NEW ORLEANS — A battle of underachievers between Texas and Wake Forest produced a more memorable finish than anyone could have expected.
Ishmael Smith’s 17-foot pull-up jumper with 1.8 seconds left in overtime gave ninth-seeded the Demon Deacons an 81-80 victory and sealed the eighth-seeded Longhorns’ bewildering late-season collapse. Wake Forest rallied from eight down in overtime to earn the chance to challenge top-seed Kentucky on Saturday.
"I felt like the second part of the second half Texas did a great job of keeping me out of the lane," Smith said. "I knew I wasn't going to get all the way to the lane. I knew I had to pull up. And thank God I made a big shot."
For Texas, letting the game slip through its fingers in overtime was symbolic of a season that got away from them. The Longhorns ascended to the top of the polls in mid-January after starting the season 17-0, but they crumbled in stunning fashion immediately afterward, finishing with losses in 10 of 17 games.
"It's a disappointing, tough, heartbreaking loss," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "What Damion (James) and Dexter (Pittman) and Justin Mason have meant to this program over four years is something that we all truly appreciate. And love them for it. But it ends so quickly. For those guys, it's very disappointing."