The Longhorns needed a big shot Tuesday night. They got not one in overtime, but two.
The energized Frank Erwin Center crowd watched as Texas and UT-Arlington traded the lead for the entire second half, with neither team gaining an edge.
Senior forward Connor Lammert changed that with a 3-pointer with over a minute left in overtime to break a 71-71 tie.
Freshman guard Eric Davis, Jr. followed suit with a three of his own, putting Texas up 77-71, propelling the Longhorns to an 80-73 overtime victory.
“I thought there were a lot of people in this place kind of freaking out,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “Everyone needs to relax and understand, this is a process
that we’re trying to build a mentality, and it’s on us as players and coaches to try and build that and get better.”
The game wasn’t a thriller throughout. After a 3-pointer from senior guard Javan Felix gave Texas a 19-18 lead at the 10:22 mark of the first half, the Longhorns went more than seven minutes without scoring as UTA took a 29-19 lead.
“You can’t play that way,” Smart said. “You can’t play not to lose, you can’t play with a heaviness. I thought in the arena, there was a heavy feeling of ‘Uh oh, what’s going to happen?’”
But all it took was one thunderous dunk by freshman guard Kerwin Roach, Jr. to change the complexion of the game.
With 2:48 left in the first half, Roach drove to the basket for a one-handed slam. The dunk re-energized the Longhorns and the Erwin Center crowd, sparking an 8-2 run to cut UTA’s lead to 31-27 at halftime.
“It really surprised me even to make that play,” Roach said. “I just wanted to provide energy for our team to get us going.”
The Texas offense looked better to start the second half as the two squads traded buckets.
While Roach helped bring Texas back, it was the veteran guard duo of Felix and junior Isaiah Taylor who kept Texas afloat.
Taylor had all 21 of his points in the second half and overtime, despite missing the potential game-winner near the end of regulation. Felix added 18 points on the night, knocking down two 3-pointers in the second half.
“I think [Roach’s] dunk, me personally, put me in a good frame of mind to go out and just be myself in the second half,” Taylor said. “[Felix] did great, hitting open shots.”
The matchup also marked the beginning of a five-game home stand for the Longhorns after playing four of its first five games on foreign soil. Smart said the team knows this is an important stretch.
“We’ve talked about how this is a month where we can really make progress, make strides,” Smart said. “We haven’t really talked about we got all these home games in a row, but our guys know we’re at home for a while.”