Shot drives Horns by Hogs
TEXAS 73, ARKANSAS 71, OT
EL PASO, Texas — Texas Longhorns guard Kerwin Roach kicked off his senior season the best way he knew how.
Suspended for the Longhorns’ season opener against Eastern Illinois on Tuesday, Roach scored a team-high 18 points and hit a three-pointer with one second to play in regulation to force overtime in a 73-71 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks on Friday night in the Armed Forces Classic.
The University of Arkansas led 63-60 following a Daniel Gafford free throw with nine seconds remaining, but Roach hit deep a three-pointer in front of the Texas bench. Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said there were no defensive breakdowns that allowed the Longhorns guard to get the shot off.
“Good players make good plays, and he’s a good player,” Anderson said. “A senior
made a play for them. He made a big, big shot. But we had opportunities to put it away, and that’s going to be the next learning curve is how do we execute and finish the game off.”
The three-pointer to force overtime appeared improbable, given Texas’ second-half struggles on the offensive end. Prior to Roach’s score, Texas had made 4 of 25 shots (16 percent) and 2 of 10 attempts from three-point range. Only four Longhorns scored in the second half, and Roach was the lone player in double figures with 11 points.
In overtime, Texas freshman guard Courtney Ramey’s floater off the glass gave the Longhorns a 72-71 lead with 47 seconds to play. Following a three-point attempt by Razorbacks sophomore Mason Jones missed and Texas made 1 of 2 free throws with 21 seconds left, Arkansas’ Jalen Harris could not connect on a jumper and Jones missed again as the buzzer sounded and the Texas-heavy crowd packed tightly into Soto Gym cheered.
“It’s one game,” Anderson said. “It isn’t the end of the season, but at the same time you’ve got to learn and grow from it. Sometimes growing up in painful, and this is one of those when you’re on the big stage and you’ve got the opportunity to pull a game off that no one thought you could win. We’ve just got to learn from it. That’s all.”
Gafford led all scorers with 20 points and also collected 12 rebounds. He also finished with six turnovers and was 4 of 9 at the free throw line. As a team, Arkansas shot 13 of 24 (54 percent) at the free throw line, including 3 of 6 in overtime.
“We’ve just got to keep playing how we play and make more free throws,” said Harris, who scored 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting to go with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. “[Anderson] told us to keep our heads up. You win some and you lose some, but don’t let this one carry over to the next one.”
The Razorbacks led by eight points early in the first half as Harris, Jones, Isaiah Joe and Gafford each scored in the opening 3:24. Meanwhile, Texas struggled offensively early, missing on 6 of 7 shots after a Roach jumper to open the scoring. But the Longhorns responded with a 22-2 run to lead by 12 with nine minutes left in the first half.
Five Texas players — Roach, Courtney Ramey, Dylan Osetkowski, Kamaka Hepa and Elijah Mitrou-Long — combined to make six of the Horns’ next seven three-point shots. Joe, who finished with 17 points on 5-of-8 from threepoint range for Arkansas, and Jones then connected on backto-back threes and freshman Desi Sills added another as part of a late push to cut the Longhorns’ lead to 36-30 at halftime.
“We kind of let them just move the ball around, and all of a sudden they were spotting up,” Anderson said. “It was like a passing drill out there, and then I thought we got more energy on the defensive end. … What I was glad to see was even when Texas went up double figures, our guys stayed the course and got connected defensively.”
Arkansas limited Texas to 5-of-26 shooting in the second half and forced nine turnovers. But missed opportunities at the free throw line late and Roach’s heroics led to a heartbreaking season opener for the Razorbacks.
“It’s a great lesson, a valuable lesson,” Roach said. “Last year we had 17 games that went down to the final minute and we lost nine of them, so now we’re hoping to flip that ratio. We stepped up and made our free throws and made bigtimes shots and closed out the game the way we should.”
SUN BELT MEN ABILENE CHRISTIAN 94, ARKANSAS STATE 73
Ty Cockfield scored a team-high 24 points on 9-of-15 field goal shooting, but it wasn’t enough as Arkansas State University fell to Abilene Christian on Friday in the season opener for both teams in Abilene, Texas.
JJ Matthews added 15 points for the Red Wolves after going 7-of-7 from the floor.
ASU shot 44 percent (26 of 59) from the floor as a team, including 6 of 17 three-pointers, and shot 63 percent (15 of 24) from the free throw line.
Abilene Christian shot 56 percent (31 of 55) from the floor and hit 8 of 14 three-pointers, as well as 24 of 31 free throws. The Wildcats outrebounded the Red Wolves 40-29 and forced ASU to commit 16 turnovers, which they converted into 19 points.
Senior guard Jaylen Franklin (Little Rock Parkview) led Abilene Christian with 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting from the floor. Jaren Lewis scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds — 11 defensive — for the Wildcats, while Payten Ricks had 12 points and Jalone Friday added 11.