AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Big school schedulers are probably second-guessing themselves for calling tiny Radford for a game.
If the head coaches weren’t such good friends, Texas would probably rather never see the Highlanders ever again.
Carlik Jones made a spinning, scoop layup, then followed it with a free throw with 24.5 seconds left, sending Radford to a 62-59 upset of the No. 17 Longhorns on Friday night, earning the Highlanders the program’s first ever win over a ranked opponent.
Radford already beat Notre Dame this season and with road games and Clemson and Maryland still on the schedule in December, it’s a sure bet those schools will be scouting the Highlanders from the Big South Conference harder than they ever thought they’d have to.
“The stretch we have right now is suicidal,” Radford coach Mike Jones said. “At the end of the day, these games don’t matter as much as our league does … The statement is if we are locked in for 40 minutes … we can (win).”
The smaller Highlanders (6-1) matched Texas’ 44 rebounds, turned the ball over just eight times against Texas full- and half-court pressure defense and made got stop after stop on defense even when their own shots weren’t going down in the second half.
Jones’ tough layup around Texas guard Kerwin Roach II came after Jericho Sims had put Texas ahead 59-58 with 1 minute left. Roach misfired a 3-pointer that was rebounded by Radford’s Devin Hutchinson, who made one of two free throws.
Texas set up guard Jase Febres for a 3-pointer to tie, but he missed badly on the final shot that Hutchinson rebounded to end the game. Jones’ layup was one of just three Radford field goals over the final 8:57. Ed Polite Jr. scored 11 to lead Radford.
“He’s just got toughness and belief in his ability,” Mike Jones said of Carlik Jones.
Sims led Texas with 16 points Dylan Osetkowski grabbed 17 rebounds for the Longhorns. Texas (5-2) missed 10 of 20 free throws and went 5 of 27 from 3-point range.
Longhorns coach Shaka Smart seethed after the loss that came just as his program was gaining momentum. After starting the season unranked, a 5-0 start that included an impressive win over North Carolina had earned Texas it’s highest ranking in his four seasons with the Longhorns.
Smart used the word “disappointing” a half-dozen times and questioned which team he really has: The one that beat North Carolina or the one that lost at home to Radford.
“The second half they were the aggressors,” Smart said. “We’ve been in some big games against opponents that maybe our guys circle, but every game counts. I bet Radford circled this one”.
Radford: The Highlanders have big plans for last season’s Big South tournament champions. Radford made the NCAA Tournament last season and have an experienced lineup full of juniors and seniors. But they’re small with only three players at least 6-foot-7 and no one taller than 6-8.
Texas: The Longhorns had every advantage in size, speed and swagger. But they lacked any scoring punch from seniors Roach and Ostekowski. Roach came in averaging 18.6 points but had a miserable game with 2 of 12 shooting. Osetkowski was 4 of 15. Together they were 2 of 14 from long range and Roach also had three turnovers.
“We played good defense,” Roach said. “Somebody had to step up. Looking at me as a senior, to find a way to win.”
Smart is on a two-game swing against his former Virginia Commonwealth assistants who were with him when the Rams went to the Final Four in 2011. Mike Jones was with Smart from 2009-2011. Texas next plays VCU at home and Rams coach Mike Rhoades was with Smart at VCU from 2009-2014.
“I’ve never felt as badly about a win in my life as I do right now,” Jones said. “I love the guy and his family. He’s done so much to help my career. This is a really weird feeling.”
A good sign for Texas was the best game of the season from Sims, who had been expected to make a splash as a sophomore but had a quiet start to the season. Sims made several strong moves for dunks and looked ready to take the game on his wide shoulders near the end with the slam that gave Texas the lead. But Texas didn’t go back to him when down by two and Roach missed his final 3-pointer.
SURVIVING THE PRESS
Texas’ pressing defense had been forcing an average of 19 turnovers per game. It worked early against Radford as Texas forced several in building a 12-point lead in the first half. But Radford quickly adjusted and had just three turnovers in the second half. That kept Texas playing in a half-court game on a night the Longhorns were struggling to shoot and prevented any easy breakaway baskets.