Longhorns lose overtime heartbreaker to No. 1 Duke

Steve Helwick

When the clock struck eight minutes in the second half on Friday night, the Longhorns led No. 1 Duke by a score of 66-52. A young team seeking to erase the memory of an 11-25 2016-17 season was just minutes away from dethroning college basketball’s preeminent program and return to national prominence. But, Duke slowly but steadily mounted a comeback and bested Texas in the overtime period.

In a game where Texas led from 18:40 in the first half until 2:41 remained in the contest, the Longhorns fell in a heartbreaker to head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils at the PK80 Invitational in Oregon. Duke bested Texas in the overtime period by a score of 85-78, powering through a deficit that at one point stood as large as 16 points.

Even after allowing Coach K’s team to erase Texas’ comfortable lead, Texas still had a chance to win the contest in regulation. Leading by two with under one minute to go, center Mohamed Bamba emphatically rejected Duke freshman center Marvin Bagley’s shot attempt into the stands, giving Texas’ defense a boost of momentum.

But the tide quickly turned and Bamba fouled out as Duke retained possession. The Blue Devils’ Gary Trent drew an and-one by converting on the layup and a go-ahead free throw in with 31 seconds left on the clock.

Texas’ freshman point guard Matt Coleman drew a foul while driving to the baseline on the ensuing possession. Sitting at 67 percent for the year entering the charity stripe, the young floor general sunk his first shot to tie the score at 73 apiece. But Coleman’s second heave doinked off the front of the rim and Duke earned the last shot — a bricked three-pointer that caused the teams to enter overtime.

In overtime, Texas lacked its freshman phenom in Bamba. Duke would play without its senior shooting guard and team leader Grayson Allen, as both players fouled out in the waning minutes of regulation.

But Duke’s offense was nearly unstoppable in overtime without the 7-foot Bamba anchoring the paint. All four Duke field goals in the extra period were either dunks or layups, and Texas paid the price for losing the center who posted nine points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the tightly-contested matchup.

Bamba’s counterpart, Bagley, played an impeccable game for the Blue Devils. Bagley, the No. 1 recruit in the nation for the class of 2017 per 247Sports, tied his career high by grabbing 15 boards while setting a new personal best with 34 points — 40 percent of the Blue Devils’ scoring output. Bagley also only drew two fouls in the game, allowing him to remain on the court for the most crucial moments of the night.

One of Texas’ particular struggles on Friday was from the three-point line. The Longhorns finished 4-23 from beyond the arc. Of all players with multiple attempts, Andrew Jones’ 2-7 performance led Texas in three-point percentage in the loss.

Despite Saturday’s loss, the Longhorns showcased their skills in Portland, and proved they could compete with even the top ranked team in the nation. They frightened the Duke and managed to force overtime at a neutral site location. And although Texas’ undefeated record is no more, the Longhorns have plenty to look forward to, including a return to the Erwin Center on Nov. 29 for a matchup against Florida A&M.