The #19 Longhorns (20-7, 10-3) will look to continue their winning ways as they travel to Norman for a Saturday afternoon contest with the Sooners (15-11, 6-7). Tip time is 3 PM on ESPNU and ESPN+. Texas has won four straight games as they enter a tough three game stretch to close out the regular season. Oklahoma, meanwhile, has dropped three straight conference games, including a Tuesday night game at Missouri. The Sooners had won their previous four and looked to be poised for a late season run at a post-season bid. The wheels have come off Jeff Capel's club over the last week and a half though, and with a daunting three game schedule of their own to finish the season, even an NIT bid looks remote.
The Horns dominated the Sooners in early January, 80-69, in a game that was much more lopsided than the scored indicated. OU finished the game on a 17-1 run after Coach Barnes sat the Texas starters for the final five minutes. Kevin Durant dominated OU with 28 points and 13 rebounds; AJ Abrams played one of his best all around games on the offensive end and finished with 20 points; and Justin Mason and DJ Augustin both scored in double figures and played solidly.
Oklahoma's Tourney Chances
Barring a four game sweep through the Big 12 tournament, the Sooners have no chance at an NCAA tournament bid. They are #94 in the RPI, and are just 2-9 over the top 50. After Saturday's game with the Horns, OU has games with Kansas in Norman and with Kansas State in Manhattan. Losing their last six regular season games is not out of the question.
Since Texas & Oklahoma Last Met
The Sooners are a mediocre 6-5 since their early January meeting, but they are a solid 5-1 at home during that stretch. Their best home win came over then-#17 Oklahoma State by seven points two weeks ago. OU's only home loss in conference play was to the Aggies last Saturday. A&M played very physical basketball, especially in the second half, and rode 21 point performances from Acie Law and Joe Jones to overcome a seven point halftime deficit.
Refer back to the preview of the first Oklahoma game, to refresh your memory of the Sooners. Also remember that starting center, Longar Longar, was suspended during our first game due to an elbow he threw at a Texas Tech player. While Longar is far from a skilled offensive player, he is capable of scoring 15-20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds on a given night. His height and length in the lane could pose problems for DJ Augustin on his dribble drives. The most impressive Sooner during conference play has been Nate Carter. He is averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 rebounds in Big 12 games, good for sixth and tenth in the conference respectively. Carter will probably earn 2nd team All Big 12 Honors for his efforts. He is an athletic forward with the body control and strength to score in the paint, and Texas' post defense will be tested severely. Michael Neal, David Godbold, and Austin Johnson will likely be the other three starters with Taylor Griffin and Bobby Maze seeing minutes off the bench.
Ken Pomeroy's Scouting Report
Despite their 11 losses, Oklahoma is rated as 28th best team in the country according to Pomeroy's latest ratings, while Texas has moved up again to 24th after the beat down of Tech earlier this week. Pomeroy's scouting report on Oklahoma shows an average offensive team (66th in adjusted offensive efficiency) but a fantastic defensive team (14th in adjusted defensive efficiency). On offense, the Sooners do not shoot the ball well, especially from behind the arc, and have had trouble with turnovers all season. Even if we don't agree with their thuggish defensive tactics, there is no denying their effectiveness. The Sooners don't allow opponents to shoot a high percentage from the floor or from three. They create turnovers, block shots, and control the defensive glass well. Scoring is not going to be easy in Norman.
Keys to the Game: Texas
Compete on the Glass. Longar, Griffin, and Carter are all skilled offensive rebounders. In order to win on the road, Texas must limit second chance opportunities by controlling the defensive glass. If the pace slows, I expect Barnes to employ the `jumbo lineup' with Pittman, Atchley, and Durant on the floor at the same time to better defend the paint and compete on the glass.
Take High Percentage Shots The Horns have a tendency, at times, to rush on the offensive end and force the issue, especially on the road. Texas had tremendous difficulties identifying good shots in Stillwater and Knoxville toward the end of both of those games. Abrams occasionally jacks an unnecessary three; Durant sometimes fails to recognize his quickness advantage and instead settles for long jump shots; and DJ Augustin can get out of control on his drives which leads to bad shots and offensive fouls. When the Horns slow down, execute, and get all five starters involved, like they have in each of our last two home games, our offensive really starts to churn. It will be especially important to attack the rim and take high percentage shots against the excellent and physical Oklahoma defense.
Take Michael Neal out of the game. Neal is really the only Sooner capable of scoring form behind the arc. I expect the Horns to play some 2-3 zone, while always being aware of Neal, and also some relaxed man-to-man defense to prevent Oklahoma from getting easy baskets in the paint. If Neal doesn't get hot, it is hard to see OU scoring enough points in the paint against a sagging defense to win.
After winning four straight, securing another 20 win season, and a first round bye in the Big 12 tournament, the last three games are sort of a free roll for the Horns. They are all difficult and could all be easily dropped, so winning one or two would be a bonus. Both teams enter this one heading in different directions. The Sooners appear to have lost all confidence, while Texas looks to be hitting its stride. Even with Longar, the Sooners lack the offensive firepower to keep up Texas. If the Longhorns can stay close on the glass and out of foul trouble, I see them grabbing their 11th conference win. I'll stay optimistic for the last time in the regular season: Texas gets beaten up but not beaten down. Longhorns win 65-60.