Just when it looked like a Jonathan Holmes air ball had Texas and Arizona State bound for overtime, sophomore center Cameron Ridley picked up the loose ball, looked toward the rim and put up a prayer.
The ball came off his left hand, sailed over the fingertips of Arizona State’s senior center Jordan Bachynski, kissed off the backboard, bounced around the rim and dropped through the basket, giving the Longhorns the 87-85 victory at the buzzer.
For the first time in more than three years, Texas won an NCAA Tournament game, squeaking past the Sun Devils in Milwaukee, Wis. The March Madness victory was the Longhorns’ first since they beat Oakland University on March 18, 2011.
After struggling to score throughout the Big 12 tournament, the Longhorns couldn’t miss early on against Arizona State. Texas converted each of its first six field goal attempts, scoring 13 points in less than three minutes to open the contest.
The Longhorns managed to hold on to a lead for most of the game, but the Sun Devils closed the gap late in the second half. The two teams traded leads down the stretch before Ridley’s lay-in sealed the victory for Texas.
Ridley’s last second bucket will be what gets remembered, but no individual performance stuck out for Rick Barnes’ squad Thursday night.
Ridley led all scorers with 17, but freshman guard Martez Walker was most impressive, posting a career-high 16 points for Texas off the bench. Walker, who was given more playing time than he is used to, attacked the rim throughout the night, drawing several fouls in the lane. Nine of his points came from the free throw line.
Each of the Longhorns’ other four starters also scored in double figures. Sophomore guard Demarcus Holland had 14, while Holmes, sophomore guard Javan Felix and freshman guard Isaiah Taylor each had 11 points in the game.
Defensively, Texas went with a zone for much of the contest in an attempt to clog up the paint and deny Bachynski. The 7-foot-2-inch sophomore was able to post 25 points despite the added attention, but the extra defenders in the paint prevented the Sun Devils’ guards from getting in the lane.
The Longhorns’ victory sets them up for a third-round matchup with Michigan on Saturday. The Wolverines are the two-seed in the Midwest bracket.