Writer: Lucas Garza
Texas Longhorns basketball supporters knew something was wrong when Shaka Smart almost broke down talking about the health of Andrew Jones after the game against Baylor on Saturday afternoon. Jones did not make the trip to Waco because of an illness, but fans were wondering what was wrong. During Smart’s press conference on Tuesday he almost broke down again discussing Jones’ health. On Wednesday morning, the Jones’ family released a statement that he had been diagnosed with Leukemia. The sophomore guard had been the team’s leading scorer and best player over the past two seasons before he broke his wrist in early December. He returned to the court, but only played limited minutes in games against Kansas and Iowa St. because of fatigue. Jones was undergoing tests when Kevin Durant came to Austin to celebrate his $3 million donation, and sadly the diagnosis was very serious.
Burnt Orange Nation
Texas still had a game to play against TCU the day Jones’ diagnosis was released. The Longhorns knew that they would need even more help in the backcourt without Jones and Kerwin Roach, who has a fractured left hand. Playing with “AJ1” patches on their jerseys, Texas played in front of an energized crowd at the Erwin Center and they played for Andrew Jones. Texas got off to one of their best starts of the season, but couldn’t separate too far from TCU due to the Frogs’ three point shooting. After multiple emphatic dunks from Jericho Sims, Texas took a 10 point lead into halftime. TCU was able to take advantage of a tired Texas team, who had Matt Coleman, Eric Davis, and Dylan Osetkowski play the majority of the minutes in the game. TCU took the lead late in the second half, and both teams traded leads for while. Texas had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Coleman lost the ball and had to toss up a prayer that was no good. The game would go into overtime tied at 77.
Both Matt Coleman and Mohamed Bamba had four fouls going into overtime, so TCU PG Jaylen Fisher was able to use their careful play to his advantage. Dylan Osetkowski made big free throws to keep Texas in the game, and then knocked down a corner three to put Texas up two points with just under 10 seconds left. TCU was able to find Vladimir Brodziansky for a short jumper to hit the buzzer beater, sending the game into a second overtime period tied at 88. Bamba fouled out early in the second overtime, leaving the game with 10 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Brodziansky led the way for TCU in this period, but Jericho Sims’ rebound with 6 seconds left with a foul sent him to the free throw line with the game tied. Sims was just 39% from the line all season, but he knocked down one out of two to put Texas up one point. After a TCU timeout, Jaylen Fisher drove all the way to the rime only to miss the potential game winning layup, giving Texas the 99-98 2OT win.
This win improve Texas’ record to 11-5 and 2-2 in conference. The Longhorns have been shooting the ball from distance much better in conference play, and Eric Davis Jr. has been playing engaged and with confidence. Without Jones, Texas will have to rely on Davis, Coleman, and need bench help from Febres and Young until Roach returns. Texas has been resorting to a lineup with their three big men over the past two games, and it pays off on the rebounding and dunking categories. The Big 12 has been off to a crazy start, with West Virginia leading the conference at 4-0. At the moment, the Longhorns are probably on the bubble when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but if they finish the season in the top six in the Big 12, they should have no problem getting in automatic bid.