Texas unleashed its three-guard lineup in redshirt junior guard Andrew Jones’ season debut, but it was junior guard Courtney Ramey who made the game-winning layup to give the Longhorns a close 78-76 win over Davidson College at the 2020 Maui Invitational Tournament in Asheville, North Carolina.
Ramey laid in a beautiful reverse finish to break a 76-76 tie after he missed a three-point shot that went in-and-out with 34 seconds left on the game clock.
“We’ve been there before,” Ramey said. “We’ve practiced these (close) situations all the time in practice. We just stuck with it through our mistakes and that was our main message: just play relentless.”
Davidson redshirt freshman forward Sam Mennenga had two separate opportunities to win the game, but he missed both of his three-point attempts, sealing victory for the Longhorns in the first round of the tournament.
Texas came into the matchup with one of the nation’s top projected defenses, but the Longhorns struggled out of the gate to contain Davidson’s offense, particularly in the post against Mennenga and junior forward Luka Brajkovic. The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead, making their first nine of 12 field goal attempts before ending the game shooting 56.5% from the field.
“We were a step behind defensively the whole game and kept trying to find combinations to guard them,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “They’re a very good offensive team, but it really wasn’t even their actions as much today as just guarding one-on-one, which is something we really got to get better at.”
Jones kept Texas in the game early, providing nine points in the first 10 minutes before foul trouble limited his playing time. It was a common theme throughout the game for both teams.
Freshman forward Greg Brown only played 17 minutes due to picking up four fouls, and junior forward Kai Jones was limited after two early fouls. Four Davidson players each picked up four fouls, one of which was from Brajkovic, who guarded the rim on Ramey’s game-winning drive.
Senior guard Matt Coleman was one of the few players out of foul trouble. He played 39 minutes in the game and bounced back after a poor start to make plays on offense.
“Andrew was in foul trouble for quite a while,” Smart said. “So that meant that Matt and Courtney really needed to play the majority of the second half, and Courtney was in foul trouble the first half. … Fortunately, Matt’s played lots of minutes before.”
Coleman had nine of Texas’s 18 assists, who relied on some nice passing and extra possessions to salvage a poor shooting night. The Longhorns shot 11-27 from the field and were 3-13 from the three-point line.
Redshirt sophomore forward Brock Cunningham had three key offensive rebounds that led to those extra possessions. He ended the game with the highest plus-minus of all Longhorns at +11.
Cunningham’s stretch of minutes at the end of the first half and start of the second helped put Texas ahead 72-65 with five minutes to go in the game. Mennenga would come right back and hit two straight buckets, including a three-pointer, in two straight possessions to launch a comeback.
“Number 3, Mennenga, he was terrific for a freshman,” Smart said. “He’s got a bright, bright future, and we couldn’t handle him.”
But Mennenga and Davidson couldn’t complete that comeback, and Texas moved to 2–0 on the season. The Longhorns will advance to the next round, where they will play the winner of the Indiana/Providence game Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. on ESPN.