EL PASO, Texas -- Texas Longhorns guard Kerwin Roach kicked off his senior season the best way he knew how.
Suspended for the Longhorns' season opener against Eastern Illinois on Tuesday, Roach scored a team-high 18 points and hit a three-pointer with one second to play in regulation to force overtime in a 73-71 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks on Friday night in the Armed Forces Classic.
Arkansas led 63-60 following a Daniel Gafford free throw with nine seconds remaining and Roach hit deep three-pointer in front of the Texas bench. Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said there were no defensive breakdowns that allowed the Longhorns guard to get the shot off.
"Good players make good plays, and he's a good player," Anderson said. "A senior made a play for them. He made a big, big shot. But we had opportunities to put it away, and that's going to be the next learning curve is how do we execute and finish the game off."
The three-pointer to force overtime appeared improbable, given Texas' second-half struggles on the offensive end. Prior to Roach's score, Texas had made 4 of 25 shots (16 percent) and 2 of 10 attempts from three-point range. Only four Longhorns scored in the second half, and Roach was the lone player in double figures with 11 points.
In overtime, Texas freshman guard Courtney Ramey's floater off the glass gave the Longhorns a 72-71 lead with 47 seconds to play. Following a three-point attempt by Razorbacks sophomore Mason Jones missed and Texas made 1 of 2 free throws with 21 seconds left, Arkansas' Jalen Harris could not connect on a jumper and Jones missed again as the buzzer sounded and the Texas-heavy crowd packed tightly into Soto Gym cheered.
"It's one game," Anderson said. "It isn't the end of the season, but at the same time you've got to learn and grow from it. Sometimes growing up is painful, and this is one of those when you're on the big stage and you've got the opportunity to pull a game off that no one thought you could win. We've just got to learn from it. That's all."
Gafford led all scorers with 20 points and also collected 12 rebounds. He finished with six turnovers as well and was 4 of 9 at the free throw line. As a team, Arkansas shot 13 of 24 (54 percent) at line, including 3 of 6 in overtime.
"We've just got to keep playing how we play and make more free throws," said Harris, who scored 11 points on 3-of-12 shooting to go with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. "[Anderson] told us to keep our heads up. You win some and you lose some, but don't let this one carry over to the next one."
The Razorbacks led by eight points early in the first half as Harris, Jones, Isaiah Joe and Gafford each scored in the opening 3:24. Meanwhile, Texas struggled offensively early, missing on 6 of 7 shots after a Roach jumper to open the scoring. But the Longhorns responded with a 22-2 run to lead by 12 with nine minutes left in the first half.
Five Texas players -- Roach, Ramey, Dylan Osetkowski, Kamaka Hepa and Elijah Mitrou-Long -- combined to make six of the Horns' next seven three-point shots. Joe, who finished with 17 points on 5-of-8 from three-point range for Arkansas, and Jones then connected on back-to-back threes and freshman Desi Sills added another as part of a late push to cut the Longhorns' lead to 36-30 at halftime.
"We kind of let them just move the ball around, and all of a sudden they were spotting up," Anderson said. "It was like a passing drill out there, and then I thought we got more energy on the defensive end. ... What I was glad to see was even when Texas went up double figures, our guys stayed the course and got connected defensively."
Arkansas limited Texas to 5-of-26 shooting in the second half and forced nine turnovers. But missed opportunities at the free throw line late and Roach's heroics led to a heartbreaking season opener for the Razorbacks.
"It's a great lesson, a valuable lesson," Roach said. "Last year we had 17 games that went down to the final minute and we lost nine of them, so now we're hoping to flip that ratio.
"We stepped up and made our free throws and made big-times shots and closed out the game the way we should."
Sports on 11/10/2018
Print Headline: Roach lifts Horns over Hogs