Despite second-half surge, No. 2 Texas falls to No. 17 Illinois in OT

Payne Williams, Senior sports reporter

No. 2 Texas dropped its first game of the season in an overtime 78-85 loss against No. 17 Illinois on Tuesday night in New York.

The first game of the annual Jimmy V Classic doubleheader — which raises money for cancer research — featured 45 minutes of basketball at Madison Square Garden, but the Longhorns eventually fell short after failing to put away the Illini in regulation.

Texas found itself in unfamiliar territory in the first half despite forcing 11 turnovers. 

While the Longhorns had stopped Illinois’ top scorer in senior Terrence Shannon Jr. for much of the game, Texas struggled to contain senior wing Matthew Mayer, as the former Baylor Bear shot a perfect 6-of-6 in the first half and finished with 21 total points.

Texas entered the break down 34-37, the team’s first halftime deficit of the season.

Despite a slower-than-usual start, head coach Chris Beard’s halftime adjustments addressed the shaky first-half performance. 

“We understand that things don’t always go well,” Beard said Monday in the lead-up to the game. “We talk to a lot of guys about culture and things we can do. These things, regardless of the scoreboard, should be consistent.”

The Longhorns held as much as a 10-point lead after a 16-2 run in the second half behind a dominant offensive performance from senior forward Timmy Allen. 

Allen led Texas with 21 points and seven rebounds, but the forward’s efforts weren’t enough for the Longhorns to close out the game in regulation. Despite holding a 5-point lead with a minute left, Texas couldn’t hold on.

The gap was swiftly closed by Illinois freshman Jayden Epps who made a 3-pointer and two free throws after a foul by graduate student guard Sir’Jabari Rice.

With the game tied and just a handful of seconds remaining, the Longhorns had a chance to take the lead, but a shot from graduate student guard Marcus Carr failed to find the net as time expired. Both teams were knotted at 68 apiece heading into overtime.

The Longhorns saw their first overtime action of the season, but by then, the momentum was in Illinois’ favor.

The cap Texas’ defense had placed on Shannon during regulation disappeared by overtime. In the five-minute period, Shannon exploded with 12 of the Illini’s 17 overtime points, and the Longhorns couldn’t respond.

Texas was outscored 17-10 in overtime, leading to the Longhorns’ first loss of the season.

Now 6-1 on the young season, Texas will return home to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Saturday at the Moody Center.