Down 54-52 to No. 24 UConn with 4.4 seconds left, basketball head coach Rick Barnes drew up a familiar play. Coming off a back screen, senior forward Jonathan Holmes found himself wide open in the corner near the Texas bench. Despite leaning too far forward, Holmes swished the corner three, stunning the Huskies 55-54 in Storrs, Connecticut.
“I was kind of off balance and kind of fell forward, but it went in,” said Holmes, whose is now being called ‘Johnny Basketball’ by his teammates.
Up to that point, Holmes was struggling. He was just 3-of-12 from the field after opening the game shooting at a nearly 60 percent clip. But, with the game on the line, Barnes called his number.
The play was nearly a carbon copy of the buzzer-beater that knocked off Kansas State last season. Both plays featured Holmes coming off a back screen for a corner three in front of the Texas bench to win the game. And both times, Holmes sunk the shot.
No. 7 Texas (6-0) found itself down late in the game after struggling offensively in the second half.
The Longhorns took a 6-point lead to the break behind a strong first half from junior guard Demarcus Holland. Holland scored all 10 of his points in the first half, as he sliced and diced his way to the rim and finished early.
The second half, though, was a different story. The UConn defense clamped down, senior guard Ryan Boatright took over and the UConn fans got loud.At the 10:46 mark, a Boatright layup put UConn up 43-42: its first lead since 4-3. The Huskies expanded that lead to 6 before Texas made its move.
A pair of clutch free throws from freshman forward Myles Turner and sophomore guard Kendal Yancy cut the lead to 1. After a pair of Boatright free throws put UConn up by 3, junior point guard Javan Felix hit a high-arching layup with 21 seconds left. Boatright then split a pair from the line — setting the stage for Holmes’ theatrics.
Boatright ended with 24 points to lead all scorers, while Holmes led Texas with 13. Holmes also led all rebounders with eight.
Barnes elected to put Felix on Boatright, who is the Huskies’ go-to man, from the beginning. As Boatright began to get hot and find his stroke halfway through the second half, Barnes switched his lineup so that Holland, his best defender, would match Boatright.
Holland face-guarded Boatright at all times, limiting him to just 2 non-free-throw points and keeping the ball out of his hands in the final minutes. UConn sophomore guard Sam Cassell Jr. found himself taking the shots at the end of the game and missing both.
“Today, the big picture is: We found a way,” Barnes said.
Felix recorded 10 points and four assists, as he filled in for the injured sophomore guard Isaiah Taylor as the starting point guard. Turner finished with 7 points, five rebounds and five blocks — coming up with some huge defensive stops late in the game.
Former Texas star Jordan Hamilton’s younger brother, Daniel, notched 13 points for the Huskies (3-2).Texas returns home Tuesday to take on UT-Arlington.