Tip: 3 P.M. | TV: ESPN
I’ve spent the week watching games from December and January, wins over teams like Oral Roberts, TCU, and Saint Mary’s. Looking back, I remember my tempered expectations for the Longhorns this season. Without Kevin Durant, how would the huge 2007 freshman class mature in their sophomore season? I hoped for a 12-4 conference mark, but wasn’t going to hold my breath. And I certainly didn’t think Texas would stroll into Auburn Hills to face Michigan State with an unblemished record.
But now here we are, just hours away from the conclusion of another regular season, and Texas stands in a position to share their second Big 12 crown in the last three years. It’s even crazier to think that the Longhorns had a chance to win the thing outright and finish with a 14-2 mark, but it’s hard to be disappointed with a possible title and 13-3 finish in what was statistically the second-toughest conference in the nation. Not only did the new sophomores step up — particularly double-doube machine Damion James — but Connor Atchley blossomed into a big-time threat and a great shot blocker. The new freshman class developed nicely over the year, giving Coach Rick Barnes a respectable rotation in the front court.
All that being said, there’s still a lot of basketball to play. And the long road through March continues on Senior Day against a very hot Oklahoma State team. This isn’t the same Cowpoke squad that scuttled in early conference games and dropped a 63-61 nailbiter to Texas at home. No, this OSU team is now one that slays giants, namely #4 Kansas at home and #16 Texas A&M on the road. The biggest difference for the ‘Pokes? The emergence of point guard Byron Eaton, who has averaged 19.3 points per game over the last six contests, a stretch in which included a five-game OSU win streak.
For a review of the complete Oklahoma State roster and style, you’ll want to revisit the game preview from the January 21st match-up in Stillwater.
What to look for
The key today is going to be shutting down Eaton. In OSU’s last game against Oklahoma — the only loss in their last six games — the Sooners held him to only 13 points, his lowest scoring output in a month. The pudgy guard had only 14 points in the first game with Texas, and if the Horns hold him to similar numbers today they should be in business.
Texas also needs to concern itself with perimeter defense, which suddenly reared its ugly head again in the second half against Nebraska. The Longhorns can’t afford to let Eaton and James Anderson get hot from long range, lest they give the ‘Pokes a fighting chance today.
Finally, the Horns must control turnovers, which has suddenly been a problem in the last week and a half. Texas has turned the ball over an average of 11.6 times per game over the last three contests. While that’s not a staggering number, it is up 21% over the season average that the Horns carried into the K-State game, and they can’t afford to give a ton of points up in transition to an Ok-State squad that likes to pressure beyond the perimeter.
As the sub-head says, there are still tickets available for today’s game. The Horns have some big-time recruits visiting today in Renardo Sidney, Wesley Witherspoon, and verbal commit J’Covan Brown. It won’t look good to have a half-empty, dead arena, so come on out and bring out everybody that you know. If you’re out of town and can’t make it in, the action can be caught on ESPN.