Jonathan Holmes continues strong start with late three to beat UConn

The Dagger

Javan Felix was just about to release a fall-away 25 footer with 4.4 seconds left in Sunday's matchup with UConn when Texas coach Rick Barnes recognized that his team was in no position to get a good shot.

The abrupt timeout Barnes quickly called probably saved the Longorns from a bitter defeat.

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Instead of Texas pinning its hopes on a desperation three from a guard shooting 32.4 percent from behind the arc, Barnes managed to draw up a brilliant play in the huddle to get his best shooter a clean look. Jonathan Holmes used a sideline screen from Demarcus Holland to shake free of UConn's Daniel Hamilton and had time to catch the inbound pass, set his feet and bury a corner 3-pointer to give the seventh-ranked Longhorns a 55-54 road victory. 

The game-winning shot from Holmes is the signature moment of an outstanding opening month from a Texas team expected to contend for the Big 12 crown this year. The frontcourt-heavy Longhorns endured a wrist injury to standout guard Isaiah Taylor earlier this month yet have continued to thrive without their leading scorer, beating Iowa, Cal and UConn to remain unbeaten ahead of their showdown with top-ranked Kentucky on Friday.

One of the biggest reasons for Texas' success has been the All-American-caliber performance of Holmes, who has shed weight and transitioned from power forward to the perimeter to help ease the Longhorns' interior logjam. 

The 6-foot-8 Holmes has averaged 13.4 points per game, hit a remarkable 13 of 21 threes and played strong defense against smaller, quicker wings. The senior has also been at his best in big games, scoring a combined 40 points against Iowa and Cal before hitting the biggest shot of the game Sunday against UConn.

Texas was only in position to steal the game late because its formidable defense held UConn to 30.8 percent shooting.

A Huskies team playing without wing Rodney Purvis relied on forays from the rim from Ryan Boatright and Daniel Hamilton to fuel its offense, but that played into the hands of Texas' array of shot-blocking big men. Boatright needed 21 shots to score 24 points, the Longhorns swatted away eight shots and UConn sank just 3 of the 18 threes it attempted.

To add injury to insult for UConn, Boatright rolled his left ankle defending Holland on Texas' final play and stayed on the floor in anguish well after the final buzzer. He left the arena on crutches but told the Hartford Courant, "I'm a dog. I'll be back."

A slightly better offensive performance from UConn might have been enough because Texas didn't have much success itself against the Huskies' half-court defense.

The vaunted Longhorns frontcourt produced little because the guards couldn't get the big men the ball in position to score. Holmes, Felix and Holland combined for 33 points from the perimeter, however, as Texas got just enough transition offense and outside shooting to make up for its inability to exploit its advantage in the paint. 

Texas will need more from its frontcourt if it's going to spring an upset at Kentucky on Friday, but the Longhorns can take solace in one thing: If the score is close late, they have a coach who can design an effective play and a hot-shooting senior who has the confidence to knock down a big shot. 

(Thanks for the video, CBS Sports)

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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