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Barnes Talks Return To Austin As Vols Fall At Texas

NCAAW: Ayoka Lee Dominates

Tennessee seemed dead in the water Saturday night at Texas before a 16-0 run in just over four minutes tied the game at 50 with just over a minute to play.

A pair of missed Tennessee threes and a tacky-tack foul on Josiah Jordan James later and the Longhorns were, 51-50, winners in Rick Barnes’ return to the Frank Erwin Center.

“I appreciate Chris (Beard) and the basketball staff and Chris Del Conte and everyone doing what they did,” Barnes said of his return to Austin. “I didn’t expect it. I said for year I didn’t want to come back, I didn’t want it to be about me. It touched me. It did. I wouldn’t be telling you the truth if I said it didn’t, but seeing my former players … and the best part, truthfully, was seeing their families.”

On the court, the return to the Frank Erwin Center wasn’t looking like a good one. Both teams hung even in a low scoring first half before Texas parlayed a 5-0 run to end the half into an extended 15-0 run.

The Longhorns held complete control of the game for most the second half as Tennessee’s offense struggled mightily.

Tennessee made just two baskets the first 13 minutes of the second half and subsequently found itself trailing by 17 points with 6:40 to go.

That’s when the improbable happened. Tennessee went on a 19-2 and 16-0 run to tie the game up with 83 seconds to play. A pair of triples from Josiah Jordan James and a 7-0 run from Zakai Zeigler propelled the run and an offensive rebound and put back by Austin native Victor Bailey Jr. tied the game at 50.

“Really happy for VJ Bailey coming home,” Barnes said. “His determination and grit was— I think if you picked a most liked guy on our team it would be VJ. His teammates love him to death and he made some huge plays there. The offensive stick back and the charge he picked up. Just his tenacity.”

However, the storybook ending wasn’t meant to be. Tennessee got the ball back in the final minute with the game tied, but a Santiago Vescovi three didn’t go and a hand check on James sent Timmy Allen to the line with six seconds to go.

Allen made one and James’ open three-pointer didn’t go, securing the win for Texas.

“I’ve seen shots like that one fall at the end against us,” Barnes said of his years at Texas with a laugh. “I was hoping that one would go in.”

Barnes discussed everything that went into his return, Zeigler’s toughness, the final possession and more postgame.

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