Three days after getting rolled by K-State in Manhattan, the Longhorns returned home and laid a beatdown of their own, trouncing Oklahoma State 87-68 to improve to 19-5 overall, 8-3 in the Big 12 [BOX SCORE]
Both teams were without a star player, as Texas' Jonathan Holmes sat out to rest his knee and OSU's Marcus Smart served the first of his three-game suspension for shoving a fan in Lubbock. That left a pretty even match up on paper, but the Cowboys were no match for the Longhorns on their home floor, where they drained a season-high 11 three-pointers on 23 attempts (48%), while limiting the Pokes to just 5-of-19 shooting from beyond the arc.
Javan Felix showed why his minutes are not low hanging fruit for one of the freshman guards to take, ripping 6 of 8 three-pointers on his way to a game-high 27 points, along with 3 assists and just 1 turnover. Felix and his teammates feasted on open looks by pushing the ball at every opportunity and wound up putting on a clinic in transition basketball. Tonight we saw Texas at its best, and they ran Oklahoma State out of the gym much like Florida Gulf Coast ran its first three opponents out of the NCAA Tournament.
B-e-a-utiful, and the 'oop to Martez Walker was representative of what Taylor & Co. did to the Cowboys all night -- and of Walker's outstanding evening. The freshman lefty gave Texas instant offense off the bench, dropping 12 points in 18 minutes. Walker was a late signee in the 2013 class, but one I liked because his length (6-4 with long arms), solid frame, and pure jump shot (that follow through is purty) projected him as a true offensive asset. College basketball is filled with great athletes who can do a lot of things well, but aren't -- and never will be -- strong offensive players. (Think: Demarcus Holland, for example.) Walker isn't an elite pure scorer, but he's a legitimately skilled offensive basketball player who can both shoot and score around the rim.
Elsewhere, make that two encouraging games in a row for Connor Lammert. Getting the starting nod in place of the ailing Holmes, Lammert once again shot the ball from the perimeter with confidence, finishing the game a tasty 3-of-6 from beyond the arc -- this after hitting 2-of-3 against K-State. I discussed in both TBR 7.2 and 7.4 how close Texas was to being a really dangerous team if it could find some outside shooting. I didn't mean Texas needs to start shooting 11-for-23 from deep every game (although that sure is sexy), but that we would be a very difficult team to defend if we had 3-4 guys who were established threats to knock down threes. With Lammert and Walker (and ideally Croaker, as well) stroking it well from three-point range, that gives Texas four or five legit outside shooters (counting Felix and Holmes, as well), and transforms us into a true pick-your-poison offense: extend your defense to limit our perimeter looks, and you play right into our strengths attacking the rim; pack the paint to defend the rim, and we've got guys who can score three points at a time.
Briefly: It was good to see Cam Ridley bounce back after a flustered performance in Manhattan; he played strong and filled his role capably across 26 strong minutes... Isaiah Taylor was terrific in getting us into transition all game long, and was much better today with possession value (5 assists, 2 turnovers)... I like the way Kendal Yancy has not let his struggling jump shot prevent him from being a contributor, settling nicely into a role as a player who chips in value in a variety of small ways (4 points, 2-2 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 0 turnovers)... With Kansas' overtime loss to K-State in Bramlage on Monday night, the Horns climb back to within a game of the Jayhawks in the Big 12 standings.
Next up: Home versus West Virginia on Saturday, 7:00 pm CT. The Mountaineers have won 4 out of 5, including a 25-point thrashing of Iowa State on Monday.