Texas Hoops Falters Late Again

The #7 Texas Longhorns played winning basketball for 30 minutes on Tuesday night at Arkansas, but faltered down the stretch again, losing to the hated Razorbacks 67-61. The loss concludes the non-conference slate and Texas heads into Big 12 play at 11-3.

The #7 Texas Longhorns have been there done that. Unfortunately, that means collapsing down the stretch in the closing minutes of a tight game. Tuesday's 67-61 loss to Arkansas was eerily similar to the loss to Michigan State on December 20.

Leading 53-46 with 9:05 remaining after a Damion James jumper, it appeared as though the Longhorns were taking control of a hard fought battle in hostile territory.

The Razorbacks (12-1) had other plans scoring 11 straight points over the next 4:40 to take a 57-53 lead. Over the near five minute stretch, Texas failed to rattle home a basket going 0-5 from the field.

Texas closed to within 57-55 on a Dexter Pittman basket with 4:14 to play and then tied the game at 57-57 on a Justin Mason follow up dunk in which Mason and James were both hanging with two hands on the rim.

After an Arkansas timeout, the Razorbacks drew up an out of bounds play getting a big three from junior guard Stefan Welsh, who scored 20 points on the night.

Arkansas freshman Courtney Fortson followed with a tough running score to give the red hot Razorback team a 62-57 lead with 2:46 to play.

A.J. Abrams, just three of 16 for the game, answered with a 10-footer to cut the lead to 62-59.

Mason then scored again on an offensive rebound off of a missed left handed layup by Varez Ward cutting the lead to 62-61.

Leading by one, Arkansas junior forward Michael Washington made the winning play scoring on a driving dunk and free throw for a three-point play in which James closed out on Washington at the three-point line out of control giving up the subsequent straight line drive.

After a series of missed three-point attempts by Abrams, the Razorbacks scored the final basket for the 67-61 winning margin on a run out and dunk.

Washington led the Razorbacks with 22 points and nine rebounds. Welsh joined the junior in double figures with 20 and Fortson with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists (six turnovers).

James led the Longhorns with 17 points followed by Gary Johnson with 15 and Mason and Pittman with 10 apiece.

A Look at the Numbers

The Longhorns shot 34.8% (24-69) overall, 7.1% (1-14) from three and 75.0% (12-16) from the free throw line.

The Razorbacks converted 38.7% (24-62) from the floor, 27.8% (5-18) from the three-point line and 66.7% (14-21) from the foul line.

Texas won the battle of the boards in convincing fashion 50-37, including 19 offensive caroms.

The Longhorns lost the turnover battle 15-12.

The Good

Not much when one loses to their hated rival in the fashion Texas did Tuesday night.

Gary Johnson again brought energy off the bench and was a physical force on the glass and in the paint. Johnson finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds despite not getting a single post up look in the closing minutes.

Damion James played with great effort. He finished a number of plays around the basket off of nifty feeds from Justin Mason.

Dexter Pittman played his best game against a quality opponent of his career. He finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 20 minutes. He even added a terrific pass out of the double team to Gary Johnson on the opposite block for an easy score.

Justin Mason, despite not being able to knock down a 15-footer, played a well-rounded game. He rebounded and scored off of offensive caroms and dished out seven assists. Mason finished with 10 points and six rebounds to go with the seven assists.

Texas was very good against the 2-3 zone tonight. Mason was patient as were his teammates. Mason scored on two dribble drives against the zone getting all the way to the rim. On one drive, Pittman pinned his man and played the role of screener keeping his man on his back to give Mason the uncontested score.

The Bad

There are always a few things to point to in every loss and this one is no different.

James' defense on the last possession against Washington was atrocious. James ran at Washington at three-point line. He never closed out properly and compounded the problem leaving his feet and giving up the subsequent straight line drive that resulted in a dunk and three-point play. That was just a horrible defensive play from a junior with experience.

Mason's decision to fight over the ball screen defending Fortson with under three minutes to go was questionable. Fortson was forcing the action off the bounce and wasn't likely to pull up for a 22-footer instead of attempting to turn the corner on the ball screen. The result was Mason trailing and Fortson scoring on a contested runner. Not a smart play at that point in the game against a point guard that isn't a stop and pop player.

The lack of attempts to get the ball to Gary Johnson again in the closing minute or two of the game wasn't smart offensive basketball. Arkansas (Welsh) shadowed Abrams the entire game just like Michigan State. Abrams' only three-point basket came when the 5-11 Rotnei Clarke was defending him. Johnson was getting deep position with his defender on his back at will and the Longhorns didn't work to get him the ball or even try.

James didn't make two clean catches on what should have been simple scores and then made a very bad post entry pass attempt to Pittman with a poor angle late in the game. Those three plays, especially the two easy baskets are magnified in tight games. The unforced turnovers are killers in grinding games.

Justin Mason just couldn't get a mid-range jumper to fall. His shot is taken in a stressed mechanical type of way and there is a lack of confidence in the decision making to take the shot.

Abrams forced too many low percentage runners. Instead of allowing to be taken out and use the opportunities he got to work the ball inside, he forced runners against a player five inches taller with quick reactions. They were low percentage looks against very good defense. Arkansas did a good job of forcing Abrams baseline for the most part.

While Pittman played his best game against a quality opponent, he missed too many point blanks in a grinding game. He simply can't blow easy scoring opportunities in tight games.


Texas finishes the non-conference slate at 11-3. Losing to Michigan State and Arkansas in similar fashion is a huge disappointment as Texas now has to go on a 14-2 type of run in Big 12 play to have a shot at a two seed in the NCAA Tournament more than likely.

The absence of Connor Atchley can't be overstated. Atchley is one of those players that does all of the little things that are big in winning games, especially tight games. Atchley is the Longhorn's best team defender and rim protector. That was missed tonight. On the offensive end, Atchley spaces the floor and draws a big man out to 22 feet on every offensive position. Also, the Longhorns had been running a set to get the ball down low off of a series of staggered screens in which Atchley was a screener, popped to the wing and the set ran through him. That was absent tonight and would have been key as Welsh had Abrams shadowed very well.

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