Nevada

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A season of highs and lows came to an end on Friday night.

And when it did — boy, was Texas low.

After surrendering a 14-point second half lead, the Longhorns found themselves bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive time.

Texas now heads to the offseason with the future uncertain and its most important player on his way out.

Here are four thoughts on the loss:

Ball movement beat out individual talent

Nevada was undersized and outmanned. Three Texas players stood taller than the entire Wolf Pack roster, but better fundamental basketball won out in Nashville.

On the opening play of the game, Nevada whipped the ball through the lane and around the perimeter in a sequence of truly brilliant basketball. The team found a shooter on the wing on its second possession, completely open, to jump out to a 5-0 lead.

While the Wildcats forced the defense to rotate, Texas found the majority of its baskets on isolation opportunities and put backs. For every Bamba dunk and junior Kerwin Roach II step back, the Wolf Pack answered with backdoor cuts and complicated screen plays for shooters.

Up and down the roster Texas boasted bigger and more talented individual players. But Nevada played as five, and advanced as a result.

Bamba's foul trouble exposed Texas’ other big men defenders

When Bamba patrolled the lane, the rim was closed for business. The forward sent away and altered nearly every attempt within three feet, and quickly Nevada got the memo.

Only once in regulation did a member of the Wolf Pack try to meet Bamba at the rim.

Just once.

When they did, Bamba snatched the ball out of the air with almost comical ease, foiling the dunk attempt and ending the possession.

But over the course of three minutes, with time dwindling in the second half, Bamba picked up his second foul, then his third, then his fourth. For much of the remaining time in regulation and all of overtime Texas’ rim protector watched from the bench as Osetkowski and Sims put up all of the resistance of a sieve holding back water.

Osetkowski didn’t pick up a foul for himself until the game had been all but decided. On possession after possession the forward allowed his man to find the rim on backdoor cuts and drives to the rim.

Osetkowski played as if he was the one in foul trouble, and the defensive lapses with Bamba sidelined exposed the slower Longhorn big men.

Even in a loss, Bamba outclassed his opponents

Texas may have been the lower seed, but it certainly wasn’t the underdog. And indeed, according to ESPN, less than half of the submitted brackets picked Nevada to win.

Bamba towered over every other player on the floor, exerting his will on both ends.

Early in the contest the forward muscled his way past a noticeably smaller defender and made a reverse dunk when the defense rotated to contest.

To the 17,552 people in attendance and the millions more watching at home, it was abundantly clear that Bamba was far and away the best player on the floor. But time and time again Texas failed to find its big man under the rim.

Bamba only took 11 shots in 31 minutes, most of which came on putbacks. His limited impact against a team who he should have dominated only highlighted the Longhorn disconnect.

Texas isn’t built to win shootouts

All season long, shooting, specifically threes, has been the achilles heel for this squad. Texas has hung its hat on defensive intensity and interior presence.

By the end of the game on Friday, that strategy had been thrown out the window in favor of a run and gun style. The Longhorns tried to match pace with Nevada, a team whose lack of size has forced them to embrace an offense of uptempo pace and lots of threes.

In overtime, the two teams were simply trading baskets. Bamba’s absence played a role, but Texas abandoned its identity, and in doing so, tried to beat Nevada at its own game.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A 14-point second-half lead, career performances by guards Matt Coleman and Kerwin Roach II and a lopsided height advantage in the paint — the 10-seeded Texas Longhorns had everything pointed in their favor in the second half of their opening March Madness game against 7-seeded Nevada.

But minute by minute, the Wolf Pack scratched, clawed and erased the Longhorns’ dreams of attaining their first tournament victory since 2014.

A dejected Texas team trotted off the court empty-handed, wondering about the what-ifs and could-haves. The season concluded to the tune of an 87-83 overtime loss to Nevada.

“In a game like today, we need to add one or two more winning plays,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “That's the difference. One more stop, one more rebound. It's a cruel, hard assessment. But in games like this that go in overtime — and we've been in as many as anyone in the country — one play does make the difference.”

