In yet another thrilling finish at the NCAA tournament, Texas edged out Arizona State 87-85 on a last-second putback by Cameron Ridley.
As ESPN points out, this is the first true buzzer-beater the tournament has seen since 2011:
Cameron Ridley: first basket with no time left to win tournament game since Matt Howard (Butler vs Old Dominion, 2011)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2014
The Longhorns now advance to the Round of 32 to take on No. 2 seed Michigan.
Rick Barnes commented on his team's victory, courtesy of the Associated Press (via ESPN):
"It was a great, great college basketball game and I thought it was really very unfortunate that either team had to lose this game," Barnes said. "We were fortunate. ... We didn't have great execution at the end but we found a way to make a couple plays."
On Thursday, Ridley didn't just hit the game-winner, he was also the Longhorns' leading scorer. The sophomore center scored 17 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had four blocks.
Although it was a thrilling finish, halfway through the second half, it looked like it would be a blowout after a fairly competitive first half.
The Sun Devils hit four of six from beyond the arc in the first, but Texas shot 59.3 percent from the floor in the half to earn the lead.
Reserve Martez Walker came up huge for Texas and dropped 10 of his 16 points in the first. Still, some of Arizona State's struggles were self-inflicted.
Sloppy play from guard Jahii Carson—he had five first-half turnovers—really hurt the Sun Devils in the first.
His turnovers were not exactly the result of overwhelming defense, either. CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello helps explain:
Texas: 59 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3. Arizona State: 52 percent from the field, 67 percent from 3. Tons of defense.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 21, 2014
The Longhorns used the turnovers and sloppy transition defense from the Sun Devils to run off 14 fast-break points in the first half.
Texas made a strong effort to establish a physical advantage in the second half, and it quickly paid off. The Longhorns wasted no time opening up a double-digit lead in the second, and at one point, they led by 14. Josh Nacion of The State Press highlights how the increased physicality was altering the game:
In the first 2:52 of the second half, Texas had seven field goal attempts. Longhorns grabbed four offensive rebounds on those shots.— Josh Nacion (@Josh_Nacion) March 21, 2014
The second half was littered with fouls. It kept the game from finding true momentum. SI.com's Brian Hamilton helps explain:
Both teams in the bonus. With 9:44 left. At 10:24pm CT. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) March 21, 2014
The disjointed nature of the second half actually helped the Sun Devils. They chipped away at the lead, which came much to the delight of Hamilton, who had been witnessing lopsided affairs at the Milwaukee pod:
Four-point game! It’s a four-point game! Arizona State cut it to two, and now it’s 68-64 Texas with 7:55 left.— Brian Hamilton (@BrianHamiltonSI) March 21, 2014
Jonathan Gilling began to catch fire from distance and pull the Sun Devils back. He finished with 15 points and hit four of six from beyond the arc.
Also, Carson began taking much better care of the ball, and his natural scorer's ability began to take over. He had just one turnover in the second half and finished with 19 points.
The Sun Devils continued to hit shots and finally worked their way back into the lead at 81-80 with just over two minutes left. That was the first time the Sun Devils tasted the lead since they had the advantage at 19-18.
The game continued to go back and forth, and Texas was able to take a two-point lead around the 30-second mark when Jonathan Holmes grabbed an air ball and went straight back up. He made the bucket, picked up a foul and sank his free throw.
With the shot clock off, Arizona State had the ball and trailed by two.
The Sun Devils didn't let the clock run down and hoisted up a three with 16 seconds left. It was missed, but Gilling grabbed the board, was fouled and made both free throws.
Undeterred, Texas came down the court and lofted a three. The shot barely hit the backboard and went right to the waiting hands of Ridley. The sophomore center went up with a little hook and hit the bucket as time expired to give Texas the thrilling win.
Texas will now take on Michigan. The second-seeded Wolverines advanced with ease over Wofford on Thursday.
Texas will have to improve on defense to slow down the many weapons of the Wolverines, but Michigan proved it is far from invincible. The Wolverines missed 15 of their first 18 shots in the second half. Texas is more than talented enough to bury Michigan if it duplicates that slump.
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