AUSTIN, Tex. – Texas point guard Javan Felix’s buzzer-beater from the right wing came courtesy of an offensive rebound, a fitting conclusion to a game defined by the Longhorns’ work on the backboards.
Some 28 seconds before Felix’s 18-footer left his hand in close sequence with the clock finding triple zeros, guard Isaiah Taylor had lofted a jumper in the lane that missed its mark. Taylor secured that rebound and converted the putback, giving Texas an 82-80 lead. After Brice Johnson tied the game on a post bucket with eight seconds to play, Taylor attempted the game-winner from the left wing with three seconds remaining.
His shot careened off the back of the rim into Felix’s hands. It was the Longhorn’s 16th offensive rebound, their fifth in the final seven minutes, and it provoked memories of the last time these two programs met. Texas upset UNC, 86-83, at the Dean E. Smith Center on Dec. 18, 2013, scoring the game’s final points on a Demarcus Holland offensive rebound and putback with five seconds remaining.
Shaka Smart’s first squad in Austin outrebounded the Tar Heels, 36-27, including a 16-4 edge on the offensive glass. Texas held a 21-7 advantage in second-chance points, which was enough to overcome UNC’s 52.0 percent shooting percentage and 13-6 edge in points off turnovers.
“They outrebounded us badly,” Roy Williams told reporters following the loss.
Factoring into rebounding discrepancy was the Longhorns’ ability to pair the pick-and-roll with penetration, which led to an abundance of perimeter looks. Texas knocked down 12 of its 24 3-point attempts, the final miss resulting in Felix’s game-winner.
“Long shots, long rebounds,” Williams said. “The last one, and I’m not trying to say anything about it, but he missed badly. So it bounces out long. Still, we should have had somebody there. Five guys box out five guys on the other team. That’s the bottom line. Five guys are supposed to box out five guys.”
Texas big man Cameron Ridley corralled 13 rebounds, although to Williams’s point, the Longhorn guards combined for 11 rebounds.
“They were four out and one in,” junior forward Isaiah Hicks said. “Having people running in from the 3-point line running in to get the rebound, that’s tough. It’s tough to box somebody when they’re going full speed and you’re just standing still. We had to make a little adjustment of meeting them in the middle instead of just letting them get all of the way to the spot and beating us.”
UNC entered Saturday’s matchup boasting a plus-12.5 rebounding margin, good for 10th nationally. Kennedy Meeks led UNC with six rebounds, while Brice Johnson grabbed five in limited action due to early foul trouble.
The odd part of the rebounding storyline is although the Longhorns look the part of board enforcers, the stats entering the game told a different story. Texas needed a 42-27 edge on the glass against UTSA last week to move on the positive side of the rebound margin statistic (+0.1), while poor may be a generous adjective in its work on the defensive boards through its first eight games, ranking 330th nationally (37.3), according to kenpom.com.
As well as the Tar Heels played in other areas of the game, winning the glass is a staple to the philosophy that Williams employs.
“We’ve just got to get to the boards,” sophomore wing Justin Jackson said. “Coach preaches it. He preached it a lot this game because Texas coming in wasn’t a great defensive rebounding team, but he said if we don’t get to the boards, that doesn’t matter. We didn’t get to the boards as much as we should have.”
As a result, the Tar Heels dropped their second true road game of the season.