Nevada’s impeccable 6-of-6 shooting in the overtime period completed the Wolf Pack’s dramatic comeback over the Longhorns in Nashville. But to even get to the overtime period, Nevada asserted its physicality in the final seconds, down 68-67.

Just 3.8 seconds away from defeat, Nevada power forward Jordan Caroline showed no fear of freshman center Mo Bamba, posting the 7-footer up and drawing a crucial foul call in the paint. Bamba, who entered halftime with zero fouls, fouled out in presumably his final collegiate game.

Caroline’s first free throw bricked off the back iron. His second, with the season on the line, sunk through the fibers of the net. The Longhorns turned the ball over on an errant inbounds pass, giving Nevada an unlikely chance to win in regulation.

Caleb Martin airballed the buzzer-beating three, but that would be the Wolf Pack’s final miss from the floor Friday evening.

“I just think that us fighting and Jordan going up and hitting the big free throw to tie it up to go into overtime gave us confidence,” Nevada small forward Caleb Martin said. “You could kind of tell when we walked back on the floor, you could tell the energy of (Texas) was low.”

Despite Bamba’s absence, overtime opened up in a favorable manner for the Longhorns. Coleman, who had a career-high 25 points, drilled a three on the first possession and Roach, who finished with a career-high 26, followed it up with his second 4-point play of the day — nailing a triple from the corner and drawing contact.

“During (overtime), I was just trying to impact, you know, rub some energy off my teammates, try and impact the game as much as possible even from the sideline,” Bamba said.

Texas led 77-73, but Nevada’s long-distance shooting caught fire at the optimal time.

“Across the board, we just got guys that have played in hostile environments,” Nevada point guard Kendall Stephens said of the chaotic start to overtime. “We've been there before so we know that all we need is a chance. We're confident. Once we get back down the court, we're able to score effectively, and that's what we did.”

The Wolf Pack converted on three Caleb Martin threes in the extended period, creating disarray in Texas’ defense. Trailing 85-80, Roach wound up connecting on an NBA range three, but the clock did not allow for enough time for Texas to charge back from the deficit.

Nevada continues dancing Sunday in the second round against Cincinnati, while Texas laments on how a nine-point halftime lead and a 14-point second-half advantage with 18:42 to go evaporated so rapidly. From the 17:59 mark until 2:26 remained in overtime, the winning team did not lead once.

“Being up nine in an NCAA tournament game, you know the other team's going to really do everything they can to make a run,” Smart said. “Obviously, at that point, (Nevada) had nothing to lose. They were behind, they were attacking and we just didn't do enough to match them.”

Texas finished its season at 19–15, still without a tournament win over a higher-seeded team since 2002. The Longhorns’ roller coaster season, which featured an NCAA-high eight overtime games, concluded in Nashville.

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Country and rock music echo through the streets of downtown Nashville as basketball fans previously dispersed across the nation flock together to Bridgestone Arena for a weekend full of March Madness.

For many Texas players, this will be their first rodeo. The Longhorns were devoid of college basketball’s biggest stage last March, but head coach Shaka Smart powered his young roster to 19 wins, drawing a 10-seed in the 68-team bracket. Now, the third-year head coach is searching for his first win in the tournament since stepping into the job in Austin back in 2015.

Assuming junior shooting guard Eric Davis Jr. does not play, junior swingman Kerwin Roach II is responsible for all 12 total minutes of tournament experience in Texas’ supply. But what Texas (19–14) lacks in experience, it makes up for in its formidable frontcourt duo of two newcomers — junior power forward Dylan Osetkowski and freshman center Mo Bamba, both ready to guide Texas to its first tournament victory since 2014.

“You look at some of the Texas greats like KD (Kevin Durant) and T.J. Ford and the legacy they left on the program is mainly based on what they did in March,” Bamba said. “The opportunity and the platform is there for me now. It's just my time to seize it.”

