NEW YORK — Dillon Mitchell and his banged-up Texas team delivered an inspired effort in the finals of the Empire Classic, but the Longhorns fell short against defending national champion UConn.
The Huskies, who never trailed in the game, held on for an 81-71 win Monday at Madison Square Garden despite a late surge from Mitchell and Texas.
Playing heavy minutes with the absence of the injured Kadin Shedrick, Mitchell scored a career-high 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting, pulled down eight rebounds and swatted two shots, many of them coming off his help-side defense. Guard Tyrese Hunter had all 13 of his pints in the second half as No. 15 Texas (4-1) closed to within four points with 5 minutes left in the game, but the Longhorns could never claim the lead.
A day after his career-game in Texas’ semifinal win over Louisville, Shedrick missed Monday’s title game against No. 5 UConn (5-0). Team officials said the move to sit Shedrick was precautionary after he took several hard tumbles in Sunday’s game just weeks after returning to the court following surgeries on both shoulders in the offseason. Shedrick did suit up and spent the game on the bench, bellowing out words of encouragement as well as a few tips to Ze’Rik Onyema, wo replaced him in the starting lineup.
Texas needed Shedrick’s size against UConn, who attached the offensive glass with abandon. The Huskies had eight offensive rebounds in the first half alone, which led to 14 free throws before the break. All of that helped UConn build a 46-33 lead by the break, which proved enough cushion to hold on for the win.
Overall, UConn had 11 offensive rebounds and outboarded UConn 40-29.
Texas will return to Moody Center Sunday for a 2 p.m. tip against Wyoming.