With under two minutes to play in overtime against Arkansas, two Longhorns who stood on the floor weren’t expected to play in the closing minutes. Not yet at least.
It was a pair of freshmen, guard Courtney Ramey and forward Jaxson Hayes, coming off the bench after starters at their positions fouled out of the game. Neither necessarily expected to enter the game down the stretch, but both refused to let the gravity of the moment phase them.
“When I stepped into the game, I was like, ‘Oh, this is kind of early like as a freshman, big game, national television,’” Ramey said. “But I quickly got over that as I walked on the court. It was just another basketball game.”
“I just went out and played,” Hayes added. “I didn’t want to change up anything. I knew my shots weren’t falling, but I played defense, grabbed rebounds and that was it.”
That composure was critical for the Longhorns with both freshmen hitting big shots in the final minute and a half. Hayes was the first to help a stagnant Texas offense, rolling to the hoop and slamming home a dunk to give the Longhorns a 70-69 lead at the 1:23 mark in overtime.
When the Razorbacks responded with a bucket of their own on the next possession, it was Ramey who regained the lead with a soft floater off the backboard that was just out of the reach of a leaping Arkansas defender. His bucket ended up being the game-winner.
Hayes’ and Ramey’s late game heroics, though unexpected, showed a flash of what the young tandem could be ready to contribute to this veteran Texas team.
“They’re big ballers,” senior guard Kerwin Roach II said. “It just shows me from our first five to our second five that we’re ready, and everybody is ready to step up to the plate and knock down a shot.”
Hayes and Ramey admit they’re both still adjusting to the college game. For the freshman forward, it’s refining his offensive skill set and working on his post game. And for Ramey, it’s continuing his development as a point guard and team leader.
But early experience in a crucial situation like Friday will help as the season continues.
“I feel like it’s a step in the right direction,” Hayes said. “For me and Courtney to come into that situation was just big for us.”
There will be bigger moments for these young players. The Longhorns travel to Las Vegas next week for a tournament where they will face North Carolina and then either Michigan State or UCLA. Then there’s a Big 12 slate that features the likes of Kansas, Kansas State and West Virginia.
For now, however, they’re focused on staying ready. Because on any night, it could be them who must step up and make a shot.
“We have a lot of good payers who can step up any night,” Ramey said. “One night it might be me, Matt Coleman or Jaxson Hayes or Kerwin Roach or (Dylan Osetkowski). It’s just staying ready, being who you are and being confident.”