In the first of our rematches with the Big 12 South schools, the Longhorns (17-7, 7-3) host Oklahoma State (19-5, 5-4) tonight at the Erwin Center. For the second week in row, our weekday game will be televised by ESPN as part of their `Big Monday' package. Tip time is 8 PM.
Longhorn fans should have no trouble remembering the heartbreaking, 105-103, triple overtime loss to the Cowboys in Stillwater earlier this season. As we painfully recall, Mario Boggan, JamesOn Curry, a behind the back half court heave while falling out of bounds from Byron Eaton, and absolutely awful defense doomed the Longhorns' chances of stealing a road win.
Ideally, tonight's game will be a different story. The Longhorns are 12-1 at home this season, including a 77-68 home win over Iowa State on Saturday afternoon that snapped a two game losing streak. The Cowboys also enter tonight's game on a single game winning streak after outlasting Texas Tech 93-91 in double overtime to improve their record in overtime games this season to a perfect 4-0.
Oklahoma State's Road Woes
Oklahoma State's season has a little bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde feel. The Cowboys are a perfect 13-0 at home this season, but are absolutely dreadful on the road. The Cowboys are 0-4 in true road games this season, with all four losses coming in conference play. In fact, OSU has dropped their last seven road games and hasn't won on the road in over a year (2/4/06 at Kansas State).
Since Texas & OSU Last Met
The Cowboys have defeated Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Texas Tech at home and lost to Texas A&M, Colorado, and Oklahoma on the road. If the regular season ended today, Oklahoma State would be in the NCAA tournament. Despite their unimpressive conference record, their RPI remains in the top 25. But if their road troubles continue, as I expect they will, Oklahoma State may have a long wait on Selection Sunday if they don't finish the Big 12 with a winning record.
Refer back to the preview of the first OSU game, if you need to refresh your memory of the Cowboy players. Briefly: Mario Boggan and JamesOn Curry are the stars, Byron Eaton is a physical, turnover prone point guard, Terell Harris is a dangerous three point shooter, and Kenny Cooper and Marcus Dove supply the frontcourt muscle and defense. We're still awaiting confirmation from Rick Majerus, but apparently there's a walk on named Hatch who gets some minutes.
Ken Pomeroy's Scouting Report
Oklahoma State is rated as 56th best team in the country according to Pomeroy's latest ratings, while Texas is rated as the 41st best team. Pomeroy also offers a scouting report on the Cowboys which shows them solid, but far from outstanding on either end of the court. OSU has the 52nd most efficient offense and the 58th most efficient defense. The numbers also show the Cowboys have a great deal of trouble protecting the basketball. They turn the ball over on 22.3% of their possessions, which ranks them 202nd in Division I. If Texas can force Eaton and Curry to cough up the ball, then we will be in an excellent position to win. On defense, OSU defends the three pointer well and does a good job of creating turnovers.
Keys to the Game: Texas
Solid man-to-man defense. Because our defense is so bad, so often, this will likely be a key for the remainder of the season. When Texas defends well, the other aspects of the game seem to fall into place. When we pressure the basketball and create turnovers, like in the first half against Iowa State, the Horns score much needed easy baskets in transition. When we control dribble penetration, we force tougher and longer shots, which lead to a lower field goal percentage, fewer trips to the line, and better rebounding position. Last, when we defend well, we stay out of foul trouble and allow our starters to remain on the floor. Texas played some of their worst defense of the year in their first meeting. The defense must be much better tonight.
Limit Curry and Boggan In Stillwater, these two destroyed the Longhorns. They both have too much talent to be completely shut down, so limiting their touches and effectiveness should be the goal. Against Curry, the Horns should pressure him on the catch, and full court when he brings the ball up. JamesOn is a streaky shooter but can also be forced into bad decisions and turnovers when he tries to do too much. Against Boggan, the Horns must box out; Texas simply cannot allow him to score on second and third looks at the basket. Damion James and Connor Atchley must find him after every OSU shot. Hopefully, the Texas bigs can stay out of foul trouble and limit the number of times we have to double team Boggan in the post.
Stay Fresh Oklahoma State may be more tired after two overtime periods and a flight, but the Horns have looked gassed in the second half of almost ever recent game. Four of our five starters played over 35 minutes against Iowa State, and Coach Barnes needs to use his timeouts wisely if this one turns up tempo. Barnes must also get valuable minutes from Dexter Pittman and Connor Atchley as frontcourt subs and from Craig Winder and JD Lewis (if healthy) as backcourt subs. The Horns can't afford to win the first three-quarters of the game, only to run out of gas with the game on the line.
Don't expect this one to be a cake walk but do expect a victory. OSU has been horrible away from Stillwater, and this one is too important for the Horns to drop another home game. On offense, I like for Augustin and Durant to continue their freshman domination of the Big 12, for James to take another step forward with a double-double, and for Texas to see big contributions from the two post subs against the talented OSU front line. On defense, I like the Horns to pressure Byron Eaton and Curry into at least ten turnovers, to do a better job communicating as a team on pick-and-rolls, and to limit second chance opportunities by controlling the defense glass. Texas wins a tight one, 75-71.