Ramey’s late heroics keep Longhorns’ NCAA Tournament hopes alive

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Photo Credit: Jack Myer | Daily Texan Staff

Courtney Ramey is no stranger to the pressure.

The sophomore guard from St. Louis has faced it all season from his coaches, from his teammates and from himself.

Saturday afternoon, with Texas struggling to overcome the hump of Iowa State’s seemingly unbreakable lead, Ramey met pressure and rose to the occasion once again as the Longhorns beat Iowa State 72-68.

For the final four minutes of the game, Ramey ignored the first 36 minutes of what had been a lackluster performance and carried his team when it needed him the most.

Ramey had been more or less absent through the first 27 minutes of the game, as his stat sheet will read. Until the 12:19 mark in the second half, Ramey’s stat line was riddled with zero’s — zero points, assists and rebounds. The only part of his stat line that didn’t have a zero was his two turnovers. 

“I think my teammates just got to me, just staying in my ear and keeping that confidence in me,” Ramey said. “(But) I’ve got the most confidence in myself.”

His confidence showed late in the second half as the sophomore scored all of his 14 points, thanks in large part to the spark freshman guard Donovan Williams and junior guard Matt Coleman provided. Williams tied his career high with 13 points and three 3-pointers. 

“Donovan (Williams) was making plays, Matt (Coleman) was making plays, so I didn’t want to be that one guy who was just sticking out and just not doing anything,” Ramey said. “I just wanted to step up.”

Ramey stepped up in a huge way, drilling two 3-point bombs late in the game to return command of the game to Texas for the first time since the opening minutes. 

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The first brought Texas within two points for the eighth time of the second half, something Texas had seen before but hadn’t been able to overcome. Nonetheless, it still brought the Frank Erwin Center to its feet. 

The second, two minutes later, sent the Longhorn crowd into a frenzy as it handed Texas its first lead since the seven-minute mark of the first half. 

“Courtney had a phenomenal second half,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “When the game’s not going perfect for you, individually, you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself. We wouldn’t have won the game without him.”

Freshman forward Kai Jones would stretch the lead with a pair of free throws, and Williams would seal the deal with a two-handed slam.

With the win, Texas’ NCAA Tournament hopes are preserved — for now. Most college basketball experts still have Texas listed on the outside looking in. 

“Our guys have some really big goals, and one of their goals is they want to play in the NCAA Tournament,” Smart said. “To do that, you’ve got to go grab some of these games.”

The Tournament is a personal goal for Ramey, who earlier in the year said that he didn’t come to Texas to win the NIT, which the Longhorns did last year. In order to do that, Texas is going to rely on more performances like he showed Saturday.

“He’s not yet the person or player that he’s going to end up being at the end of the road, and he’s even going to need to grow after that,” Smart said. “Our emphasis to (Ramey) is to try to help him be in the best place he can be in the moment to grab hold of the opportunities he has.”