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Texas vs. Oklahoma: 3 Keys to the Game

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Texas looks to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss in a matchup against Trae Young and Oklahoma.

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Oklahoma Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns (14-8, 4-5) will host the Oklahoma Sooners (16-5, 6-3) tonight at 5:15 p.m. CT on ESPN. Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas will be on the call for this primetime matchup.

With College Gameday in the house, the nation’s leading scorer coming in and this being a rivalry game, the stakes will be high at the Erwin Center on Saturday night. This is not necessarily a must-win game for the ‘Horns, but it’s a huge opportunity to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume with a win over a Top 15 team.

Last time College Gameday was in Austin (2009), the unranked Longhorns defeated the No. 2 ranked Sooners 73-68.

Here’s my three keys to the game for Texas in tonight’s matchup:

Don’t give Trae Young any space to shoot

Yes, this seems like an obvious one. But, seriously someone needs to be in his grill all night long or else he’ll make you pay. Whether it’s Kerwin Roach Jr. or Matt Coleman, Young needs to be harassed from start to finish. He will pull up from anywhere and everywhere without hesitation, the defender must keep their head on a swivel at all times.

Young does a good job of using his body to draw contact on dribble drives and pump fakes. Defenders have to stay disciplined unlike Texas was against Keenan Evans on Wednesday night. He’s going to get some calls but Texas must do a better job on staying on their feet and not fall for so many pump fakes.

Young had a hard time against ‘Press Virginia’ (8 turnovers) a couple weeks ago, so it’ll be interesting to see how much ‘Havoc’ pressure Shaka Smart throws at him in this one.

Make free throws down the stretch

As a team Oklahoma shoots just below 75-percent from the line which is well above the nation’s average percentage and a marginal 9-percent above Texas. This is partly because Trae Young gets to the line so often. Either way, it’s a big advantage for Oklahoma coming into this game.

Missed free throws down the stretch of games has been costly for Texas all season long. As a team they’ve improved in conference play, but it was a big reason why they lost their last game against Texas Tech.

Texas has to take advantage of any kind of free points they can get and we can only hope this reoccuring problem is solved. Especially in the key moments of this game.

Use crowd’s energy as a major advantage

It’s been awhile since the Erwin Center has been sold out and that’s the case for this game. This will be the best crowd Texas has all year for a home game and they need to use it to their advantage.

The energy displayed from the team needs to be at it’s highest level. This will translate into winning more 50-50 balls, playing with more confidence and it may wear out the Sooners towards the end of the game just like West Virginia did.

The team that wants it more usually wins games. Texas needs to want this one just as badly as they wanted that TCU game.

Prediction

Texas 85, Oklahoma 82. With all the build-up and hype surrounding this game, Texas will match it with elite energy and execution. Expect a big game from Mohamed Bamba in this one. A last-second desperation three from Trae Young will fall short and the ‘Horns will secure a monumental win over their rival.