In front of nearly 12,000 fans at the Erwin Center on Saturday, the Texas Longhorns finished against the No. 20 Oklahoma Sooners to end a three-game losing streak in Big 12 play, thanks to a big assist from the home crowd.
Though it took some time in the second half for the partisan crowd in burnt orange and white to make an impact, the fans unquestionably helped boost the Horns down the stretch, particularly a student section that was full for the first time this season.
As a result, senior forward Dylan Osetkowski had a message for fans after the game that he wanted the media to pass along.
“I’ll say this and every one of you needs to write this down — it was great to finally play a game tonight with a crowd like that,” Osetkowski said. “We used the crowd’s momentum tremendously, and we want to thank the fans tonight and we need their support in the Big 12.”
Throughout most of the season, the fan support simply hasn’t been there.
An upset over then-No. 7 North Carolina in Las Vegas in late November didn’t spark much interest in the next home game against a Radford team projected to win the Big South — listed attendance for the game was just over 8,000 (49 percent of capacity at the Erwin Center), but was likely smaller. The team didn’t respond well, falling 62-59 in a poor performance that will stand as the season’s worst loss.
Other games featured contingents of visiting fans that often made more noise than the home fans, including a one-point loss to VCU that featured fewer Texas fans than the Radford game, a four-point win over Purdue in front of raucous Boilermakers fans, and a loss to No. 8 Texas Tech in which the Red Raiders fans arguably provided a bigger boost than the home fans.
For a team that plays a lot of close games under head coach Shaka Smart, Texas is focusing on finishing better, but with six home contests remaining, there’s no question that Longhorns fans could make the difference in several of those games.
If, that is, they decide to show up and make some noise.