Earlier this week, Texas was able to reel off 3 straight victories at the Maui Invitational thanks to strong defense and the ability for the Longhorn guards to make plays down the stretch. On Sunday, Texas was unable to make the winning plays down the stretch as they suffered their first loss of the season at the hands of Villanova, 68-64.
Texas welcomed the Wildcats to the Erwin Center as they looked to build on one of the most successful weeks Texas basketball has had in quite some time. It was a strong start for the Longhorns, as they build up a 27-20 lead during the first half, but Villanova responded by controlling most of the second half and ultimately pulling out the victory. Matt Coleman and Courtney Ramey led Texas with 17 points each, with Coleman also adding 3 assists and 3 rebounds. Freshman Greg Brown finished the afternoon with 7 points and 6 rebounds. For Villanova, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Justin Moore each had 19 points and Jermaine Samuels contributed a team-high 12 rebounds.
After trailing 32-30 at halftime, the Longhorns got off to a slow start in the second half, falling behind 46-38 with 15:08 remaining. Texas was able to battle back and eventually tie the game at 57 following a Courtney Ramey three pointer with 2:37 remaining. The Wildcats responded a three pointer of their own from Cole Swider. In the final 15 seconds of the game, Collin Gillespie went 4 for 4 from the free throw line to ice the game.
The Texas frontcourt struggled with foul trouble for much of the afternoon, with Kai Jones unable to contribute much off the bench after picking up his 4th foul. Shaka Smart’s team also had a tough time getting to the foul line. The Longhorns finished the game with only 6 free throw attempts.
Heading into the season, Villanova was widely considered one of the best teams in the country. In the big picture, the loss today should not impact Texas negatively. The biggest frustration for Longhorn fans will be that Texas was just as good as Villanova for much of the game. It was uncharacteristic to see the veteran Texas guards struggle with taking care of the basketball during stretches of the second half, and that will surely be an emphasis for Shaka Smart this week. The Big 12 schedule is going to be grueling and the rest of the season will likely feature several ups and downs, so games like today will serve as a benefit long term as the Longhorns build towards March.
Texas will welcome Texas State to the Erwin Center on Wednesday for their final tune-up before Big 12 play begins on Saturday in Waco against Baylor.
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