Texas nabs first ranked win against No. 18 Tennessee in Rick Barnes’ homecoming

Christina Huang, Sports Reporter

Former head coach Rick Barnes’ return to Austin marked an emotional night at the Frank Erwin Center as Texas hosted No. 18 Tennessee in the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge. 


In addition to being the winningest coach in Texas men’s basketball history, Barnes took the Longhorns to the 2003 Final Four and made appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 16 of his 17 seasons in Austin. Despite the excitement surrounding Barnes’ return, the game itself was just as interesting. Texas managed to scrape out a 52-51 victory for its first ranked win of the season. 


As was to be expected, Saturday night’s matchup was a defensive catfight. KenPom’s College Basketball Ratings rank Tennessee’s defense as the fifth-best in the nation, with Texas not far behind in 11th place. 


Texas forced two shot clock violations from Tennessee but had 10 turnovers of its own in the first half while Tennessee was up 25-22. But a timely 3-point shot from sophomore guard Devin Askew tied the game up. A costly foul from Tennessee sent senior guard Courtney Ramey to the free-throw line right before the half. Ramey banked both free throws to give Texas a 27-25 lead at halftime. 


The end of the game would see a very similar situation. 


Texas opened the second half with an 10-0 run, with the largest Texas lead of the night coming in at 17 points. But Tennessee was able to catch-up, and the game was all tied up 51-51 with 1:23 remaining. In a near mirror image of what happened to end the first half, a costly Tennessee foul sent Texas to the free-throw line with six seconds left.


Timmy Allen, senior forward and former All-Pac-12 First Team selection, had two free throws to net Texas’ first win over a Top 25 opponent this season. The Utah transfer was in a very similar situation in Texas’ 65-66 loss to Kansas State, missing both shots, but things tipped in his favor Saturday. Allen missed the first free throw but floated the second one in. 


“I’ve been there before in years past, where I miss the first one and hit the second,” Allen said. “So there was no doubt in my mind. There’s a lot of things going on in that moment, but you just (have to) focus on the present.” 


Texas head coach Chris Beard was more than satisfied with the win. Even though Texas came out with a ranked win, the team still managed to lose a 17-point lead late in the contest. 


Tennessee used a full-court press to perfection and stymied the Longhorns on offense until the very end when Allen’s free throw with six seconds left gave Texas just the cushion it needed. 


“There’s nothing disappointing tonight in Austin, Texas,” Beard said. “Texas has a win against an NCAA tournament team with the all-time winningest coach in this program’s history.”