Make it four straight for the surging Texas Longhorns basketball team, who ripped off another outstanding second half to rally from a halftime deficit and defeat Oklahoma on their home floor, 69-58. With the win Texas improves to 17-9 on the season and 7-6 in Big 12 play, delivering another performance that demonstrated this young team's steady improvement.
Myck Kabongo showed us why he came to college a projected lottery pick, putting his exceptional quickness and floor vision to terrific use for much of the night. The freshman point guard finished with 13 points and 7 assists -- which should and would have been 10 if Clint Chapman could finish a lay up in traffic -- one of which keyed the highlight of the night, after Kabongo tossed a beautiful lob in transition to Jaylen Bond for a highlight reel alley oop. (Have I mentioned what an outstanding open court player I think Bond can be?) On the bright side (where his returning for another year is concerned), Myck also had 5 turnovers, 4 of which were needless -- the kinds of mistakes he'll cut at least in half as he continues to gain experience.
Texas also got another strong game from Sheldon McClellan, who continued his streak of games where he showed just how valuable he can be when he takes his talents to the rim. Despite another night where he couldn't find it from outside (0-3 from three), McClellan scored 13 points on 4-5 shooting inside the arc, added 5 big rebounds, and played the kind of defense that has been missing much of this year (and limited his minutes, accordingly). McClellan played 28 minutes tonight, and that sounds right to me in terms of his floor from here on out; he needs to be out there at least that much the rest of the way, assuming he can continue to keep his head in the game defensively.
All in all, this was a very encouraging win, and not because we were on fire. Far from it, we couldn't buy a jumper (5-19 from downtown), missed a bunch of chippies around the rim, and fell behind at halftime for the umpteenth straight game. But once again this Texas team took care of business on the margins, ensuring that they could still pick up a win when they surged offensively in the second half. It'd be nice to see this team put it all together offensively for 40 minutes, but welcome to college basketball.
Texas won tonight because they took care of business in all the facets of the game I emphasized after the K-State win and in the preview to tonight's game. The Longhorns did a good job making Pledger work for his buckets, they were the superior team on the glass, they played sound team/help defense, and they were the better team offensively in terms of attacking and getting to the line. The Longhorns finished 24 of 29 from the line, as compared to 5 of 8 for OU, and this team really seems to be getting it in terms of playing to its strengths.
To repeat myself from Saturday: "Tough defense, strong rebounding, physical toughness, relentless attacking, gobs of free throws. That's a winning combination in the Big 12 six days a week and twice on Sundays..." Yup, and we saw tonight why it's so important, as Texas picked up another critical road victory despite not shooting the ball particularly well. We could have easily won the game tonight by 20, but it's just as meaningful that we were able to pick up the win shooting as we did.
That's how we know that this young team has progressed and is really rounding into form down the back stretch of this season. We still haven't reached our ceiling as a team, but we continue to steadily raise the floor. And if we pick up a fifth straight road by winning in Stillwater on Saturday... well, it'll be time to put that NCAA Tournament bid champagne on ice.