Butler went ahead and ended Texas’ disappointing season Thursday afternoon, 56–48.
And it was all too familiar for head coach Rick Barnes and company in college basketball’s biggest tournament.
Costly turnovers. Inefficient offense. Missed free throws in the clutch.
“At the end of the day, it was us executing more and finishing games,” junior guard Demarcus Holland said. “We’ve been in a lot of one and two possession games. We could have made that one play, could have changed the whole game. Obviously we fell short, and that sucks.”
In the midst of an ugly game, Texas found itself down 9 in the latter stages of the game. Just as the Longhorns have done many times this season, they clawed back — but not all the way.
Sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor then sliced and diced his way into the lane, cutting the deficit to 2 with plenty of time left.
Then he double-dribbled. Junior forward Connor Lammert missed the front end of a one-and-one. Taylor fouled Butler senior guard Alex Barlow, an 83 percent free-throw shooter.
“Plays like that at the end of the game — it pretty much sums up our year, to be quite honest,” Barnes said.
The struggles started early for the Longhorns, who, for the majority of the first half, couldn’t have played any worse. They turned the ball over eight times. They jacked up 10 threes, which is exactly what Butler’s packed-in defense wanted Texas to do. Quickly, Texas was down double-digits.
Then the lone scholarship senior, Jonathan Holmes, decided he wasn’t quite ready to call it a career.
He halted Butler’s run with a pair of threes and a steal-and-score, sparking Texas as the first half came to a close. All of a sudden, the Longhorns found themselves down just 2 at half after a 9–0 run.
They carried that over to the second half, even grabbing a 2-point lead. But the Texas offense then reared its ugly head at the wrong time. It missed 11 straight shots and let Butler take control.
Butler was able to pack in its defense against the bigger Texas team, limiting its number of post touches.
“Well, people question our shooting,” Barnes said. “It’s hard to pass the ball in the air. There’s just not a lot of space there.”
When Texas settled for the open shot, it didn’t end up well. Texas shot just 34 percent for the game and only 31.6 percent from deep.
“That’s where we got to get better as a team,” Barnes said. “We got to shoot the ball better. We need to be able to stretch people out there more, and we haven’t been able to do that.”
Even with their poor shooting, the Longhorns still had a chance. The Bulldogs shot only 33.3 percent, but they knocked down 20 of their 28 free throws to add that extra bit of scoring Texas couldn’t find.
Holmes led the way for Texas with 15. Taylor added 14. Butler junior guard Kellen Dunham finished with a game-high 20 points and was the only Bulldog in double digits.
Butler advances to play Notre Dame on Saturday.