#7 Texas (24-5, 12-3) looks to bounce back in a big way with a home victory over #17 Oklahoma (20-6, 11-4) on Sunday afternoon. The game will be on CBS 3 PM CST on the last day of the regular season for major conferences. We stumbled in College Station, but can right the ship with a win tomorrow. This one is for everything. Only a victory will give the Horns the Big 12 title and a #1 seed in the Big 12 tournament. If both Kansas and UT lose this weekend, there would be a three way tie at 12-4 in the Big 12. Kansas would get the top seed, then OU, then Texas. If Kansas wins and UT loses, the seeding will be the same. There is too much at stake on Senior Day at the Erwin Center for the Horns to drop this one.
The Sooners march into Austin on a four game winning streak. OU has also won six of their last seven and 11 of their last 13. Their recent hot streak is a bit deceiving. OU has escaped each of the last four games with one point victories. Three of those four have been at home and the opponents haven't been the cream of the conference (Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Oklahoma State). I don't want to knock OU for winning close games, but this is not a great basketball team. They are about four or five baskets from being a middle of the pack Big 12 team and a NCAA tournament bubble team. But for whatever reason, Kelvin Samson's club has won the close one and already has 20 wins.
The Sooners took care of the Longhorns 82-72 earlier this season in Norman. OU shot well over 50% from the floor and got huge games from Terrell Everett and Taj Gray and a solid shooting performance from Michael Neal. OU, like Texas, has multiple players who can score 20+ on a given night. They have four starters averaging double figures in scoring for the season. Neal has been particularly deadly from behind the arc in conference games. He is averaging over 15 ppg and leads the conference in three pointers made (4 per game) and in three point percentage (.500). Everett is a super talented and big point guard. His size (6'4" 188lbs.) has given our smaller less physical guards problems in the past. He is averaging a league leading 7.1 assists per game in conference play. Everett also leads the conference in free throw shooting and is in the top six in steals and the top 11 in field goal percentage. Everett has been the Sooners best player this season and is deserving of First Team All Big 12.
If the guard's weren't enough to worry about, OU also presents a formidable frontline. Taj Gray was pre season Big 12 POY in some publications. His season has been solid but not better than PJ Tucker's or Lamarcus Aldridge's. Gray is averaging 13 ppg and 7.7 rpg in conference play. Bookout is finally completing his career in Norman. Bookout scores over 11 points and grabs more than seven boards per game this season. Both will be difficult to defend on the low blocks. Even though, Everett and Neal can hit from the outside, Texas will play their 2-3 almost exclusively to take away the big men.
Keys to the Game
- Defend the Three Michael Neal has been on fire in Big 12 play. Texas must do a better job defending the three point shot. Our zone must rotate quickly and close out on the open shooter, especially Neal. OU shot 40% from three in our first game in Norman. We need to keep that percentage closer to 30%.
- Foul Trouble Both teams rely heavily on their frontcourts for scoring and neither team is very deep at those positions. Officiating will dictate what type of game we see. If they are calling everything, who ever can keep their starters on the floor longer will have a huge advantage. If the officials allow muggings (see A&M or see a typical OU game), advantage Sooners. As long as PJ, Brad Buckman, and Aldridge don't all get in foul trouble, we will win.
- Rebounding Margin OU and UT are the top two teams in rebounding margin in the conference. Texas has dominated opponents on the glass in Austin all season. We will crash the boards and get easy put backs to make up for our anemic half court offense.
- Pick N Roll AJ Abrams, Kenton Paulino and Daniel Gibson must be able to attack the defense off the pick and roll. If they are continually pushed back to half court, then we will be in trouble. But if they can turn the corner and get to rim or kick to the open screener (Buckman) for an open look, we will be fine.
Texas once again has too much to lose to let this one slip away. The Horns are 15-1 at home this season and 7-0 in home Big 12 contests. We are averaging 25 point victories in home Big 12 games. This one will be closer than that but Texas wins the Big 12, 68-59.