That's All, Folks: Nevada: 61, Texas 57

The most trying season of coach Rick Barnes' seven-year tenure at Texas ended Thursday night with a 61-57 loss to Western Athletic Conference champ Nevada at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

The Horns had the ball and a one-point lead with less than one minute remaining but couldn't seal the deal. The loss marked the first time since Barnes' first year in Austin that his club went one-and-out in the NCAA Tournament. Texas finished 20-11 in a topsy-turvy season that saw the Longhorn roster reduced to just eight scholarship players, five of whom were healthy.

In his final game, senior C Jason Klotz contributed a personal best 20 (10-of-25 FG) points to lead all scorers. Junior F Brad Buckman picked up his third personal less than 90 seconds into the second period but finished with 14 points (6-of-14 FG) and 11 rebounds. Other than for a late flurry, Big 12 Freshman of the Year Daniel Gibson was held in check, scoring eight points on a subpar 3-of-11 night.

Junior G Kenton Paulino, senior G Sydmill Harris and freshman F Mike Williams combined for 0-of-11 FGs in a game where Texas shot just 35 percent (24-of-68) from the field and went to the charity stripe just nine times, hitting six. The Wolf Pack didn't fare much better from the floor, connecting on 23-of-62 shots (37 percent). That included a 3-of-14 (21 percent) showing from outside the arc for the Tournament's poorest shooting team from three-point range.

If you had told me that Texas would commit just five turnovers, I would have predicted a double-digit win for the Burnt Orange. But the taller Wolf Pack outrebounded Texas 44-31 and blocked eight shots. With Texas' guards struggling and Buckman saddled with three fouls, the Longhorn offense could never get in sync but still could've won this game when it held a 57-56 lead with less than a minute to go.

Nevada took a 6-5 advantage in a game that saw five lead changes in the first four minutes. Texas misfired on six of its first seven FG before Buckman tied the game at nine with a turnaround jumper. Gibson's three-pointer gave Texas a 14-9 lead. F Kevin Pinkney's traditional three-point play cut into the Texas lead, 17-14. F Jermaine Washington's long two-pointer trimmed the UT margin to one before Kenny Taylor's strong move in the paint made it a 19-16 ballgame.

Taylor served up an air ball, resulting in Pinkney's fast break bucket and a 22-21 Wolf Pack lead. WAC Player of the Year F Nick Fazekas hit his first FG with a runner in the lane to extend the Nevada cushion, 25-21, as part of a 7-0 run. With Buckman on the bench, the Horns missed nine straight FG attempts before G Sydmill Harris went to the FT line and hit all three foul shots to pull within 25-24 at the break.

Buckman was whistled for his third personal with less than 90 seconds eclipsed from the second half. Fazekas' FTs gave Nevada a 29-26 lead. Junior G Mo Charlo's FG extended the Wolf Pack margin to 33-28. Klotz answered from the low post before Taylor's first trey of the evening knotted the affair at 33. Taylor's off-balanced jumper narrowed the Nevada lead, 36-35. Taylor's second trey tied the game at 38. Buckman checked back in before Fazekas knocked down his first trey.

Buckman followed his own missed shot from 10 feet out to grab and was fouled on the putback. Fazakas' second trey gave Nevada a 44-42 lead with just under ten minutes remaining. G Ramon Sessions followed F Jermaine Washington's slam with a coast-to-coast layup as Nevada jumped to a 49-44 lead. Klotz hit three straight FG to narrow the lead at 51-50.

That's when Gibson, held in check for virtually the entire game, knocked down a trey with 4:40 remaining, to reclaim the lead for the Horns at 53-51. Klotz' bankshot completed an 11-2 Texas run to build a 55-51 Texas lead. Gibson drained a jumper before Charlo completed a traditional three-point play to make it a 57-56 nailbiter. With a chance to put this one to bed, junior G Kenton Paulino misfired as F Kevin Pinkney muscled his way in to stake a 58-57 Nevada lead with 44 seconds left.

Charlo missed the back end of a one-and-one and Texas had a chance, trailing 59-57. but Klotz couldn't connect from four feet out and the Horns had no choice but to foul Charlo on the rebound. This time, he made both foul shots to compete the scoring.

The outcome only delayed the inevitable. The winner of this one was going to be done when it faced top-seeded Illinois Saturday. As for me, it's kind of a relief that this season is over. I am proud that Barnes never made excuses for his depleted roster and clinched a school record seventh straight Tournament appearance when it upset second-seed Oklahoma State at its own court on Senior Night just two weeks ago. For now, that will be the extent of March Madness for the Horns. As for me, I'm going to watch my Rose Bowl video (again) and call it a night.

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