About a month ago, the Texas Longhorns travelled to Stillwater and lost to Oklahoma State, 87-74. Tonight in Austin, Rick Barnes' team looks to even the series. The team they face will appear very different.
Because of injury (Michael Cobbins), dismissal (Stevie Clark), and now suspension (Marcus Smart, you might have heard, was suspended for three games after pushing a fan in Lubbock), the Cowboy's tight eight man rotation is now down to five. Coach Travis Ford is going to have to give minutes to a few guys tonight that he would rather not play. Add in that a losing skid has recently soured the mood in Stillwater -- OSU has lost four in a row and five of its last six -- and there is reason to understand why the team might feel its season slipping away.
The Cowboys need the problems to stop tonight in Austin against a Texas team that suffered its first loss in a month on Saturday. For the Longhorns, this is a good chance to pick up another home win against a wounded, but still dangerous, opponent.
The key for Texas will be defending Markel Brown and Phil Forte, who have been among Ford's best options all season. Forte much be picked up from just past half court, as he will shoot from just about anywhere. Brown has been outstanding, and should be getting some all-conference consideration. Additionally, the other Cowboys are also dangerous, and without Smart in the line-up look for a more active Le'Bryan Nash as well.
A repeat of the foul-fest these teams experienced in January will not be something that Travis Ford wants for his team. Foul trouble for one of his key guys, like Nash or Kamari Murphy, will force Ford to reach deeper into his bench than he has all season.
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