Sweet Similarities as No. 2-seed Texas looks to past success in 83-71 win over No. 3-seed Xavier

Payne Williams, Sports Desk Editor

15 years have passed since Texas last appeared in the Sweet 16, and on Friday, the Longhorns saw many flashbacks to the 2008 tournament after their victory over Xavier.

Head coach Rick Barnes led No. 2-seed Texas all the way to the Elite 8 over a decade ago where he and his squad were eliminated by No. 1-seed Memphis. However, prior to the regional final, the Longhorns defeated No. 3-seed Stanford in the Sweet 16 — similar to Friday’s matchup between No. 2-seed Texas and No. 3-seed Xavier.

In the Longhorns’ last dance in the regional semis, they carried a big, forward-heavy lineup against Stanford, and it was guard DJ Augustin and forward Damion Jones who led the Longhorns with 23 and 18 points, respectively. 

However, over the course of the tournament, Texas’ guards proved as the team’s offensive catalysts as Augustin, along with AJ Abrams, combined to average over 35 points per game.

The Longhorn guards replicated that success on Friday as graduate guards Marcus Carr, Sir’Jabari Rice and sophomore Tyrese Hunter combined for 53 of the teams 83 points, shooting 54% from the field.

Barnes and the Longhorns defeated Stanford in a landslide 72-52 victory, earning their second 20-point victory margin of the tournament. Texas earned a convincing win over Austin Peay in the first round.

In a similar fashion on Friday, Texas confidently defeated Xavier by a 12-point margin that flattered the Musketeers. The Horns led for the entirety of the game. 

The Longhorns’ run in 2008 marked the close of a decade that saw them reach the Sweet 16 five times, including three Elite 8 performances and a stint in the Final Four with Kevin Durant.

The year also began the 15-year drought of Sweet 16 appearances that came to an end on Friday.

Despite the absence, interim head coach Rodney Terry isn’t new to the Big Dance. Terry served under Barnes from 2002-2011 and worked closely with the Longhorns as they made consistent pushes in March, including during their run in 2008.

Now, Terry and Texas have a chance to push past the Elite 8 on Sunday and reach their first Final Four since 2004.

“Over the course of my career you learn that anything can happen in March,” Terry said after the win on Friday. “That’s why it’s the Madness.”