Big 12 Basketball

Texas Beats Virginia Tech For First-Round NCAA Tournament Win

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Texas Christian

The Texas Longhorns beat the Virginia Tech Hokies, 81-73, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Milwaukee, Wis.

The Longhorns (22-11) will face Purdue in the second round of the East Region on Sunday. The Big 12 is now 4-0 in the first round of the tournament.

Friday was Chris Beard’s first NCAA Tournament game as Longhorns head coach, after making four appearances with Little Rock and Texas Tech. Beard won his first-round game in those four previous appearances and led Texas Tech out of the first weekend of the tournament in 2018 and 2019.

Texas lured Beard back to his alma mater due to its own checkered recent past in the NCAA Tournament. The Longhorns had lost their last five NCAA games, with their last win coming in 2014.

 

The Longhorns won with a blend of former coach Shaka Smart’s holdovers and players that Beard procured through the transfer portal.

Andrew Jones, the holdover sixth-year guard, had a huge first half for Texas, as the Longhorns built a 34-32 lead. Jones finished the first half with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including five 3-pointers, the last of which came in the final seconds to give Texas, momentarily, the lead. But after Virginia Tech’s Storm Murphy drew a foul with 2.1 seconds left and made two free throws, the Hokies were back up a point.

Jones then threw an inbounds pass to Marcus Carr, who drove to the March Madness logo at half court and put up a shot at the buzzer for a 3-pointer to give Texas the lead, setting off a short celebration with his teammates as they left the floor.

Jones finished with 21 points, well above his 6.5-point average in the NCAA Tournament.

With Jones struggling to score in the second half, Carr picked up his scoring. The Minnesota transfer, making his first NCAA Tournament appearance, finished with 15 points and nine assists.

Two more Texas transfers hit double figures. Forward Timmy Allen had 14 points while forward Christian Bishop had 11 points. Holdover guard Courtney Ramey added 10 points.

The game was a stark contrast in philosophy. Virginia Tech entered the game as the nation’s No. 18 team in offensive efficiency. Texas entered the game No. 8 in defensive efficiency.

Texas’ early exit from the Big 12 Tournament a week ago, along with four days to prepare, gave Beard plenty of time to contemplate his game plan.

“I haven’t slept in four days,” Beard said before the game. “I would argue that (Virginia Tech) is one of the best offensive teams in the tournament, one of the best teams in the tournament. They’re really difficult to defend.”

The Texas defense drove Virginia Tech’s offense crazy all night. Hunter Cattoor, who hit seven 3-pointers for the Hokies in the ACC Championship game, failed to hit a 3-pointer for most of the game and finished with just 12 points. Keve Aluma fought foul trouble to score 15 points, while freshman guard Sean Pedulla was, for much of the game, the only Hokie with a 3-pointer, and led Virginia Tech with 19 points.

Texas had a 68-55 lead with 3:32 left in the game. By then, Texas had forced 12 Hokies turnovers. Virginia Tech cut the lead to single digits after Brock Cunningham was called for a technical foul on a drive to the basket by Virginia Tech’s Pedulla. He made the two free throws for the foul, then the two free throws for the technical, to cut the lead to 76-66 with 1:02 left.

Virginia Tech then forced a turnover and Cattoor finally made his first 3-pointer of the game with 45 seconds left, cutting the Texas lead to seven points. Bishop made a free throw to push the lead back to eight points, and Virginia Tech followed with a missed 3-pointer and Texas rebounded, with Jones driving home a dunk on the fast break to seal the game.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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