Seconds ticked off the clock as an anxious, sold out Frank Erwin Center crowd watched as junior guard Isaiah Taylor’s final shot bounced off the rim.
After Texas and No. 3 North Carolina traded punches all evening, five more minutes of electric basketball seemed in the cards. But, the rebound fell into the hands of Javan Felix, the 5-foot-11 senior guard, who gave the Tar Heels fits all night.
Felix shot the ball with three seconds left from the right-baseline. No different than any other shot he hit on Saturday. With his follow-through still up, the shot went in, the Erwin Center crowd exploded and Texas beat UNC 84-82 — its first win over an AP-ranked top-5 team since 2011.
“I knew I hit it,” Felix said. “When I started to get the ball, I saw I had 1-point-something. So I knew I had time to pick it up and put a shot up.”
Felix ended the night with 25 points, 9-of-14 shooting and five 3-pointers, torching Carolina from the beginning. He ended the first half with 11 points and helped Texas go into halftime down just 44-42.
The Tar Heels went on a 10-3 run late in the first half to take their largest lead of the game at 43-35, but freshman guard Eric Davis Jr. hit a three and a contested floater at the buzzer to help Texas stay in the game. Davis finished the game with 16 points off the bench.
“It just happened to be one of those nights,” Davis said. “I got lucky and hit some shots.”
The second half saw both squads trade punches. The Tar Heels went up by five points on five different occasions in the final 20 minutes, but Texas had an answer every time.
The last of those times came at 8:42 mark, when North Carolina went up 64-59. Senior forward Connor Lammert and Felix immediately answered with back-to-back threes. Taylor got in on the big-shot making late in the second half, with a layup to tie the game at 76-76 at 2:55 left to play.
“We want our guys to play with no hesitation,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “I think early in the year, for a variety of reasons, we did have some avoidance, and it’s just hard to be good that way.”
Taylor, who ended with 18 points, again made his presence felt with the game tied at 80-80 with 49 seconds to go. After missing a floater, Taylor grabbed his own rebound and put it in, giving Texas an 82-80.
But, after North Carolina tied it again with eight seconds left, it was Felix who hit the biggest shot of all.
“My freshman year, I had no confidence shooting the ball, but that was then,” Felix said. “It’s way different now.”
It was clear from before tip-off that this served as chance for Texas to make a statement in front of a national audience. The Longhorns took advantage.
“For a game like today, I thought our guys followed the process very well and they got the result that they wanted,” Smart said.