- Associated Press - Saturday, December 12, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Time after time, North Carolina let Texas’ missed shots land right back in the hands of Longhorns.

When the last one went straight to Longhorns guard Javan Felix, he stepped in for easy catch, shoot and swish at the buzzer for an 84-82 victory Saturday over the No. 3 Tar Heels.

“Long shots, long rebounds,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.

“The last one, it missed badly and so it bounces out long. Still, we should have had somebody there. Five guys are supposed to box out five guys - that’s the bottom line. Texas wanted the basketball more than we did,” Williams said.

Felix was left unguarded as players from both teams watched Isaiah Taylor’s 3-point attempt in the final seconds bounce off the rim. The ball dropped straight to Felix, who calmly put it in. After a few minutes of reviewing replay video, the game officials ruled the basket good.



Felix finished with 25 points for Texas (6-3) and made five 3-pointers. Marcus Paige scored 20 to lead the Tar Heels (7-2), who started the season No. 1.

The victory should be a huge boost for first-year Texas coach Shaka Smart, who needed a big win to unveil the potential of a Texas program that enjoyed many winning seasons under Rick Barnes but has mostly struggled in the postseason for most of the last decade.

Texas fired Barnes after another NCAA tournament early-round exit last year to bring in Smart, whose swashbuckling “havoc” style of up-tempo, pressure basketball took Virginia Commonwealth to a Final Four and built his reputation as one of the country’s best young coaches.

But Smart’s start at Texas has been slow. Long road trips to China and the Bahamas before Thanksgiving led to three losses in the first five games and left Smart questioning his players’ confidence.

They showed no fear of the highly ranked Tar Heels from the start, fighting back from early deficits behind Felix and the big plays of freshmen Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach. The Longhorns also had a huge 20-4 advantage in offensive rebounding, leading to 21 second-chance points.

“We played loose, we played aggressive,” Smart said. “There has been some growing pains, some transition pains. For this to be a win … It validates for those guys the work they’ve put in.”

The game came down to a basket-for-basket blur in the final minute. Taylor scored 18 points and Davis scored 16, including a crowd-energizer, buzzer-beating bank shot to close the first half.

Cam Ridley scored 12 for Texas. His layup and free throw put the Longhorns ahead 79-76 with 2 minutes left.

The Tar Heels tied it twice in the final minute.

Justin Jackson scored 15 for North Carolina. Johnson and Isaiah Hicks each scored 14 for the Tar Heels.

Williams noted the Longhorns’ dominant offensive rebounding, none bigger than the final play.

“The last four points were offensive rebounds that their guards got,” Williams said.

Hicks suggested Felix was unguarded because Paige got knocked out of the play.

“All I know is they were coming down, they shot it, somebody hit Marcus and he flew out of bounds. He (Felix) was just open,” Hicks said.

TIP-INS

North Carolina: Paige made three 3-pointers to set the school record. His last, with 6 minutes to play, passed Shammond Williams, who had 293.

Texas: Made 12 3-pointers, giving the Longhorns 27 in the last two games. Davis made four against the Tar Heels.

BIG CROWD

Texas players had vented frustration over small home crowds early this season but the Tar Heels drew a big one with an announced sellout of about 16,500 at the Erwin Center.

CAROLINA KILLER

Felix has had some big moments against the Tar Heels. He had a big role in Texas beating North Carolina in 2013, with nine points in the key late run of an 86-83 win.

“He has an old-man YMCA game and that’s not intended to be a cut toward him,” Williams said. “He’s old school, sneaky, glides along.”

UP NEXT

North Carolina hosts Tulane on Wednesday.

Texas hosts Appalachian State on Tuesday.

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