Wisconsin Tops Texas at the Buzzer

It was a hard-fought, back-and-forth game in front of a sellout crowd at the Erwin Center, but Wisconsin (10-2) emerged victorious over No. 9 Texas (11-2) on a three-pointer from senior guard Michael Flowers, 67-66.

D.J. Augustin could only stand and watch as the final seconds ticked off while the ball floated in midair, out of bounds and out of reach.

"I was kind of in shock," said Augusitn. "He stole the ball and threw it into the air and the clock kept running because he touched it. There's nothing you can do."

Wisconsin guard Michael Flowers had just hit a three to put the Badgers up by one. Only two seconds remained on the clock, only two seconds for Texas to make a play. But when Connor Atchley inbounded, Flowers darted in front of the pass and stole the ball. However, his momentum was carrying him out of bounds, so he threw the ball straight up as hard as he could.

"In practice coaches were telling us to be aware of the time and be aware of where we were on the court," said Flowers. "I left my feet, so I knew I couldn't call timeout because you need one foot on the ground, so I just threw it up in the air and hoped time ran out."

It did. Final: Wisconsin 67, Texas 66.

Flowers' last-second heroics put the visitors over the top, but Texas head coach Rick Barnes said that one shot wasn't what he's focusing on in the loss.

"He made a shot at the end, but 13 offensive rebounds in the second half will get you beat," said Barnes. "It goes back to the same things we keep talking about, post defense and rebounding. That's what's beat us the last two games."

It was only the second loss of the season, but also the Horns' second in a row, dropping another tough contest to Michigan State a week before, 78-72. Texas' loss to the Spartans in Auburn Hills, Mich. looked much the same as Saturday's game in the low post.

"A big part of the game was keeping them (Wisconsin) off the offensive glass," said Texas forward Damion James. "We did so-so in the first half and in the second half they really came out and pounded the offensive glass. I comes down to being more physical and box out and we didn't do that."

James seemed to be the only one doing it. The sophomore forward finished with 21 points and 15 boards, close to half his team's rebounds. Texas lost the rebounding battle by only one board, 38-37, but Barnes said that number is very deceiving.

"(Wisconsin) did more with their rebounds," said Barnes. "They got a lot of tip-ins and beat us underneath."

The inside was controlled for most of the game by Wisconsin center Brian Butch, who had 21 points and 11 boards.

"Brian is the kind of guy we can throw back to and he played a heck of a game. He was involved," said Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan.

The game highlighted Texas' need for a post presence and a deeper bench, but luckily for the Horns, that's exactly what they'll be getting. In a welcome piece of good news for Texas, freshman forward Gary Johnson was officially cleared to play, starting with the January 2nd match-up with TCU. Doctors diagnosed Johnson with a heart condition when he arrived at Texas, but he has participated in practice this season.

"Gary is a great player. He brings toughness and rebounding and you can tell that's one of the areas we're lacking in right now," admitted James.

It was a six-month process for Johnson and it has been tough for Texas to be without him, but junior guard A.J. Abrams said he's just glad to have his teammate on the floor, no matter when it happens.

"Any time's a good time to get a player who can rebound and run," said Abrams.

After the game, Barnes mentioned that Johnson likely wouldn't have played in the last two contests -- Oral Roberts and Michigan State -- because of a back injury. A source inside the program called the injury a back "twinge", which forced Johnson to sit out of a couple of practices, but that he should be ready for the Horned Frogs on January 2nd.

The longer bench will help the Horns, especially given that center Dexter Pittman was the only bench player to register any points (4) or any rebounds (4). Augustin and Abrams each had strong games with 17 and 16 points, respectively, and Augustin chipped in nine assists, but, to go with the problems in the post, Texas struggled in an area it typically does not: free throws.

The Longhorns hit only 50 percent of their free throws (6-of-12), including one that ended up being key in the loss. With 11 seconds to go, Texas was up by one, 65-64, and Abrams was at the line. Heading into the game, the junior was hitting 93 percent of his shots from the charity stripe, but he missed one of his two shots in what ended up being a one-point loss.

"I don't miss too much from the line, so when it didn't go in it kind of shocked me," said Abrams. "That's the way the ball bounces sometimes. When it happens to you, you just have to live with it and move on."

Forgetting it and moving on was the same attitude Augustin took when he was whistled for a charge, taking away his basket that would have given Texas a five-point lead late in the game. Augustin said that even if you don't like a call, you can't let it affect you.

"The ref called it and you can't do nothing about it," said Augustin. "I thought it was a back call, but you can't do nothing about it."

It was apparent Rick Barnes also thought the defender under the basket was moving towards the Texas point guard, but what Barnes is more concerned about it getting consistency from officials.

"You don't get that consistency game-to-game," said Barnes. "There are some officials that wouldn't call it, there are some that will. That's what we're all working for, to get some consistency with that. If it's a rule, everybody should make that call."

Each missed free throw, each call, each missed opportunity made the difference it Texas' neck-and-neck battle with the Badgers. In the end, it can all boil down to just one shot. Ryan was happy his team could come away with a win, but also said he came away with respect for his opponent.

"Michael Flowers made a great play, but Texas is really good and they're going to win a lot of games."

The next game for Texas is against TCU on Wednesday, January 2nd. Tip-off at the Erwin Center is set for 4 p.m.

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