Kerwin Roach Jr. and the Longhorns struggled through the first 35 minutes Friday night.
Texas was shooting 37 percent from the field, buried neck deep in foul trouble and tied with an Oklahoma State team that came in with just three wins in Big 12 play.
But then, Roach took over. The freshman guard scored nine of the Longhorns’ final 14 points as Texas finished the regular season with a 62-50 win — the team’s 20th victory this season.
“All I know is that I had my team behind me,” Roach said. “Coach [Shaka] Smart kept saying keep attacking, so it gave me a lot of confidence and made me go.”
The Longhorns failed to do much in the early part of the game to shake off the disappointment of Monday’s blowout loss to Kansas. Senior guard Demarcus Holland put the Longhorns on the board 88 seconds into the contest — compared to over six minutes against the Jayhawks — but that was it for the highlights in the first half.
Up 7-5, Texas entered a four-minute span with one basket, allowing Oklahoma State to take a 13-9 lead. The Longhorns eventually grabbed a 27-23 lead, but missed their last four shots of the half to let the Cowboys even the game at 29 going into the break.
Foul trouble ruled the second half for the Longhorns. Texas picked up six fouls in the first three minutes of the half, but Oklahoma State couldn’t take advantage. The Cowboys missed five of their first seven free throws.
But Roach, who didn’t score in the first half, made sure that the Longhorns took advantage of Oklahoma State’s missed opportunities.
With the Longhorns up 50-48 and struggling to break away, Roach finally broke serve, driving to the basket for a layup to put Texas up by four. Under a minute later, he dished the ball down low to senior center Prince Ibeh, who finished it off with a dunk and a three-point play.
Roach then scored the next seven points, including a three-pointer with 1:40 left to put the game away for the Longhorns. He finished with 15 points.
“He hit a couple of really big outside shots and he’s been really good at slashing and making plays and he finished them off,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “So that was huge for us because we had some guys who didn’t particularly have their best offensive games, so for him to step up and give us 15 points is really big.”
Meanwhile, the defense made sure the Cowboys weren’t able to counter.
The Longhorns kept the ball out of Oklahoma State’s Leyton Hammonds’ hands. The sophomore forward kept the Cowboys in the game with a game-high 20 points but couldn’t put up a shot in the last 6:45 as the Cowboys failed to score in the last four minutes of the game.
The Longhorns finish the regular season with 20 wins for the 16th time in the last 17 years.
Texas will face Baylor on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. to start the Big 12 tournament. The Longhorns and Bears split the season series, with Baylor blowing Texas out 78-64 in the last meeting on Feb. 20.
“Our guys have made progress, we’ve had some really big wins and now it’s about making sure we go up to Kansas City playing our best basketball,” Smart said.