Texas travels to Stillwater tonight for their toughest road game of the season so far. The #21/#23 Horns (13-3, 3-0) will take on the #12/#14 Oklahoma State Cowboys (15-2, 1-1) in front of a 13,611 screaming fans dressed in an ugly shade of orange. Tip time is 8 PM on ESPN2. The Horns are 4-4 under Barnes in Stillwater and have been a terrific road team in conference play under his direction but winning this one will take something special.
The Longhorns enter tonight's contest having won their last four games and eight of their last nine. Sean Sutton's team was embarrassed in their last game by the Jayhawks in Lawrence, 87-57. Oklahoma State was supposed to play their third conference game of the year on Saturday afternoon in Lincoln. The Cowboys tried to leave Oklahoma City three separate times but the weather won out. The game will be rescheduled later this season.
Oklahoma State's Schedule
The Cowboys played a challenging non-conference schedule this season and faired very well. OSU began the season 11-0 and claimed solid wins over Missouri State in S. Padre Island and Syracuse in New York City. Their first loss of the season came in Nashville to Tennessee, 79-77. OSU bounced back quickly with an impressive overtime victory over Pittsburgh, 95-89, in Oklahoma City just three days later. The Cowboys continued their winning ways by blasting UT-San Antonio and SW Oklahoma State in Stillwater to improve to 14-1. On January 6th, OSU opened Big 12 play at home with a closer than expected, 81-77, win over Baylor. Their last game was the aforementioned 30 point thumping last week at Kansas. OSU is currently #18 in Ken Pomeroy's RPI rankings and is 4-2 against the top 100. Texas currently stands at #58.
Oklahoma State's Roster
After the loss of freshman guard Obi Muonelo to a leg injury in early December, the Cowboys are really just seven players deep. They are led by Big 12 Player of the Year candidate, Mario Boggan (6'7" 235). Boggan is second in the conference in scoring (21.1 ppg), sixth in rebounding (7.4 rpg), and third in field goal percentage (59.7%). He has scored over 20 points twelve times this season and has been held under 10 points just once (at Kansas). He is an absolute load who prefers to do his work and score near the basket. Boggan will provide a serious test for our post defense.
The other star on this team is junior guard, JamesOn Curry (6'3" 190). Curry is a big time scorer who is regaining the form he showed during his freshman campaign but lost last year. JamesOn is fourth in the conference in scoring (18.5 ppg), fifth in three point accuracy (42%), fifth in assists (4.6 apg), and second in minutes per game (34.9). Curry has scored in double figures in every game this season. He is still a bigger threat to score on the drive but has improved his mid range and three point jumpers. Normally you would see Justin Mason draw this assignment, but OSU has three other starters much bigger and more physical than Curry. DJ Augustin may be asked to defend Curry.
The other three starters, while not as dangerous, also present matchup problems. Byron Eaton (5'11" 215) will start at point guard and probably be guarded by AJ Abrams when we play man. Eaton is a sophomore who is taking better care of the ball this season than he did last season but can still be pressured into bad decisions and turnovers.
Starting at center will be 6'10" 260 lb. sophomore, Kenny Cooper. He has seen his minutes increase since the loss of Muonelo in December. Cooper has scored in double figures in five of the last six games. Since Damion James will probably start on Boggan, Kevin Durant likely draws Cooper. Cooper is a solid offensive rebounder. Durant must block out on the defensive glass and not just rely on his length to grab boards.
The final starter will be lockdown defensive specialist, Marcus Dove (6'9" 215). Dove is not really a threat to score and puts up only about four shots per game. His value is seen on the other end of the court. Dove will be asked to slow down Durant. This is easier said than done but Dove is one of the few players in the Big 12 with the body and athleticism to at least make it interesting. Justin Mason will probably guard Dove while also helping double team Boggan on the low block.
The other two Cowboys likely to see action are Terell Harris (6'5" 190) and David Monds (6'8" 240). Harris is a capable scorer off the bench with the ability to knock down the three pointer while Monds is another physical Cowboy with the potential to make scoring near the basket difficult for the Horns.
Oklahoma State By the Numbers
Statistically Oklahoma State is a solid ball club. The Cowboys are second only to the Horns in scoring at 83 ppg. They are third in field goal percentage (50%), first in free throw percentage (75%) and have a respectable rebounding margin of +4.9. They due turn the ball over, and despite their 80+ point scoring average, do not like to play as quickly as the Horns.
Prediction / Horns' Objectives
Texas needs to dictate tempo. Even though both teams are only seven deep, Texas has the advantage in an up and down game. The Horns have better guards and have more skilled finishers in the open court. The Cowboy guards also do not handle pressure well (see KU game). Oklahoma State has the advantage in the front court and would really like to punish the less physical and shorter Horns near the basket.
Second, Texas absolutely cannot afford to get into foul trouble. No one wants to see us rely on JD Lewis or Connor Atchley for minutes than we have to.
Third, the Horns must take the crowd out of the game as much as possible. Gallagher-Iba arena is the best home court advantage in the Big 12 and one of the toughest places to play in the country. A quick Texas start will go a long way towards stealing a victory.
Last, Texas must win the three point battle. OSU's size advantage will probably force Texas to play zone. If Curry, Harris, or Eaton gets hot from behind the arc, we are in serious trouble. On the other end, Abrams, Augustin, and Mason must make the Cowboys pay for double teaming Durant. Nothing quiets a crowd faster than a made three pointer.
This will only be the Horns third true road game of the year. They handled the hostile environment in Knoxville well for the first twenty minutes but blew a chance to win in the second half. Stillwater is an even tougher place to play. I see Texas going 2-1 over their next three road games but this is the one they lose. I don't like our ability to match up with their bigs or to win the battle on the boards, not to mention the whistles which figure to go the way of the home team. I'll take OSU 75-70.