FINAL: UConn 71, Texas 66
The Longhorns took their first lead at the 13:09 mark of the first half when Shaquille Cleare found Kerwin Roach wide open under the basket for a layup. That gave Texas an 11-10 lead.
Texas stretched that lead to 17-12 thanks to Roach and Tevin Mack’s second three on two attempts, before UConn, getting out in transition, tied the game at 17.
Both teams played pretty evenly the rest of the half, though Texas was able to keep the lead it took at 27-25 after an acrobatic old school And-1 by Connor Lammert with just over 6 minutes left for about four minutes until UConn went up 32-31.
The Huskies went into the half with a 34-33 lead on 45.2 percent shooting to Texas’ 39.3 percent. Tevin Mack led all scorers with 12 [3-of-6 from 3].
Aside from Mack, Isaiah Taylor’s ability to score in the paint [7 points in first half], Lammert’s five and a few layups by Roach, the Longhorns didn’t have much going offensively. Javan Felix and Eric Davis Jr. combined to score just 3 points on 0-of-5 shooting.
The Huskies stretched their lead to five in the early part of the second half before Texas tied the game, and momentarily took the lead [45-44] with 13:40 to go. Mack hit another three in that stretch.
Daniel Hamilton got going for the Huskies in the second half, making a tough runner near the 11-minute mark to give his team a 5-point lead.
The Longhorns chose to go small at the 8:47 mark when Ibeh picked up his fourth foul, and it paid off when Mack lunged for a loose ball on the defensive end and then nailed a straight-away trey [his fifth of the game] a few seconds later to give Texas a 53-52 lead.
UConn, though, recovered and went on a 6-0 run before Taylor rallied Texas back in the final minutes. He did, though, miss some critical free throws, including the front end of a 1-and-1 with 3:49 left and then another with 33 seconds left that would have cut UConn’s lead to 2.
In the end, the Longhorns just couldn’t create enough offensively and missed some critical free throws down the stretch while UConn made most of theirs.
THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN
Sterling Gibbs made two free throws with 26 seconds left to give UConn a 67-63 lead.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
For the game I’m going to roll with UConn’s Rodney Purvis. He hit clutch shot after clutch shot down the stretch to keep Texas at arm’s length. He finished with 16 points and 5 rebounds.
For Texas I’m going to go with Tevin Mack. You could give this to Taylor as well but Mack, who finished with a career-high 20 points, kept UT in it with several clutch threes. He came in having made only 8 3s all season but made 5-of-9 on Tuesday.
PLAY OF THE GAME
UConn’s Rodney Purvis nailed a three with 4:21 left to give the Huskies a 61-55 lead. Texas had mounted a bit of a rally and had the crowd on its feet when Purvis, a terrific three-point shooter, flushed his second trey of the game. Texas just couldn’t quite overcome the deficit.
STAT OF THE GAME
40-28 – Points in the paint advantage for UConn. Texas couldn’t generate very much of anything in set pieces in the paint without Cameron Ridley. Most of it came from Isaiah Taylor’s driving abilities at the rim. How much does Ridley mean to Texas? UT finished with a 40-20 advantage in the paint against Stanford last week.
WHAT STOOD OUT
Isaiah Taylor – The pressure that he must be feeling right now to carry this team without Cameron Ridley has to feel like 1,000 pounds. But he rose to the occasion against the Huskies scoring 19 on 8-of-15 shooting, with most of his work coming in the paint, per usual.
He’s going to have to play at this level, and maybe even take it up a notch, if the Horns are going to compete in the top half of the Big 12.
Tevin Mack – The freshmen came in having made only 8 of his 34 three-point attempts. He hit 5-of-9 on Tuesday to finish with a career-high 20 points. Shaka Smart always talks about the confidence that Mack plays with and that he was the best shooter UT had in preseason practices. At least for tonight, that rang true.
Shaquille Cleare – He hadn’t been asked to do all that much prior to this game, only averaging 9 minutes per game coming in. So I wasn’t expecting that much from him against UConn. But I saw some things that lead me to believe that he could be a little more of a force inside.
He finished with 5 points and 6 rebounds and, at times, I thought UT should have simply fed him the ball because UConn didn’t have anybody that could stop him from getting position on the block. That will come with time and understanding though. He showed some nice things.
WHAT THEY SAID
UConn head coach Kevin Ollie
“I feel for that team. They came out and fought for the whole game. Our guys showed a lot of guts.
Rodney was huge in the second half. That’s 18 straight double-figure games for him.
I think this is a great team win for us and now we are in conference play.
“We just didn’t get enough stops down the stretch. We didn’t get enough stops. I didn’t think we were energetic enough on the defensive end.”
On post play: “I think they did pretty good. I think they did great. I think Shaq came off the bench and did great things.”
On what he’s expecting from Shaq, who he knows better than anyone on this team: “He is going to step up. We talked last night. He is a gamer. He is a big brother on the team. He told me he is going to step up for the team.”
Were they trying to foul in the final minutes: “We wanted to foul [Rodney] Purvis down the stretch but he came out. We just wanted to get stops. They made some key three-pointers down the stretch.”
On loss without Cam: “UConn is a good team. They had good guards. We are a good team to with or without Cam. This is a game we are capable of winning. Guards just have to do a better job of staying in front of the ball.”
On starting conference play: “We start 0-0 on Saturday. Everybody starts off 0-0. We will come in and keep attacking. We are still a great team. Tevin stepped up, Shaquille gave us good minutes.”
“It was definitely good to see the ball go in the hole. We have to get stops and get better on defense.”
On playing the 4: “Honestly it gives me an advantage. I’m getting use to it definitely.
That’s what coach always tells me, to be active on the glass.”
“That was a tough one because I thought our guys had a good level of energy and enthusiasm for the majority of the game. But we didn’t get stops when we needed to get them. They only took four 3-point shots in the second half but made two of them.”
“We had a few positions where we lacked poise. We had back-to-back possessions where we forced threes and they were flat out bad shots.”
On frontcourt: “Cam was really getting to the point where he was demanding the ball. Now we have to continue to build that with our other bigs. Those guys, Shaq, rebounded the ball really, really well. It just came down to defending them in the half court and that fell on our guards. We just didn’t do a good enough job.”
Is this the way Texas will play now without Ridley:” “We are still figuring out how we want to play, even when Cam was playing. Tonight was a little bit different anyway because Connecticut played with Daniel Hamilton at the 4 spot. He’s really a guard. We had to counter that by playing a little differently. We will be more dependent with our guards.”
On Cam’s surgery: “His surgery went well. He was out of surgery early this morning. Spirits are good. He’s just a terrific kid. He’s going to progress. He’s going to have a follow up with the doctor. Rough estimate was 8 to 10 weeks but everyone handles it differently.”
On Tevin Mack: “Tevin had a great game. He is a really good player. He’s had to make an adjustment and it’s been harder than expected. Tevin’s always been a guy that when the ball is going in everything is going better.”
On confidence heading into Big 12 play: “This is arguably the best conference in America. Texas Tech is playing terrific basketball. I love our team’s opportunity. It’s a matter of us grabbing hold of it. Tonight we didn’t do a good enough job when it mattered most. It’s going to be a matter of who is going to execute down the stretch on both ends.”
NEXT UP: The Longhorns begin Big 12 play on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Lubbock against Texas Tech.