped a pass outside after being double-teamed in the post, and Roach buried the open triple. Moments later, Roach connected on a second shot from three off a high screen, and Texas took a 15-10 lead over the Rebels.

But midway through the first half, Texas was briefly without its interior stopper as Bamba headed to the locker room to be evaluated for a left thigh injury.

Ole Miss took advantage of Bamba’s absence and began to close the gap, as sophomore forward Dominik Olejniczak rattled off 14 points in the first half.

Bamba soon returned, and the momentum shifted firmly back in Texas’ favor. With time winding down before the break, Roach found Osetkowski under the rim on a no-look assist for the and-one play. On the next possession, Coleman hit Osetkowski in the same spot, and Texas took a 33-28 lead — part of six straight points for Osetkowski.

Freshman guard Jase Febres connected on two threes, and Osetkowski converted a third layup as Texas pulled ahead by double-digits. Texas led 45-36 at halftime with two players already in double-figures.

On the opening play of the second half, Coleman dropped off a pass to Bamba under the rim for a two-handed slam. On the next two possessions, the Rebels sent Osetkowski and Bamba to the line to add to the Texas lead.

Roach then found a layup in transition, and Bamba pinned his defender for another easy dunk as Texas built a double-digit lead. By the 12-minute mark, the Longhorns’ second unit had ballooned the lead to 60-45.

Bamba added a few more rim-rocking slams and a highlight block as Texas coasted down the final stretch.

“We needed to get on a win streak,” Bamba said. “This was a very challenging team. But we see no reason why we can’t keep winning.”

Texas now sets its sights on the second half of Big 12 play, starting with a road game against Texas Tech on Monday. The Red Raiders have yet to lose at home this season.

“We wanted to get our mind right going back into conference,” Roach said of Saturday’s win. “Start the second half of conference on a new page, and just get on the road and get into it.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

For the second straight week, it was a tale of two games for Texas. A gritty home victory over a ranked opponent led to a bad loss on the road.

A week prior, after defeating then-No. 16 TCU at home, the Longhorns forfeited a double-digit lead down the stretch against Oklahoma State and lost. 

But on Saturday there was no advantage to surrender.

The Longhorns never led in the second half, and an ice-cold performance ended in a 86-51 blowout at the hands of No. 6 West Virginia. An angry Mountaineers team entered Saturday coming off of back-to-back conference losses. The win, its fourth in a row over Texas, helped West Virginia maintain sole possession of the second seed in the Big 12.

“West Virginia’s spirit and energy and toughness was as good as I’ve seen it,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “We stood up to that for about 12-14 minutes, but we didn’t close out the (first) half strong.

“And in the second half we were trading baskets a little bit. We got the lead down to single digits. But nowhere near the level of mental toughness and togetherness we need to have — especially on the road.”

Texas started the game like a well-oiled machine, demonstrating the same sharpness displayed during Wednesday’s win over No. 8 Texas Tech.

Freshman forward Mo Bamba collected three blocks and added four quick points in the opening five minutes as the Longhorns jumped out to an early 8-4 lead.

But West Virginia’s press began to give Texas fits. The Longhorns coughed up the ball on their next two possessions. The change of pace helped the Mountaineers go on an 8-0 run to pull ahead 14-10.

The press also led to foul trouble midway through the half.

Eight team fouls, including three on junior guard Eric Davis Jr. and two on freshman guard Matt Coleman, put West Virginia in the bonus and got Texas out of rhythm. The Longhorns failed to score for eight minutes, and West Virginia took full advantage. The Mountaineers ended the first half on a 13-2 run to go up 32-22 at the break.

The second half saw more inconsistency from Texas. West Virginia built its lead to 41-28 before a jumper from freshman forward Jericho Sims cut the lead to single-digits.

Texas switched to a press of its own and managed one final, furious rally. A steal by Roach led to an alley-oop to junior forward Dylan Osetkowski on the other end. Moments later, the forward cut the lead to eight.

