Austin (KXAN) – At the end of the game against the Texas Longhorns, they probably shouldn’t foul the number 10 guy. Just ask TCU and Texas Tech how it went.
Jabari Rice, a New Mexico State graduate, arrived in Austin after a 4-year career with the Aggies of the Western Athletic Conference and became one of the most efficient sixth men in the country. He made three all-WAC selections with Aggie and helped them advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year, but he’s found his niche in the Longhorns as a late-game shooter and spark off the bench.
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“My teammates keep me motivated and confident,” Rice said. “I didn’t have good first halves in the last two games, but it happens. You just need to find a way to help the team. I’m trying to be the guy who does whatever the team needs.”
To help close two behind-the-scenes wins against No. 17 TCU and Texas Tech, Rice hit 8-of-10 from the foul line in the last 20 seconds to cumulatively see the Longhorns pick up a pair of wins after losing double figures in both games. .
Rice hit three free throws in 6 seconds to end the game for the Longhorns in a 79–75 victory over the Horned Frogs on January 11, and then he hit five free throws in the final 20 seconds to help hold Texas. Those 72-70 on Saturday.
Rice has played in all 17 games for the Longhorns this season, averaging 24 minutes per game without a start, and yet he is still the team’s fourth leading scorer with 10.4 points per game and the team’s leading fouler with nearly 87%. . He is 46-of-53 from the foul line this season, making him 52nd in the nation in free throw percentage. In New Mexico State, Rice shot 79% from the free throw line.
It’s just part of his game that makes opposing coaches notice and plan around what he’s doing, even when he comes off the bench.
“He’s a winner and a tough guy,” Texas Tech head coach Mark Adams said of Rice after Saturday’s game. “He has that unique fake shot that we’ve been talking about all week and he’s caught it for us a couple of times. He comes off the bench, gives them a lot of energy and plays hard.”
The fake shot that Adams eluded is something from a Looney Tunes sports special. It’s like the ball is glued to Rice’s hands when he starts the move so that the defenders think he’s going to pull the trigger and then he doesn’t. The defender swims past him in an almost comical attempt to block Rice’s shot when he had no intention of shooting at all. Rice then calmly finishes the job either by scoring a goal or getting a foul or both, while the defenders trying to get back into the game look stupid.
He does this with his teammates as well.
“You’re going to jump,” Longhorns forward Timmy Allen said after the TCU game. “It doesn’t matter if you know it will happen. It’s too good.”
Rice said this is another aspect of his game that he has worked hard to be a player his teammates can rely on in any situation.
“It’s something I’ve kind of perfected at the moment, and I’ve used it not only for myself, but to the advantage of my teammates,” Rice said.
When asked if he was surprised by how often his fake shot made him open up, Rice replied with a straight face, “Honestly, no.”
Rice led the Longhorns’ reserves to 28.5 bench points per game, finishing 24th in the nation. He shoots 46% from the field and 31% from three-point range, and he takes care of basketball while on the floor with an assist-to-assist ratio of 1.75:1. He has blocked nine shots and 14 steals in a season.
In the match against TCU, Terry said he challenged Rice at halftime to give the team everything he had. In response, Rice scored all 15 points in the second half.
“He’s a good ball shooter and we want him to be a guy who shoots from the perimeter,” Terry said. “We needed his minutes as a senior player to take care of basketball and give us a good defense on the other end.”
Texas (15-2, 4-1 Big 12 Conference) could see their national rankings improve when the Associated Press releases new poll results on Monday, and they’re going to defend it immediately against the No. 14 Iowa State Cyclones. The Longhorns and Cyclones meet in Tuesday in Ames, Iowa.