Longhorns stumble down stretch, drop wild game to West Virginia

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Texas Athletics

After enduring a weeklong winter storm which canceled their week of practice, the No. 12 Longhorns blew a comfortable lead Saturday in Austin at an empty Frank Erwin Center.

Saturday’s game could’ve been the last thing on the Longhorns’ minds as the team dealt with living displacements and concerns about access to food and water during the freezing temperatures in Austin, head coach Shaka Smart said Friday. But nonetheless, Texas came out swinging Saturday, building a 19-point lead over No. 13 West Virginia, only to lose 84-82 in heartbreaking fashion.

“We played well for 25 minutes,” senior guard Matt Coleman said. “It’s another obstacle in life. It’s some more adversity that everyone has to go through. But going into the game, going into practice the past two days, I feel like we had high spirits.”

The game featured a wild sequence down the stretch that saw sloppy turnovers, a crucial missed free throw and painful misses on wide-open looks for Texas.

“To end the game, Courtney (Ramey) got in foul trouble, (and) Andrew (Jones) sat down (for) a little bit,” Coleman said. “But still, it takes a whole team to win, and I think at that point, we needed other guys to step up. It just didn’t happen for us down the stretch.”

With a two-point lead late in the game, West Virginia junior guard Sean McNeil coughed the ball up to Coleman, who was fouled by McNeil on the ensuing fast break. Coleman, an 84.3% free throw shooter, missed the front end of the 1-and-1, but the Longhorns got the ball back when it bounced out of bounds off West Virginia.

Smart had 6.8 seconds left in the game to draw up something special, and he did. Redshirt junior guard Andrew Jones had a wide-open look from 3-point range that rimmed out as time seemed to expire.

After the play, the officials got together and determined that 0.3 seconds would be put back on the clock. Texas received yet another chance at tying the game.

Coleman lofted the ball in front of the rim for senior forward Jericho Sims, who broke through a swarm of West Virginia defenders for a great look at a game-tying slam.

The ball bounced off the rim, and the Longhorns were forced to head back to the locker room in defeat, but not before Smart gave the officials a piece of his mind on the way.

“That was a physical play before the ball came in,” Smart said. “I guess I'll leave it at that. Zero explanation (from the officials).”

Junior guard Courtney Ramey was a scoring machine in the loss, netting 28 points and nailing a career-high seven 3-pointers. However, he fouled out with 2:26 left in the game, and the Longhorns wouldn’t score another point down the stretch.

“It’s like a lose-lose situation,” Ramey said about being in foul trouble. “We just (have) to do better at playing without fouling.”

The Longhorns are certainly no stranger to adversity after dealing with COVID-19 protocols that prevented them from practicing as a full team for two weeks and the current winter storm.

“It’s life,” Coleman said. “You (have) to be able to adapt and just have the humility to just move forward and be mature about it.”