Bamba, who has been battling a toe injury for several weeks, claims he is “100 percent” for the Round of 64 contest against 7-seed Nevada (27–7) after playing just 14 minutes in Texas’ two-game Big 12 Tournament run. The NBA Draft hopeful is poised for a productive day against the mismatched Wolf Pack. Bamba stands 7-feet tall, while Nevada doesn’t boast a single player on its roster above the height of 6-foot-7.

“When that ball goes up in the air, (having something to prove is) what it's really about,” Smart said. “And (Bamba’s) very motivated. One of the things that we've tried to help him understand this season is some of the guys you're going up against on a night in, night out basis, they're a lot better than maybe you thought they were coming in.”

Texas cannot afford to overlook the higher-seeded, regular season Mountain West champion Nevada, who fell victim to a 90-73 thrashing from San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament. The Wolf Pack operate a high-octane, quick-tempoed offense, ranking 17th in the nation scoring 83.1 points per game. Nevada shoots the three-ball at a much higher rate (39.8 percent) than Texas (31.5), so Friday afternoon’s clash on the hardwood will be a struggle between differentiating styles.

“We like to say we're cosmetically pleasing at times, getting the ball up the floor as fast as we can and spacing out,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “Having said that, we've got to be better than them for one game, for 40 minutes. But yeah, they're long and we're not.”

Nevada presents several challenges for the Longhorns, one of which includes guarding the duo of brothers Caleb and Cody Martin. The identical twins combine for 32.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game. Shaka Smart attempted to recruit the two during his VCU tenure, but the twins instead committed to NC State, before transferring west and landing in Reno.

“The challenges that they present, they're extremely versatile,” Smart said. “They play every position for (Nevada) because of the way they play. But both of them, their natural position is kind of small forward, big wing. That's one spot we don't have.”

Smart continued on how vital the twins’ contributions are to the current state of Nevada basketball, claiming their numbers would be in the rafters had they come to VCU.

“Caleb is a phenomenal scorer. He's always been wired to score. He's extremely confident. He really gets going. His first step is very, very fast,” Smart said. “Cody is as versatile as there is in college basketball. He literally can do anything you ask a guy to do on the court, rebound, defend, play point guard, initiate offense, shoot, drive, post up. Whatever you need.”

But Smart will play the cards he was dealt to counter Nevada’s quickness, including freshman point guard Matt Coleman. Coleman’s development from November to present day has been noteworthy, and plenty of pressure will be on the 20-year old freshman to ensure Texas’ backcourt does enough to advance past Nevada and earn a ticket to the second round against Cincinnati or Georgia State on Sunday.

“As a point guard, I always want to find ways to get my big fellas involved here,” Coleman said. “So I'm going to do everything I can to always make sure their presence is felt offensively and defensively. If it's giving them the ball, making them run the floor, just getting them involved.”

Despite the team’s status as a 10-seed, the Longhorns are already dreaming big of what their 18th tournament appearance in 20 years could culminate to — a trip to San Antonio for the Final Four. Texas’ road to the Final Four starts Friday at 3:30 p.m.

“Personally, I would love to have that feeling of being a freshman, going all the way to the Final Four,” Coleman said. “That's what you dream of. You dream of playing in March and having an opportunity to actually be here is why not make the best of it?”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

After a suspenseful wait, the Texas Longhorns (19–14) avoided the First Four and drew a No. 10 seed in the South Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

Texas’ first-round opponent will be the No. 7 seed Nevada Wolf Pack (27–7) — the Mountain West regular season champions. The Longhorns will play Nevada on Friday in Nashville. The winner will face the team that advances out of the No. 2 seed Cincinnati-No. 15 seed Georgia State matchup.

Texas, which earned its first Tournament appearance since 2016, claimed one of seven Big 12 at-large bids in the field of 68 after advancing to the second round of the conference tournament. The Longhorns look to win their first NCAA Tournament game since 2014, when Cameron Ridley’s layup lifted then-head coach Rick Barnes’ team over Arizona State at the buzzer.