With the Longhorns leading by a comfortable 13 points at halftime, it seemed as if Texas was going to finally power through an unranked non-Power Five opponent without fear of a major upset.
Coming out of the halftime locker room, though, the University of Alabama Birmingham had other ideas.
“We’re still searching for a 40-minute effort,” head coach Shaka Smart said about the team’s execution.
The Blazers, fresh off of a competitive 69-58 loss at then-No. 9 Kentucky, emerged out of the locker room with a brazen mindset, determined to hand the Longhorns their first home loss of the season.
Texas’ 13-point halftime lead nearly disappeared at the snap of a finger.
Within three minutes, the Blazers whittled Texas’ once comfortable lead down to five on an explosive 8-0 run. The Longhorns’ efficient three-point shooting, which accounted for nearly half of their 38 first-half points, all but disappeared, too.
After shooting 6-12 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Longhorns missed their first six attempts from deep to start the second half. Texas’ newfound shooting struggles, after shooting an impressive 56% from the floor, quickly allowed the Blazers back into the game.
For the Blazers, the feeling was familiar, as the team faced the same deficit against Kentucky but crawled back into the game early in the second half.
“We told our guys, we have to do the same thing (as they did against Kentucky),” UAB head coach Robert Ehsan said. “We got a couple of stops, made a couple of shots and got momentum going our way.”
But just as Texas seemed poised for yet another second-half collapse, in stepped the veteran trio of Andrew Jones, Jericho Sims and Courtney Ramey.
Just over three minutes into the second half, with a dwindling lead bringing a sense of “here we go again,” Sims nailed a key turnaround post hook to keep Texas afloat.
Minutes later, with the Blazers still within striking distance, Jones nailed a 28-foot three-pointer jumper to push Texas’ lead to nine, one of his career-high six threes on the night.
“We were hoping that we would get the team that shot it versus McNeese (in a 73-71 victory), not the team that shot it tonight,” Ehsan said.
Although Ramey only scored five points on one made field goal, his playmaking presence was still felt throughout the arena. Just past the halfway mark of the second half, Ramey made eye contact with freshman Kai Jones and threw a spectacular midcourt alley-oop to bring the Erwin Center to its feet.
“I saw him open, so I put it where he can only catch it,” Ramey said. “He’s a great athlete.”
But even with his team yet to execute for a 40 minute game, Smart was still pleased with his team’s aggressive, confident and loose playing style for portions of the game.
“I thought (we) dug in and were aggressive (defensively),” Smart said. “On the offensive end, when the play broke down, we didn’t just stop.”
Now, with yet another mid-major upset bid behind them, the 7-1 Longhorns turn to face rival Texas A&M in a reignition of the Lone Star Showdown.
“We’ve won seven out of eight games, but we’ve not yet played a complete 40 minute game,” Smart said. “Playing A&M will be a heck of a matchup.”