By Kevin Sweeney
For 20 minutes, it was more of the same for Texas. The offense was anemic, and the team seemed to have little life.
That all changed in the second half.
The Longhorns relied on their high-pressure defense and overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to claim a 77-68 win over Alabama Friday night at Frank Erwin Center in Austin. The win snaps a three game losing streak for the Longhorns.
The first half was certainly an ugly one for Texas, as they played sloppily and took some bad shots. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide took advantage, running out to an early lead thanks to three 3-pointers in the first six minutes by senior guard Corban Collins. The young Longhorns seemed to be unable to finish possessions, conceding a few backbreaking buckets or fouls late in the shot clock. Meanwhile, Texas continued to shoot themselves in the foot on offense, something they couldn’t afford to do against the strong Alabama defense. The Longhorns were able to cut the deficit to 3 with 7 minutes to play in the half, but then went silent on offense, scoring just 4 points in the rest of the half. During that stretch, the Crimson Tide went on a 13-4 run capped by a triple by Shannon Hale to go up by 12 at the half.
However, when the teams came out for the second half, there was simply a different vibe coming from the young Longhorns. They emphasized defense from the start, gaining energy and momentum as they shut down the Tide and got back into the ballgame. They opened the half with a 19-6 run to take the lead with 12:47 to go in the game. Texas made a concerted effort to get the ball into the paint, and were able to do so in the second half.
Alabama didn’t role over and continued to hang tough as the game wore on. A thunderous dunk by redshirt freshman guard Dazon Ingram gave the Tide a two point advantage with 4:35 to play in the game. Alabama went cold at the worst possible time, as it would be nearly 4 minutes until they would record their next field goal. Meanwhile, the Longhorns kept the Crimson Tide in the game with several missed free throws. However, Alabama could not capitalize, and the Longhorns held on for an important early-season win.
Alabama head coach Avery Johnson lamented his team’s inability to match Texas’s intensity late in the game, saying “This is a team that lost three straight. They [Texas] were desperate, we just didn’t have that desperation.” (Garrett Callahan/Twitter)
Texas put 5 players in double figures, with Kerwin Roach leading the way with 16 points and Jarrett Allen, Tevin Mack, Shaquille Cleare, & Jacob Young each adding 11. The freshman duo of Ingram and Braxton Key continued to impress for the Crimson Tide, with Ingram posting 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists & Key contributing 9 points and 7 boards.
Up next for Texas is another tough test, Tuesday night in Ann Arbor vs Michigan. Alabama has a 9-day layoff before traveling to take on Oregon.