The Texas Longhorns went into their Las Vegas Invitational matchup against the North Carolina Tar Heels on Thanksgiving evening unranked. It's unlikely they'll remain that way much longer.
Behind Kerwin Roach II's 32 points and seven assists, Texas upset No. 7 North Carolina, 92-89, handing the Tar Heels (5-1) their first loss of the season. Texas remains undefeated at 5-0 and looks like a group to be reckoned with in 2018-19.
Despite Roach's heroics, Texas put on a balanced showing, as it got solid performances from Matt Coleman III (16 points, five assists), Dylan Osetkowski (14 points, five rebounds) and Jaxson Hayes (15 points, nine rebounds, three blocks).
Hayes, in particular, made his mark:
Mike Schmitz @Mike_Schmitz
Roach was the clear star with a career showing, but Texas doesn’t win this game without Jaxson Hayes. The freshman was an absolute force as a rim protector. Did a great job on the glass. Catches every ball thrown his way. Statement game with a huge contingent of NBA execs on hand
That spoiled a fantastic game from Coby White, who had 33 points and shot 7-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Luke Maye struggled, however, shooting 5-of-15 from the field (1-of-5 from three) for 11 points, though he did pull down nine boards.
North Carolina looked like it might run away with the game early, seizing a 17-4 lead less than five minutes into the contest. Texas battled back, though, going on a 17-6 run to pull within two.
From there, the contest was tight until a Roach layup at the 11:12 mark in the second half gave the Longhorns a 66-55 lead—the largest deficit North Carolina faced. The Tar Heels fought back, twice cutting the lead to two points in the final six minutes.
But Roach and Co. always had an answer, holding off UNC for a signature win in Las Vegas. And Roach had himself a signature moment:
A lot can change between now and March. But Texas appears to be a team on the rise.