Longhorns Close Out Bobcats

Texas used a strong second half from Javan Felix to hold off Texas State 75-63.

Fresh off a tough final three minutes against UCLA that saw Felix commit two turnovers and have a shot blocked in a late Longhorn collapse, Texas point guard Javan Felix rebounded with a 20-point, 7-assist, three-steal performance in a tighter-than-expected 75-63 win over visiting Texas State.

Saturday, the Longhorns faced a much less competitive opponent — the Bobcats came in ranked 258th nationally per KenPom — but the result of the opening 37 minutes was largely the same. In an oft-sloppy contest, Texas led by 10 points heading into the final three minutes, just one bucket more cushion than the Longhorns had against UCLA.

But the ending Saturday was significantly happier, with Texas adding two points to its victory margin over the ending.

"I thought we did great," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "We didn't have a turnover the last [10} and a half minutes of the game. We missed some shots that we wanted and we didn't execute perfectly the way we talked about, but overall I was pleased especially with not turning the ball over."

Texas State coach Doug Davalos said the Bobcat strategy entering the contest was to lock down on curls and easy shots for wings Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis, and for the most part, that strategy worked, with the two combining to shoot just 7-for-22 and with several of those made buckets coming on fast-break opportunities.

Indeed, the plan was to force Felix to beat the Bobcats, something that appeared unlikely both after Felix's late collapse against UCLA and in a 2-for-8 shooting first half that saw Felix score five points while committing three turnovers. Still, Texas entered the second half with a 36-25 lead and what appeared to be the makings of comfortable win.

But that lead was down to seven points just 50 seconds into the second half, and it fell to Felix to help carry the halfcourt offense when Texas couldn't get out and run. And he was there when the lead dwindled to four points on a pair of Phil Hawkins free throws with 6:09 left.

Felix got to the free throw line, making both shots for a bit more room and a 60-54 lead. After missing a jumper on Texas's next possession, Felix got to the bucket for a layup and an eight-point lead. When the Bobcats had the ball next, Felix stole the ball from Hawkins and fed the ball ahead to McClellan for a layup and a 10-point margin. The lead was never less than seven points again, with Felix hitting two free throws just before the three-minute mark to make the margin 10, then later canning a jumper to make it 12 points.

"I don't think so," Connor Lammert responded when he was asked whether the Longhorns got nervous when Texas State cut the lead down. "We encountered that last weekend. We worked all week on trying to handle the situations the correct way. We just kept a level head. And I think it showed out there. We didn't get flustered too much. We handled the press fairly well. And just knocked down free throws towards the end of the stretch."

All-told, from the 5:52 mark to the 1:40 mark, Felix scored eight points and assisted on another bucket, accounting for 10 of the Longhorns' 13 points over a key span. He also helped Texas play error-free offensive basketball — Texas committed 14 turnovers in the game, but the Longhorns made their last one with 10:38 remaining. Felix, who had five turnovers himself, didn't have an error in the game's final 11:08.

"In the beginning [the wings] were doing a good job getting open, running off cuts and just spacing the floor for us," Felix said. "So Coach Barnes told us before the game we would have a lot of opportunities to drive the ball. Get into the lane and make plays. That's what I tried to do tonight."

And while the typically error-prone Longhorns (Texas turns the ball over on a whopping 25.5 percent of its offensive possessions) found a handle on the ball, the typically more sure-handed Bobcats lost theirs, committing five turnovers on six possessions between 5:24 and 2:53.

For its part, Texas did an outstanding job of capitalizing off those mistakes, scoring 22 points off turnovers to Texas State's four and out-scoring the Bobcats 14-4 in fast-break points.

Jonathan Holmes had his first career double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 boards. He was actually one-upped by a spry Lammert on the glass, with Lammert grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds to go with his seven points. Lammert played a whopping 28 minutes, with Barnes unhappy with the ability of starter Cameron Ridley and backup Prince Ibeh's abilities to impact the game while not scoring. Ridley and Ibeh played 21 minutes between them.

Lewis (13) and McClellan (10) joined Felix and Holmes in double figures. McClellan struggled shooting the ball, going 0-for-4 from the three-point line and missing three free throws. The latter was surprising, given McClellan's status as one of the Big 12's top free throw shooters, and the fact that he had three of the Longhorns' four misses as a team.

Texas also saw a nice bump from DeMarcus Holland, who put in a busy seven-point, two-steal performance in just 12 minutes.

Matt Staff scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Bobcats (4-6), while Reid Koenen added 10 points off the bench.

Texas (6-4) will next host North Carolina at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

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