MILWAUKEE – The shot was long, and it smacked hard off the glass in the final seconds. That’s when big Cameron Ridley, standing every bit of 6-foot-9 and 285 pounds, reached down, picked up the ball and put it in as time expired.
Hello Texas, and welcome back to March Madness.
The Longhorns made a successful return to the NCAA tournament when Ridley’s layup lifted his team to an 87-85 victory over Arizona State on Thursday night.
“Just a loose ball. Cam does have great hands,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “We were fortunate.”
Jonathan Holmes missed badly on a long 3-pointer for the Longhorns in the final seconds, but Ridley emerged from the scrum of hands and scored as the buzzer sounded. The call stood after a video replay, handing Texas its first tourney win since 2011.
“I went to the glass as hard as I could, and I tried to get it as hard as I could and it went in,” Ridley said.
Ridley finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for the seventh-seeded Longhorns (24-10), who led by 14 with 12 minutes left. Freshman reserve Martez Walker had 16 points and Demarcus Holland scored 14 on 6-for-6 shooting.
“That’s something you are going to remember for the rest of your life,” Holmes said.
Texas will face No. 2 seed Michigan on Saturday. The Wolverines advanced with a 57-40 victory over Wofford.
Jordan Bachynski had 25 points and seven rebounds for No. 10 seed Arizona State (21-12), which was making its first tournament appearance since 2009.
Jahii Carson had 19 points and nine assists, and Jermaine Marshall added 17 points and seven rebounds.
“It’s a tough one. It’s a tough way to end the game and end my career,” Bachynski said.
Several Sun Devils laid down in front of their bench after Ridley’s final shot, and Bachynski slowly walked off the court with his hands on his head.
“They just keep playing. They’ve been a next-play, next-game team all season,” Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said. “I can tell you right now it’s a very emotional, heartbroken locker room.”
Holmes made two free throws to give Texas a 61-47 lead with 12:11 to go, and the Longhorns looked as if they were ready to deliver a knockout punch. The Sun Devils then scored 17 of the next 22 points, trimming the deficit to two on Jonathan Gilling’s 3-pointer with 8:15 left.
Arizona State had an 83-82 lead when Holmes grabbed an airball by Javan Felix and scored while being fouled by Gilling. Holmes made the resulting foul shot with 32 seconds to go.
Gilling made two free throws on the other end, setting up the frantic finish. Gilling had four 3-pointers and 15 points for the Sun Devils, who lost their last four games of the season.
“We talked about them being a really good offensive rebounding team,” he said. “That’s what killed us the last two possessions.”