AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas desperately needed a Big 12 win to avoid the same disastrous start of last season.
They got one — by a slim margin — thanks in large part to a big defensive play and two free throws in the final in the final 35 seconds that sent the Longhorns to a 67-64 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday night.
Texas (12-4, 1-2) had to have it.
The Longhorns started 0-5 in conference play last season and never recovered, tailing off into the program's first losing season in 15 years. A similar start might have doomed coach Rick Barnes' rebuilding project.
Texas opened conference play this season with a pair of hard-fought losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
"It finally brings a good feeling to the locker room. Nobody's going to be depressed anymore, thinking it's going to be like last year," Ridley said. "You've got to build on it and keep working."
Texas trailed by one when Ridley altered a shot and hustled down the floor for an offensive rebound before he was fouled. His two free throws put Texas ahead 65-64 with 31 seconds left.
A 46 percent free throw shooter last season, Ridley worked hard to improve and is making them at a 60 percent clip this season. He calmly made both with the game on the line.
"We spent many, many, many hours, sometimes just standing two feet in front of the basket and shooting with 1 hand," Barnes said. "We have confidence in him now.
Texas Tech had a chance to win. Jordan Tolbert's shot was blocked by Prince Ibeh before Jaye Crockett missed a jumper. Jonathan Holmes grabbed the rebound off Crockett's miss, then made two free throws with 1 second left.
Isaiah Taylor scored 14 points to lead Texas and Javan Felix scored 12. Crockett and Robert Turner each scored 19 points for Texas Tech (8-8, 0-3).
"It's going to hurt for a month," Crockett said. "We're tired of Texas Tech being at the bottom of the conference. We just want to win."
Barnes shrugged off a suggestion that his team might not have recovered from another loss.
"I don't know if you call it relief. I think we've got the best league in the country. I expected the game to be this way," Barnes said.
Texas had three starters, Holmes, Ridley and Demarcus Holland, play just eight minutes or less in the first half because each picked up two early fouls and they totaled just three points before halftime. Turner scored nine in the half for the Red Raiders, who led 33-32 to start the second.
Ridley, Holmes and Holland started the second and made an immediate impact as the Longhorns cleaned up their foul problems. Holmes and Ridley scored Texas' first seven points of the second half and Taylor's floating layup put Texas ahead 41-40.
Texas threatened to make a run when Taylor converted a tough layup, then sent a nifty backward pass to Kendal Yancy on a 3-point play. Felix made a 3-pointer from the right wing and Texas led 50-42 with just under 13 minutes to play.
The Red Raiders wouldn't let Texas break away. Jamal Williams made a 3-pointer and Turner's layup pulled Texas Tech back within three. The game stayed close the rest of the way and Turner's two free throws with 1:19 left gave Texas Tech a 64-63 lead.
The loss will sting the Red Raiders, who had their chance to end a 15-game losing streak to Texas in Austin, a skid that dates to 1996. It also would have been a nice return for first-year Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith, who was fired a day after the last time he led a team to Austin.
Smith guided Minnesota to the NCAA tournament last season, but the Golden Gophers lost in the third round on Texas' home court and Smith was fired.