LUBBOCK, Texas – He had just five points, five turnovers and had made only two of nine shots. Texas was down three with 2.6 seconds to go, half of Lubbock was screaming in his ear and the play wasn't even designed for him. But there it was, a slightly bad pass, a defender hanging on him and no time to think about any of it.
"That's just why I play basketball," shrugged Brandon Mouton.
He made the catch – "a heck of a catch," UT coach Rick Barnes said – faked out the Texas Tech defender and from 25 feet let it rip.
"Once it was in the air, it felt good," smiled Mouton.
It was good of course, forcing overtime, forcing an exhausted Tech team to try to dig a little deeper and eventually forcing a huge Big 12 road win, 62-61, for the Longhorns (13-3, 4-1).
"The kid hit a great shot," Tech coach Bob Knight said.
Maybe it means more in the pros, where the competition is bigger and better. Maybe a championship game-winner is the ultimate dream. But there remains something oh-so-special about being a college kid and hitting a big shot, in a big game, with a big Hall of Famer on the other bench.
Monday night Brandon Mouton, the up-and-down Longhorn senior guard, had one of those nights, one of those moments. Every game counts at this level because it is about team and school and making memories. This was the kind of game that gets toasted at 20-year reunions, the night Mouton pulled one out of thin air and stole a game from the General.
This was supposed to be Tech's night, even with starting center Robert Tomaszek out with injury. A hyped crowd of 15,250 packed United Spirit Arena and rocked the South Plains, cheering on every made basket, every defensive stand, every loose-ball grab. The 13th-ranked Red Raiders (13-3, 4-1) had won 12 consecutive games and were about to add to the streak against their archrival, on national television.
This was going to be one of those moments that proved bringing Knight here was a stroke of genius. Even with the loss it is apparent Tech is a contender. The General has a hell of squad.
"They are an outstanding team," Barnes said afterward, looking like he had been through a ringer. "And they are the best-coached team in college basketball. I can't say enough about Texas Tech. Defensively they embarrassed us in the first half. Our offense was awful and it was all because of them."
So by the time Ronald Ross calmly sank two free throws to give Tech a three-point lead with 4.2 seconds left, the arena was delirious. But Barnes called a quick pass up court and called time, a play Knight is kicking himself he let happen.
"I take whole responsibility," he said. "I'm at fault for not calling timeout when we saw their lineup. I think I cost us the game in that regard."
The result was UT getting to set up at midcourt and running a three-option play, Mouton being the second option. So right in front of a thunder-rousing student section the player who is struggling to average nine points per game in Big 12 play – hardly a dream kind of senior season – had a dream moment.
He shut up the place.
"That's a great feeling," the Lafayette, La., native said of the silence that followed the swish. "Just knowing I made a difference in not just the game but in the fans as well. They have great fans. This was a great atmosphere. [But] in overtime they didn't have as much energy."
Mouton probably will never play in the NBA. He won't be an All-American. While No. 16 Texas certainly has the potential, it isn't a team you would consider a favorite to return to the Final Four.
But both the player and the team have displayed the kind of guts that characterize champions. The 'Horns have won four games at or near the buzzer, three of them on the road. They don't get down. They never stop believing.
They tend to find just enough to win.
Monday it was a terribly cold hand making a terribly difficult shot.
"Percentage-wise, you're not counting on it," Barnes said.
But in college basketball the percentages never matter. Only the memories do.