Coming into Monday night, the Texas men’s basketball team had lost more games than they’d won in February. However, inspired play from select Longhorns has brightened up this rough period.
In Texas’ 67-57 upset win over No. 20 West Virginia on Monday, sophomore guard Courtney Ramey’s continued leadership and strong play was the light that led the way for Texas. In the past three games, Ramey’s contributions have been vitally important in keeping the Longhorns competitive down the stretch this season.
Ramey began Big 12 play with more inconsistency than anything else, routinely going through dry spells and turning on the scoring at unexpected moments. In the last three games, Ramey’s growth has been a key to his and the team’s success.
“The guys have really taken ownership of what we’ve asked them to do starting with this guy (Ramey),” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said after defeating Kansas State last week. “He’s really taken a leadership role and done a great job first and foremost in practice and in our preparation, owning the message that the coaches have given to them.”
Since a tough loss to Iowa State on the road on Feb. 15, Ramey has been on fire, serving as the emotional impetus of the team. In that game, where the Longhorns lost by 29, Ramey was one of the only positives to come out of it.
After the matchup, Ramey called out the entire team’s effort level. Understanding that the season was slowly slipping away from him and his teammates, he did what any good leader would do: held individuals accountable.
“There’s some stuff we have to fix going into the next game,” Ramey said following the road loss to Iowa State. “And it’s stuff where we just have to play with bigger nuts, or emphasis. We’ve got to play way harder, play with nuts.”
The Longhorns’ first two baskets of Monday night’s game against the Mountaineers came off Ramey’s fingertips. On most possessions, the ball ran through Ramey. He finished with 21 points by the end of the night.
In the first half of the must-win game, Ramey along with redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Jones, combined for 27 points, accounting for all but seven points of the team’s total offensive production.
The second half went just as well for the duo, as their individual scoring onslaughts continued. Jones finished with 22 points of his own on the night. Ramey dished out four assists for the game, in addition to collecting five rebounds in a game the Longhorns had to win to keep the dream of making the NCAA Tournament alive.
“Over the last couple games and throughout the whole season, Courtney and I have built a chemistry,” Jones said following Monday’s win. “With guys out, it’s forcing me to step up and play a bigger role, and it’s forcing him to play a bigger role. When two good players are in sync, you can do great things and lead teams to victory”
Ramey’s late-season resurgence has been the biggest reason for the team’s turnaround. After losing four games in a row, the Longhorns have now won three in a row and will lean on Ramey as they make a late season push for the Big Dance.