Gallagher-Iba Arena | Stillwater, OK | Tip: 3 P.M. CT
TV: Big 12 Network (Affiliate List) & ESPN Full Court | Internet: ESPN3
LRT Consecutive Game #213
The Texas Longhorns are riding high as they head into Stillwater, boasting a four-game winning streak and rising stock on the National Bubble Exchange. With just five games left in the regular season, the Horns still have their sights set on a 20-win season, something that may have seemed unimaginable in mid-January.
This afternoon’s game at Gallagher-Iba Arena might look like an easy win on paper, but road victories are always tough to come by in Stillwater. With bubble teams around the nation missing key opportunities to secure quality wins, simply taking care of business on the road improves Texas’ post-season outlook. Avoid getting tripped up this afternoon at Gallagher-Iba, and the Horns can start breathing a little easier when thinking about the NCAAs.
Meet the Cowboys
For a full look at the Oklahoma State roster, check out LRT’s game preview from the first time these two teams met.
The first game
Texas overcame putrid shooting and a lingering injury to J’Covan Brown in a narrow 58-49 victory over Oklahoma State at the Erwin Center on January 7th. The Longhorns forced 21 Cowboy turnovers and kept a thin Oklahoma State rotation in constant foul trouble, grinding their way to victory.
In just his second career start, redshirt freshman Brian Williams led the Pokes in scoring, posting 16 points on the night. After struggling in his first career start just days earlier against Tech, Williams drained a pair of threes against the Longhorns. The team’s new point guard still battled turnover issues under the bright lights, but his scoring helped to solidify his role as the new starter.
For the Longhorns, guard Myck Kabongo and freshman forward Jonathan Holmes led the way. Kabongo was aggressive with the ball, penetrating the Oklahoma State defense to set his teammates up with good looks and earn himself trips to the line. Unfortunately, the Longhorns had a terrible night shooting the basketball, so Kabongo only actually earned six assists for the game. Meanwhile, Holmes chipped in a great performance on the offensive glass, turning four offensive boards into four easy buckets.
Williams has started every conference game for the Pokes, with freshman guard Cezar Guerrero now relegated to the bench. Against Big 12 opponents, Williams has averaged more than 11 points in 35 minutes per game. Although he knocked down 2-of-5 from long range against Texas, he has not found much more success behind the arc, making just 5-of-36 in his other conference games.
Markel Brown has also made a big impact for OSU over the last few weeks. The sophomore was still recovering from an injury when Texas hosted the Cowboys in the first matchup, and he simply couldn’t get it going on the offensive end. Brown was just 1-of-6 from the floor against the Horns and scored only three points. Since then, he’s averaged 14.4 points per game for OSU, including a solid 19-point performance in a big home win over Iowa State.
Freshman Le’Bryan Nash has also found his stride in conference play, as his 14.8 scoring average in Big 12 games is tops among league freshman. Nash also sparked a furious second-half rally for Oklahoma State against Missouri, finishing with 27 points in the monumental upset. The Longhorns were able to hold him to just 12 points in their first meeting, but could have a much tougher time limiting his impact in this one.
Keys to the game
1) Get out to a fast start – The Longhorns have become a second-half team this season, often falling behind early before roaring back in the final 20 minutes. Gallagher-Iba is an arena that gets loud in a hurry, even when it’s only half full. If the Longhorns allow Oklahoma State to get any momentum early, it could be very hard to stage a comeback in this road environment.
The Gallagher-Iba aura is also why Texas needs to be sure to stop any runs, even if that means burning some timeouts early. Missouri can testify to how quickly Oklahoma State can get going with its crowd behind it, so the Longhorns must respond to those momentum swings, whether it’s with a fan-silencing basket or simply a 30-second timeout.
2) Attack inside – The Cowboys have a frontcourt that is just as thin as Texas’, if not more so. With just Michael Cobbins, Philip Jurick, and Euro-style big Marek Souček available, the Cowboys have little option but to go with a smaller lineup when their forwards get into foul trouble. Texas has done a great job being aggressive with the basketball in its last two games, earning a heap of points at the free-throw line. If the guards and wings can keep that up in this afternoon’s games, the whistles will force Coach Travis Ford to get creative with his lineup.
3) Limit the damage outside – Oklahoma State doesn’t have much in the way of outside threats, but senior Keiton Page is always dangerous from long range. Nothing fuels an upset more than hot three-point shooting, and Page comes into this one on a tear. Although his success rate for the season is just 34.6%, he’s made 9-of-20 from behind the arc in the team’s last two games. If Texas can keep Page and Brown from knocking down a handful of threes, the odds for an Oklahoma State upset take a serious hit.