And according to Bamba, he's just getting started again.
"That was basically the point of playing," said Bamba, a 6-foot-11 center and top NBA prospect held out since Feb. 24 because of a sprained toe, "not only for this tournament but for the next one."
He scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 14 minutes to go with four rebounds and one blocked shot.
Coach Shaka Smart said he planned to limit Bamba to 10 minutes.
"The way he played, we'd have loved to have him for 29-30 minutes," Smart said. "Hopefully, he can grow from that and play more next time."
Smart said Bamba was "negotiating to play more, but the trainer was negotiating for him to play less."
"He wants to play," Smart said. "He was mad at me when I took him out."
Smart said Bamba had improved dramatically from last week.
"So hopefully he can get some more rest over the next couple days," Smart said. "And hopefully that thing is feeling better."
The Longhorns (19-14) expect to learn of an NCAA tournament destination on Selection Sunday -- whether the committee sends them to Dayton, Ohio, for a Tuesday game or straight into the first round later next week. Bamba, who missed Texas' opening-round win here Wednesday after a victory over West Virginia and a Feb. 26 loss at Kansas, said he's comfortable Texas has done enough to get into the NCAA tournament.
"I think we showed the committee what type of team we are and who we are with who we beat," forward Dylan Osetkowski said. "The Big 12 is a hell of a league. There's not a team that wants to see us down the road."
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi listed Texas, after its loss to Texas Tech, as the last team to receive a bye to avoid the Dayton assignment.
Regardless of their spot, Bamba said, bring it on.
"I'm looking forward to next week," he said.
Bamba, who leads Texas in rebounding and ranks third in scoring, entered Thursday's game with 13:16 to play in the first half as Texas trailed 12-2. He immediately scored a field goal but left after three minutes with the Longhorns down by 14. When he returned with 5:48 to play in the half, Texas had cut the lead to seven. Two minutes later Bamba went to the bench again with Texas down 32-19.
He returned for the final seconds of the first half and hit a 3, cutting Tech's lead to 35-28. The Longhorns, behind a career-best 29 points from guard Jacob Young, cut the lead to one point in the second half.
Osetkowski said Bamba provided a "great spark."
"That was the goal," Bamba said. "If all else failed, it was to energize the team, get them going."