After he put together the finest performance of his career, J’Covan Brown was asked what, exactly, had worked for him so well.
“Everything,” he said.
Sums that up pretty good.
And no play was more telling of such good fortune than the one that came midway through the second half, with Texas down 59-58. Brown raced towards his hoop with the ball and then tried to make a pass down the court. Instead the ball ricocheted off the shin of Rhode Island defender Jamal Wilson, who was guarding him, and shot right back to Brown. Brown grabbed it and, in a display of phenomenal basketball IQ, again lobbed the ball towards the basket — it made it there cleanly this time — where Sheldon McClellan grabbed it in the air and dunked it with two hands, drawing a foul in the process.
The Frank Erwin Center erupted and former Longhorn Kevin Durant, sitting courtside, stood up and walked a few steps onto the court, a silent nod of appreciation.
“I didn’t plan that at all,” Brown said. “I was trying to throw it and it [hit off him] and I caught it and said, ‘Oh, what am I going to do next?’ So I saw Sheldon and threw it up.”
McClellan made the free throw and Texas took a 62-59 lead and never looked back, going on a 13-0 run afterwards.
“It was tough going in the second half, and we were up-and-down and we needed a spark,” said senior Clint Chapman, who had seven points and eight rebounds. “That play was big.”
It delivered a spark, no doubt. But the bigger question: Did Brown plan such trickery?
“No, I’m not an And-1 player,” he said, before adding one last, resounding “No.”
So don’t expect many more off-the-sheezy passes from Brown. That’s all right, because the junior guard continues to do just about everything else for the Longhorns.
“Brown is just terrific,” said Rhode Island coach Jim Baron. “He’s a big-time guard who makes plays when you need them.”
And as for McClellan, well, he surprised his own head coach with his big-time finish.
“Sheldon, these dunks he has, I haven’t even seen them in practice,” said Texas coach Rick Barnes. “It’s like he’s a closet athlete.”
On a night when the Longhorns were plagued by defensive lapses that kept allowing the Rams back in the game, they needed to swing the momentum. The Immaculate Deflection did just that.
“I’ve never really seen anything like that,” Chapman said. “That’s one of those plays that probably ends up on Sportscenter’s Top 10. It’s really rare.
“You think you’ve seen everything and then that happens.”
Printed on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 as: 'Immaculate Deflection' saves game.