McClellan scores career-high 27 points in Texas’ overtime win over Texas Tech

Christian Corona

Ever since Myck Kabongo returned, Texas has used the same starting lineup every game: Connor Lammert, Ioannis Papapetrou, Jonathan Holmes, Demarcus Holland and Kabongo.

It was no different in the Longhorns’ regular season finale against Texas Tech. They trotted out the same starting five but it was a pair of sophomores that came off the bench — Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis — who they had to thank for their 71-69 triumph over the Red Raiders in Lubbock on Saturday afternoon.

“I told the guys, ‘You know, we haven’t won two games since December,'” head coach Rick Barnes said. “It’s not like they’ve had a great year. I think it got down to competing and they out-competed us. We got down and we fought back and won the game.”

McClellan, the team’s leading scorer who has been in and out of head coach Rick Barnes’ doghouse all year long, scored a career-high 27 points in the win. Since being held scoreless and playing only seven minutes during a 78-65 loss to Oklahoma State last weekend, McClellan is averaging 25 points per game.

“It doesn’t really affect us,” McClellan said of him and Lewis not starting. “We’ve been starting and not starting all season and even last year. Whenever our names get called we just go into the game and try to help our team out.”

Lewis scored 15 points off the bench on an unimpressive 4-for-12 shooting from the floor but he came up big when it mattered most. After hitting a pair of three-pointers in the final minutes of regulation, Lewis broke a 69-69 tie by hitting a jumper with 1.7 seconds left in overtime.

“Coach [Barnes] really wanted to get the ball moving a little bit,” Lewis said. “He really wanted to get Josh Gray away from the top so one of us could go one-on-one with one of their other players. I waited out until like five seconds and made sure I had enough time to see if I could make the best shot I can. I just took it to my advantage and I went at them.”

The bucket allowed Texas to pass West Virginia in the Big 12 standings and earn the No. 7 seed in the Big 12 tournament next week. The Longhorns will face No. 10 seed TCU on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Texas swept the Horned Frogs during the regular season, beating them, 60-43, in Austin on Feb. 2 and again, 68-59, on Feb. 19 in its only road victory of the season until Saturday’s triumph in Lubbock.

If Texas beats TCU again Wednesday night in Kansas City, it will face No. 2 seed Kansas State on Thursday.

“We showed heart at the end, McClellan said. “We didn’t play hard the whole 40 minutes but we will definitely play harder next time. We came off with the win and that is what we wanted to do.”

On Saturday, the Longhorns won their third straight overtime game since Kabongo’s return from his 23-game suspension. They were 0-3 in overtime contests before he came back. Kabongo struggled shooting, going 0-for-12 from the floor.

With three seconds left in regulation and Texas trailing by one point, Kabongo was fouled and given a chance to put the Longhorns on top. Instead, he missed the first of two free throws and hit the second to send the game to overtime. Kabongo scored seven points, grabbed nine rounds, dished out four assists and recorded three steals while committing five turnovers in the win.

Texas improved to 5-3 with Kabongo on the floor despite trailing by as many 17 points in the first half. The Longhorns, down 34-17 with 5:29 to go in the first half, went on a 22-5 run over the next 10 minutes, holding the Red Raiders to 1-for-11 shooting and forcing five turnovers during that stretch. But they didn’t take a lead until after regulation.

“We were not very effective in the first half,” Barnes said. “They drove the ball at will and they went by anybody and everybody they wanted to go by… But we fought back and the press definitely helped us. There is no doubt about that.”

Texas shot just 33.9 percent from the floor but outrebounded Texas Tech, 40-29, and was helped by the Raiders missing 17 free throws. The Longhorns, who beat Baylor, 79-70, in their last home game of the year Monday night, will look to extend their winning streak to three games next Wednesday. They haven’t won three games in a row since victories over Mississippi State (Nov. 21), Sam Houston State (Nov. 27) and UT-Arlington (Dec. 1).

Texas will have to win the Big 12 tournament, which would mean extending that streak to six games, to earn a 15th straight NCAA Tournament berth.