BOULDER, Colo. (AP)—Tie game. Just 1.6 seconds left in regulation. Two free throws to win it.
This was the type of situation Damion James dreamed of, the Texas forward feeling quite certain both attempts were going in.
Instead, his free throws went clang and clang.
Focusing on redemption not dejection, James scored six of his 21 points in overtime to help Texas hold off Colorado 85-76 on Saturday.
“I was determined not to let my team lose,” James said. “If we would’ve lost, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep.”
James can sleep just fine now.
Nobody said anything to him on the bench before overtime began. No one needed to.
“It happens,” said James, who also finished with 14 rebounds. “I missed them. We won. I’m happy.”
A.J. Abrams thinks he knows why his teammate missed the pair—James wanted a little bonus hoops before heading back.
“He wanted to keep on playing. I don’t think he wants to go back to Texas yet,” Abrams said, grinning.
Abrams certainly did his part, scoring 29 points, including five in overtime. He never came out of the game, playing all 45 minutes.
“I didn’t get too winded. I was pretty good the whole game,” Abrams said.
Colorado’s Dwight Thorne II had his hands full, spending the entire afternoon chasing Abrams around the gym, giving him precious few open looks.
It didn’t matter. Abrams doesn’t need to be all that open to shoot, just a tiny crack.
“It was a tough task,” Thorne said. “I did an OK job, what’d he get?”
“So I didn’t do a great job at it,” Thorne said. “It was just tough.”
Overlooked with his offensive exploits was Abrams’ work on the defensive end. He’s become quite the defender, even drawing a crucial charge call when Thorne ran over him late in the game.
“He’s had a terrific year,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “People don’t really realize what he’s done on both ends of the floor, in terms of his consistency.”
The Longhorns (17-7, 6-4 Big 12) had trouble keeping tabs on Cory Higgins, who scored a career-high 34 points. His previous high was 33 against Colorado State on Dec. 10.
Not too bad for having a cold.
“I hope he gets this sick all the time,” Colorado coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “His leadership is awesome.”
Talk about a turnaround. The Buffaloes (9-15, 1-9) were coming off a demoralizing 70-42 loss at Iowa State in which they scored just nine points in the first half.
They gave the Longhorns quite a scare, before dropping their fourth straight game to Texas.
Then again, the Buffaloes do seem to give the top echelon teams in the Big 12 fits, taking Kansas, Oklahoma and now Texas to the wire, only to wind up short. Colorado has lost nine of its last 10 games.
“If you think they’re going to lay down, believe me, they’re not going to do that,” Barnes said. “They make it hard on everybody.”
The Buffaloes, who trailed by as many as 15 points, tied the game at 72 when Jermyl Jackson-Wilson sank two free throws with 7.6 seconds left.
Then Jackson-Wilson fouled James, sending him to the line with a chance for the win. But he missed the pair, both bouncing off the back iron.
James refused to sulk on the bench, feeling sorry for himself.
That’s not his style.
James had a baby hook, a dunk and two free throws in overtime as the Longhorns outscored Colorado 13-4 to win their second straight game after three straight.
“Shows what kind of person he is—bounces back, did what he had to do to help,” Abrams said. “That man’s focused. He knows exactly what he’s supposed to do.”