Texas trailed by two, 82-80, after Will Spradling knocked down the second of two free throws. The Longhorn coaches said multiple times this week that they wanted J'Covan Brown to get the ball in that situation, and so Texas tried to get it to him on a handoff play from Myck Kabongo. But the ball was knocked loose, Martavious Irving pounced on it and fed McGruder for the game's final hoop, the one that put the game away.
The Longhorns demonstrated plenty of heart just to get to that point. Texas trailed by 15 points in the first half, and actually was down 80-73 with 1:14 left in the game. But the Wildcats made just 2-of-8 free throws down the stretch while Brown tightened the screws with a three-pointer followed by an acrobatic shot. A dunk by Sheldon McClellan with 20 seconds left pulled Texas to within one at 81-80, setting up Spradling's free throws and the final sequence.
McGruder set the stage for his great performance with a blistering start, hitting his first five shots, including three three-pointers. He finished 4-of-6 from behind the arc, scoring a career-high 33 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Jamar Samuels scored 14 points, while Thomas Gipson and Will Spradling each had 11. The Wildcats outrebounded the Longhorns on the offensive glass, grabbing 19 offensive boards to Texas's 18 defensive rebounds.
Brown led the Longhorns in scoring with 22 points, though he shot just 8-of-28 from the field and 4-of-14 from three. McClellan had 19 points. Kabongo chipped in 14 points and 10 assists. Clint Chapman had 11 points and five boards.
The game received hype as a big contest for NCAA Tournament aspirations, and the Wildcats' win pushed them to 13-4 and 2-3 in the Big 12. Texas (12-6) is also 2-3 in the league, but is in the middle of a brutal conference stretch that could show wins hard to come by. Texas will host conference-leading Kansas on Saturday, with tip set for 3 p.m.