Even the most optimistic Texas basketball fans were beginning to see the writing on the wall two weeks ago. The Longhorns had just been blown out on the road by Iowa State, falling to 4-8 in conference play. The injuries were piling up and the team appeared to be content with limping to the finish line. Shaka Smart’s seat was scorching hot and it didn’t appear much could be done to save his job.
Fast forward two weeks, and what has transpired is almost unbelievable, especially considering how Shaka Smart’s tenure has gone up to this point. The Longhorns have ripped off 4-wins in a row, including back to back wins against ranked opponent, the latest a 68-58 win over Texas Tech on the road.
The Longhorns have been without Jericho Sims, Jade Febres and Gerald Liddell for a while now. The absence of Sims and Febres seemed destined to sink an offense that was already struggling with putting the ball in the basket. On Saturday afternoon, instead of folding against a stout Texas Tech defense, the Longhorns received a monster performance from Andrew Jones, who connected on three 3-pointers and scored a game high 22 points.
Despite trailing by 7 points at halftime, the Longhorns never panicked. Down the stretch, Matt Coleman nailed a pair of clutch free throws, while Brock Cunningham and Royce Hamm found themselves around every loose ball. Texas out-played and out-coached the Red Raiders in the closing minutes, securing the biggest win of the season and perhaps the biggest win during Shaka Smart’s time on the 40 acres.
Smart, who had one of the most animated games of his Texas coaching career, looked up into the crowd and flashed a Hook ‘Em at the Texas fans as he left the floor. He has guided the Longhorns into a position where the NCAA Tournament is now extremely realistic. Sitting at 18-11 overall and 8-8 in Big 12 okay, Texas has two regular season games remaining against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. A pair of wins would put Texas at 20 wins overall heading into the Big 12 tournament, which would likely be enough to secure a berth to the NCAA Tournament, something no one would have expected just 14 days ago.
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