The No. 2 Texas Longhorns lost to the No. 17 Illinois Fighting Illini, 85-78, on Tuesday night at the Jimmy V Classic in New York City. Here are three thoughts on the game.
How Texas Lost
Texas was down 37-34 at halftime and then went on a 20-9 run to start the second half. By that point, Illinois had gone on a 14-2 run but was still down by eight points. Texas had a 10-point lead with 7:44 left and looked like it was in control.
Well, the Illini chipped away.
The key sequence was in the final 33 seconds, as Illinois’ Jayden Epps hit a 3-pointer to cut Texas’ lead to 3 points. Texas’ Tyrese Hunter then missed the front end of a one-and-one and Epps hit two free throws with 7.4 seconds left to tie the game. Texas failed to win the game in regulation and it went to overtime tied at 68.
Then, in overtime, Illinois — and more notably, Terrence Shannon Jr. — took over to hand the No. 2 Longhorns their first loss of the season.
Texas’ big three had solid games. Forward Timmy Allen has 21 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Guard Tyrese Hunter had 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while guard Marcus Carr had nine points and five assists as Texas played its first game outside of the state of Texas.
Back to the Big 12
Texas coach Chris Beard and his Longhorns faced off with three Illinois players that Beard is familiar with. Two played for Baylor — forward Matthew Mayer and forward Dain Dainja. The third, of course, was guard/forward Terrence Shannon Jr., who was recruited by and played for Beard at Texas Tech before Beard left for the Texas job. Last season, Beard and Shannon Jr. squared off when the Longhorns and the Red Raiders played each other in Big 12 action.
Tuesday in Madison Square Garden they reunited again. But Mayer and Dainja were the bigger problems for the Longhorns — at least until overtime.
Mayer went off in the first half and finished with 21 points. Dainja — who barely played at Baylor before transferring — had nine points and six rebounds off the bench.
As for Shannon, who had a scorching start to the season and was averaging 20 points per game, he went scoreless in the first half and then had four points in the second half. Texas’ defense on Shannon was nearly impeccable.
But, in overtime, he couldn’t be stopped. He scored eight of the Illini’s first nine points in overtime to build a 77-70 lead with 2:16 left. It was the quick explosion Beard and Big 12 fans have seen many times over the years.
Yes, Texas did cut the lead to one in overtime, but the Longhorns were unable to finish the deal for the first time this season. And Shannon, in the final five minutes, had everything to do with it. He finished with 16 points, 12 of which came in overtime.
What’s Next For Texas?
Probably a lot of winning. The Longhorns have Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Rice, Stanford, Louisiana and Texas A&M-Commerce before opening Big 12 play against Oklahoma on New Year’s Eve. All of those non-conference games are at home, with the exception of the Stanford game, which is in Dallas on Dec. 18. From there, there is no reason Texas can’t be 11-1 and a Top 10 team in the country going into that road game in Norman.
As for the AP Top 25, Texas will likely drop a spot or two next week. But, given that the loss was to a Top 25 team, I suspect Texas will fall to no lower than No. 5.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard