Here's a quick look, with plenty of notes, quotes and highlights from the Texas Longhorns' 73-72 season-ending loss to the Houston Cougars in the College Basketball Invitational at the Hofheinz Pavilion in Houston on Wednesday night.
Julien Lewis finished with 25 points, but his final shot missed and sent Texas into the offseason after a disappointing 16-18 season.
How the Cougars (20-12, 7-9 C-USA) Won
Houston started strong and ended strong to advance to the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational. Houston jumped out to an eleven-point lead in the first half with a lot of success in the paint and in the transition game and finished the game on a 20-13 run to turn a six-point deficit over the final 6:30 into their one-point win. Sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas finished with 15 points and ten rebounds and sophomore guard Joseph Young finished with 18 points, including several very long-range three-pointers. Houston went ice cold from the field for the middle twenty minutes of the game, but found their stride just in time to hand the Horns their final loss of the season.
How Longhorns (16-18, 7-11) Lost
Texas did just about all it could to get out of Houston with a win, but Young's big buckets were enough to counter the clutch shooting of Julien Lewis. The Horns started off the game looking very sluggish on defense when the Cougars came out firing and running up and down the court. Rick Barnes switched his team's defense to a zone and it immediately slowed down Houston's attack. Though Lewis hit a number of big shots late in the second half, to the final buzzer of the final game Texas' inability to finish at the rim was still a decisive issue.
It was going to be Prince Ibeh until the final few minutes of the game when Lewis almost single-handedly took Texas to the CBI quarterfinals. The sophomore guard finished with a game-high 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting, and 3-of-6 from three. He was in one of his typical grooves and when the ball left his hand on the final shot of the season you thought it would be true. Unfortunately it wasn't, and the Longhorns will now look forward to a long offseason when a lot needs to be fixed.
It Was Over When...
Lewis' shot didn't go and Ioannis Papapetrou lost control of the offensive rebound. Had Texas not allowed Houston to have such a hot start the Horns may have been in position to coast to a win, but the slow start gave the Cougars a cushion and kept them close enough to mount a quick comeback in the closing minutes to steal the game on their home court.
Prince Ibeh had the best game of his career on Wednesday night. The freshman center finished with ten points, eleven rebounds and five blocked shots. When Texas went to the zone he was a beast under the basket. Houston couldn't figure out a way to score at the rim after the switch and the long 6-foot-10 freshman was a huge reason why. His offensive game still has a long way to go, but in the final game of his first year on campus he showed a glimpse of the kind of player he can turn into during his time on the 40.
Jonathan Holmes finished with just two points and two rebounds. The sophomore forward has picked up unnecessary fouls a lot all season and it continued on Wednesday. He was on the bench for the majority of the night in foul trouble, playing just eleven minutes and attempting only three shots. One of the many things that needs to be worked on a lot before next season rolls around is Holmes' awareness because Texas can't afford him to be on the bench in foul trouble in big games.
Has to go back to Ibeh. He's shown some flashes on the defensive end this season but the season finale was the first time he put it together on both ends of the court. If he builds off that performance he could be a breakout star during the 2013-14 season.
The season in general. Not only did this group fail to qualify for the NCAA tournament and the NIT, it was relegated to the CBI and lost in the first round. We knew this team would struggle without Myck Kabongo in the lineup - the sophomore point guard finished with 17 points, four rebounds and six assists in what may be his final game of his Texas career - but when he returned things really didn't get much better. The offense still struggled to find opportunities to score when the pressure was on, and the defense still had lapses at the most inopportune times. Maybe the best thing Houston did for Texas was put it out of its misery and end this huge disappointment of a season.
Stat(s) of the Night
To go along with his other big numbers, Prince Ibeh went 4-for-8 from the free throw line - a good night for him... Cameron Ridley played just five minutes due to what was reported as a respiratory issue.
Story of the Night
A very slow start for the Longhorns and some defensive lapses late in the game gave Houston all the help it needed to pull off the first-round win over Texas in the College Basketball Invitational. The Horns improved their chances when they switched to a zone defense, but even with Prince Ibeh's career night Texas couldn't do enough to get past a Houston squad that struggled to stay north of .500 in Conference USA this year.
Rick Barnes on the bad start:
"I just didn't like how we started the game. We gave them way too much."
Barnes on Prince Ibeh:
"I thought he did some really good things. He was really good in the zone there."
Barnes on the zone:
"They put it where we wanted them to put it. They don't have a guy on that team that can shoot the ball over [Ibeh] in that zone."
Barnes on the finishing at the rim:
"That's where we've got to get better. Our big guys have to develop. They've got to want the ball in there and score. It's those plays where we've got to have an inside presence. We can't keep putting pressure on our guards."
Barnes on the offseason:
"We've got to get stronger. There' no doubt about that. It's about one word: discipline. We're going to be a disciplined team because we're not going to do this again."