Texas’ upset bid falls short against Mizzou

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas fell short in another close
game, dropping a heart-stopping 67-66 contest to No. 4 Missouri on Monday
night.

As many of the Longhorns’ games have, this one came down to the final shot. But
this time, Texas deviated from the script. Missouri came out in a zone,
designed to trap leading scorer and clutch shooter J’Covan Brown. It was a
great strategy, as the Longhorn strategy is always to get the ball Brown’s way.

“We just didn’t want J’Covan to get a good look,” Missouri coach
Frank Haith said. “We felt like the zone would give us a chance to get
there and contest his shots.”

Instead, the zone forced the ball out of Brown’s hands. He skied a cross-court
pass to freshman point guard Myck Kabongo, who drove and attempted a baseline
floater, which was contested by Missouri guard Matt Pressey. The shot didn’t
fall, and Missouri’s Marcus Denmon came up with the rebound to seal the game.

Replays showed that Pressey might have contacted Kabongo’s left arm, and Texas
coach Rick Barnes confirmed it afterward.

“(Kabongo) did get fouled,” Barnes said. “Curtis Shaw (Big 12 coordinator
of men’s basketball officials) was here tonight, and he saw the tape and told
us.”

Yet, Barnes insisted that the game was lost a possession earlier. Texas, which
trailed 63-53 with four minutes remaining, completed a roaring 13-2 run when
Brown hit a floater to take a 66-65 lead.

“We had two games here against both Kansas and Missouri, when we needed to
get a stop on the other end is where we didn’t get it,” Barnes said.

The Longhorns didn’t get one after Brown’s basket, with Michael Dixon Jr.
scoring the last of his game-high 21 points by bursting into the lane and
sinking a layup over the outstretched hand of Jaylen Bond.

“I just saw my defender was playing me to the left,” Dixon said.
“I just went and made a play.”

That play made the difference, keeping Missouri (20-2, 7-2) in the thick of the
conference title race, a half-game behind Kansas. The Tigers host the Jayhawks
in Columbia on Saturday.

“It was a great win for us,” Haith said. “I felt we showed some
toughness down the stretch. You have to give Texas credit. We had a 10-point
lead with (four) minutes left to play. We had some bang-bang plays that did not
go too well, but with a hard fight, they came back.”

The biggest of those bang-bang plays helped the Longhorns into the lead. With
the Tigers clinging to a three-point lead, and holding onto the ball, Dixon
swung the ball, his elbow making contact with Texas guard Julien Lewis. After
reviewing the play on the monitor, the officials slapped Dixon with a
Flagrant-1, meaning Texas gained two free throws and the ball. Lewis canned
both freebies, then Brown hit the jumper to take the lead.

“In the heat of battle, a lot of things happen,” Dixon said.
“When you are on the road, you just have to look at the next play. That is
what we did, and fortunately, we won.”

Dixon was a big part of the reason the Tigers did win, hitting 9-of-10 shots,
including three consuecitve jumpers that helped Missouri stretch out a
six-point, half-time advantage. Dixon then found Kim English for a 3-pointer
that gave Missouri its biggest lead at 39-26.

But the Longhorns have a history of fighting back from behind, and they did the
same Monday night, eventually taking the late lead before trailing again after
Dixon’s big basket. Texas called timeout, and Barnes said the Longhorns called
both a man and a zone play. The Tigers came out in zone, and Barnes said the
Longhorns just failed to execute.

“This week we stayed true to what we talked about all week late in the
game: two things have to be constant — defensive stops and offensive
execution,” English said. “Our defense was not at its best in that
time frame, but we still executed down the stretch. In the end, we got a
defensive stop on the last possession of the game. I guess we grew.”

Texas lost a chance to do the same. The Longhorns (13-9, 3-6) are now 0-7 in
games decided by six points or less, and are running out of opportunities to
grab a signature Big 12 win.

“Everyone in that locker room wants to win so badly,” Kabongo said.
“Unfortunately, for some reason, they aren’t turning into wins right now.
One thing I know about our team and this group of guys is we are not going to
back down.

“We are going to make a run, and we are going to get back in the gym and
work hard. We just have to learn from our mistakes.”