The second road trip of the Big 12 season will feature one of the best opportunities for the Texas Longhorns to win a game away from the Erwin Center, as the Oklahoma State Cowboys enter Wednesday’s game in Stillwater reeling from three straight losses.
In fact, the Cowboys have actually lost six of the last eight games, with five of those losses coming by 10 points or more, including all three defeats so far in conference play.
So a major point of emphasis for Texas is avoiding what happened last year at Gallagher-Iba Arena, when the Horns started out 1-for-10 shooting and gave up a 20-6 run in the first half on the way to a 17-point halftime deficit. When Texas finally made a run in the second half, it fell short, in large part because the team went 2-of-22 shooting from three-point range.
With all the recent losses for Oklahoma State, this isn’t a team that Texas wants to hand a large dose of confidence early in the game, especially senior guard Lindy Waters, the leading scorer for the Cowboys who hit all five of his three-point attempts last year against the Longhorns in Stillwater.
Waters is scoring 12.0 points per game this season, but he’s suffering from uncharacteristic struggles as a shooter — his previous low in three-point percentage was 37.3 percent as a sophomore, but his year he’s shooting only 31.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Oklahoma State struggles to shoot across the board, ranking No. 300 in effective field-goal percentage and No. 329 in three-point percentage. The Cowboys do shoot well from the foul line, however, and get there fairly frequently, so the Longhorns need to play defense without fouling to avoid gifting Oklahoma State its best opportunities to score easily.
Besides Waters, Texas will also have to slow down sophomore guard Isaac Likekele, who hit a big shot late last season to secure that win in Stillwater and serves as the primary playmaker. He averages less than four assists per game, but ranks just outside the top 100 nationally in assist rate. And although Likekele is a poor shooter from distance, he is adept at getting to the free-throw line.
Junior guard Matt Coleman should be up for the task of defending Likekele, so the most difficult matchup on the floor may be Oklahoma State’s senior forward Cameron McGriff, a bruising 6’7, 230-pounder who also gets to the free-throw line frequently and is shooting 87.5 percent from the foul line.
Texas might have to guard McGriff with junior forward Jericho Sims, as sophomore forward Kamaka Hepa doesn’t have the physical strength to guard McGriff. Sophomore forward Gerald Liddell didn’t play against Kansas State on Saturday, but might be needed in this game for his defensive ability.
Like a lot of Big 12 teams this season, the Cowboys are strong defensively, ranking No. 21 nationally in KenPom.com’s adjusted efficiency metric. Don’t be surprised, then, if this game is as ugly as the first half of the Kansas State game was for Texas. Oklahoma State is successful on the defensive end because it holds opponents to 27.7 percent shooting from distance and protects the rim well thanks to sophomore forward Yor Anei’s 14.4 percent block rate, which ranks No. 10 nationally. Anei has 34 of the team’s 60 blocks.