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Texas Rallies to Beat South Alabama 82-77
Updated: Tuesday, November 12 2013, 11:34 PM CST
AUSTIN - Trailing by 14 points at halftime, Texas seemed headed for a loss characteristic of the Longhorns team that turned in their first losing season last year under longtime head coach Rick Barnes.
But Texas rallied as Jonathan Holmes scored 15 of his career-high 23 points in the second half and the Longhorns picked up an 84-77 win over South Alabama on Tuesday night.
"The game changed when our attitude changed," Barnes said. "I thought we were very lethargic. I just don't think we were ready at the start of the game. In the second half, we came out and put more effort and energy into it."
Texas (2-0) scored the first basket but did not lead again until late in the second half. South Alabama (1-1) opened the game on 18-8 run and eventually took a 45-31 halftime lead, hitting 10 of 21 3-pointers in the first half.
But Holmes scored eight points in the first three minutes of the second half, fueling a 17-7 Texas run. That trimmed the Jaguars' lead to four points but they held a 64-54 advantage a few minutes later. Then, Holmes sparked another rally, this time blocking an Augustine Rubit dunk attempt on one end of the floor and hitting a 3-pointer on the other end.
"I was just doing my job," Holmes said. "We didn't come out to play (in the first half). We didn't come out with any pride. We weren't focused. We didn't want it to turn into something that happened last year, where we come out flat in the second half also."
After playing zone defense for most of the first half, Texas switched to man-to-man in the second half. It paid off. South Alabama hit 10 of 21 3-pointers in the first half but only 3 of 12 after halftime.
"It made a big difference," Texas sophomore Prince Ibeh said. "It made it easier to contest at the 3-point line. That's where they did a lot of their damage in the first half."
Ibeh's lay-up with 6:22 to go made it a one-possession game for the first time since the 16:58 mark of the first half and Isaiah Taylor converted a lay-up to give the Longhorns a 73-72 lead, their first since there was 19:09 remaining in the first half.
Mychal Ammons quickly responded with one of the Jaguars' 13 3-pointers to put them back on top, but Taylor once again gave the Longhorns the lead, this time for good, with another lay-up with 1:51 to play.
"We live for these types of situations," Taylor said. "I was just trying to push it down their throats. I knew they were tired. I think we're one of the best-conditioned teams in the country and it showed today. We didn't get tired down the stretch."
Connor Lammert tied the game at 75 with a jumper and, following another Ammons bucket, Felix tied the game again at 77 with a pair of free throws with 2:22 to go. After Taylor's lay-up, Felix, who scored 15 points for the Longhorns and got three stitches on his tongue after the game, sealed the victory when South Alabama was called for goaltending on one of his jumpers with 23.3 seconds remaining.
"It shouldn't have come down to that," South Alabama head coach Matthew Graves said. "Probably the most disappointing thing to me tonight was I felt like Texas beat us to the floor for loose balls. In a game that's a one- or two-possession game at the end, you have to be the first to the floor."
Augustine Rubit, the reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year, led South Alabama with 22 points on 7 of 18 shooting, making him one of four South Alabama players to score in double figures. Antoine Allen scored all 12 of his points in the first half while Barrington Stevens contributed 12 points and Ammons scored 16 for the Jaguars.
Freshman Isaiah Taylor, who scored a game-high 17 points in the Longhorns' season-opening win over Mercer last Friday, scored 13 points on 5 of 9 shooting. Holmes, who hit 4 of 7 3-pointers on the night, also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds.
Texas has started 2-0 for the 12th straight year.