NASHVILLE -- Even in the NCAA Tournament, Texas couldn't escape its biggest weakness: winning close games.
The 11th-seeded Longhorns lost to sixth-seeded Cincinnati 65-59 on Friday at Bridgestone Arena in the second round of the tournament. The loss dropped Texas to 3-9 in games decided by six points or fewer this season.
Texas erased a 19-point second-half deficit and tied the game at 52 with 3:44 to play. But the Bearcats answered with six straight points. The Longhorns trailed by four with one minute left but couldn't convert when they needed to.
"We had two chances to take the lead, but it's where our season has been: turnover, not a very good shot," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "We made some poor decisions with the ball."
Texas played as it had all season: a slow start followed by a late rally, capped with questionable execution down the stretch.
The Bearcats relaxed on the defensive end after building a sizable lead. But they made all the plays in the closing minutes to fend off UT.
"We are more comfortable playing if it's a close game," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "We don't know how to play with those big leads."
The Longhorns trailed 38-19 with four minutes gone in the second half before finding their shooting touch. Texas closed to 49-46 with a 30-8 run over the next 10 minutes.
Sheldon McClellan scored all 10 of his points during the run to spark the comeback. Julien Lewis added eight points during that stretch. The freshman guard finished with 14.
"They finally came through big time when I wasn't hitting shots," said leading scorer J'Covan Brown, who went 6 of 15 from the field. "I just told them to keep being aggressive. They put up numbers for us."
The Longhorns trailed 31-17 at the break. It was Texas' lowest scoring half of the season. UT missed 13 of its first 14 shots as Cincinnati built a 16-2 advantage.
"We were just inept offensively at the start of the game," Barnes said. "They came out very aggressive and we turned the ball over and started pressing a little bit. We missed a lot of shots at the rim when we were able to get the ball up there and shoot it. It was painful to watch."
The Longhorns went 11:56 without a field goal and trailed by as many as 15 in the half. UT turned the ball over six times against one assist.
Texas regrouped in the second half and found a rhythm. The Longhorns, though, stalled once they closed the gap.
"We started moving the ball and playing as a team, instead of one shot or driving into traffic, then when we tied it, we reverted back to standing and not making the extra pass," Barnes said.
The rally made the loss tougher for the Longhorns to swallow.
"We should have won this game," Barnes said.
Cincinnati dominated the post against a shorthanded Texas front line and had a 40-20 edge in points in the paint. Yancy Gates led the Bearcats with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He put the game out of reach with a jump shot to give UC a 58-52 lead with 1:11 left.
Texas lost its opening-round game for the second time in seven years.