Texas Survives and Advances

All season long, Texas coach Rick Barnes has jumped on the Longhorns for not finishing teams off in the second half after building a lead.

That process followed true to form in Texas's 85-81 win over No. 13 Oakland Friday, when the Longhorns built a 15-point lead with less than five minutes remaining, only to be left sweating through the final minutes as the Golden Grizzlies came roaring back.

Oakland (25-10) cracked the margin to single digits with 2:38 remaining, when Reggie Hamilton flipped in a six-footer and was fouled. The three-point play cut the Longhorn lead to 78-70.

Their best chance came with less than a minute remaining. Larry Wright hit a three-pointer with 1:22 left, cutting the lead to five, and Cory Joseph hit one-of-two free throws. Hamilton, who scored a game-high 25, took a three-pointer that would have cut the lead to three, but the shot rimmed out.

Texas (28-7) hit its free throws down the stretch and led 85-77 in the final seconds before four quick points lowered the victory margin. Will Hudson tipped in a rebound with five seconds left. The Grizzlies earned a jump-ball call on the inbounds pass and Oakland star Keith Benson hit two free throws with less than a second left.

The Longhorns built their lead in large part thanks to Tristan Thompson, who scored 17 points, grabbed 10 boards and had seven blocked shots, helping to keep Benson — normally a high-efficiency scorer — at bay.

The Grizzlies entered the game with one of the country's top offenses, ranked in the nation's top-15 in adjusted offensive efficiency, and figured to give Texas troubles. Only four Longhorn opponents had better offensive efficiency seasons (Kansas, Pittsburgh, Colorado and Connecticut) and Texas went a combined 1-4 against those teams.

But Oakland had a much worse defense than the above squads, and the Longhorns exploited that weakness in building a 46-38 halftime lead. The Texas NCAA Tournament record for blocks in a game was five, by Lamarcus Aldridge, and Thompson equalled that mark by the halfway point.

His strong play continued into the second half, as the Longhorns built up an advantage thanks to J'Covan Brown's 21 points and 19 points and 10 rebounds from Jordan Hamilton. Benson has 14 points and 11 rebounds, but shot just 6-for-16 from the field as he was harassed by Thompson.

With the win, Texas moved a round further than they did a year ago. The Longhorns will play the winner of No. 5 Arizona and No. 12 Memphis, set to be played later today in the West Regional. That game will tip off Sunday.


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