But that was as close as Texas would get. West Virginia kicked it into gear and went on a 15-0 run to make it a 22-point game with six minutes to play.

The Mountaineers closed the game on a 41-14 run, connecting on 72 percent of their looks from behind the arc. Texas, meanwhile, went just 3-of-15 from three.

“As much as games today really, really hurt, they also better be lessons,” Smart said. “There better be opportunities to learn and understand what caused the game to get away from us after we got off to a pretty good start.”

The Longhorns (12–7, 3–4 Big 12) return home to host Iowa State on Monday at 6 p.m. The two teams met in Ames, Iowa, in early January. It took a career night by Osetkowski for Texas to escape, 74-70. 

Iowa State is coming off a dominant 18-point win over Texas Tech — the largest victory over an AP top-10 opponent in program history.

“For our team, we gotta turn the page quickly to Iowa State,” Smart said. “And we gotta really focus on what goes into winning against them. They’ll be feeling good about themselves coming off of a win. And we’ve got to learn some lessons from today, but also move forward and be the best version of ourselves that we can be.”

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Tremendous, athletic dunks by freshman forward Mo Bamba, the return of junior guard Kerwin Roach II and shocking the No. 8 team in the nation — there were plenty of reasons the crowd at the Frank Erwin Center was on its feet Wednesday night.

The Longhorns not only competed but played an exciting brand of basketball to boost the atmosphere at The Drum in a 67-58 upset victory over eighth-ranked Texas Tech.

“The fans were great tonight, particularly the students,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “They made a huge, huge difference for our team. I really appreciated the way people in Austin, people in the UT community have rallied around our team in a difficult time.”

Bamba’s energy gave the Texas faithful a reason to get excited, producing highlight dunk after highlight dunk and rejection after rejection. The freshman finished with a loaded stat line of 15 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.

“I think he can block the moon and the sun,” Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard said. “He’s a lottery pick for a reason.”

But the most important dunk of the game belonged to Roach, whose right-handed flush down a wide-open lane mounted Texas’ lead to 64-52 with 2:06 remaining in the game. The 12,396 onlookers responded by achieving a maximum decibel level for the night.

It was a spectacular outing for the junior guard, who returned after a fractured left hand marked him absent for the last two contests. Roach shoveled in a season-high 20 points, and the 59.1-percent free throw shooter showed massive improvement by sinking 8-of-9 shots from the stripe on the night. 

Additionally, he thrived in his primary role as a defensive nuisance, holding Texas Tech senior guard Keenan Evans — who averaged 17.5 points per game entering Wednesday — to just 11 points.

“It was big for us,” Bamba said of Roach’s return. “Snoop (Roach’s nickname) really takes charge in our perimeter defense, and having him back in the lineup made all the difference. Keenan Evans is a really good player offensively, and Snoop really did his job on him tonight.”

Texas moved slightly away from the three-ball and played to its strengths. Smart’s team only attempted 15 shots beyond the arc. The Longhorns finished with 32 points in the paint instead. A high-percentage shot selection led the team to finish 51.1 percent from the floor as the Longhorns obtained their first top-10 win since February 2016.

Despite the ranking disparity and the absence of sophomore guard Andrew Jones — who is battling leukemia — Texas was in control for the majority of the 40 minutes. 

The Longhorns snatched an early 12-11 lead with 10:42 left in the first half and remained ahead until the final buzzer sounded. The Red Raiders provided a brief scare by cutting the margin to five with just under five minutes to go. 

But thanks to a barrage of late layups and dunks, Texas (12–6, 3–3 Big 12) prevailed in an urgent game, avoiding a losing streak while managing to stay competitive against the elite in a challenging Big 12.

“The thing about this league is teams being ranked and where they’re ranked will fluctuate some because people are going through a gauntlet of tough games,” Smart said. “There’s five or six teams in our league that could make an argument to be in the top 10, 15 or 20. 

“We’re not one of them yet; we’re trying to become one of them. Tonight was a good step in that direction.”