Texas Longhorns men’s basketball (18-11) is hot right now – for the first time in a long time.
Head coach Shaka Smart’s squad has brought home four consecutive wins – all of which have been by double-digit margins – against the TCU Horned Frogs, the Kansas State Wildcats, the No. 20 West Virginia Mountaineers, and, most recently, the No. 22 Texas Tech Red Raiders, who the Longhorns upset over the weekend. It’s the first time the Longhorns have gone on this kind of win streak since they won seven during the 2013-2014 season.
Tonight, they’ll travel to Norman to take on the Oklahoma Sooners (18-11). Both teams currently sit at 8-8 in Big 12 Conference play, so to say the least, it’s a now-or-nothing sort of match we’re looking at tonight. Essentially, it’s NCAA Tournament or bust at this point.
The Sooners are coming off a 73-62 win over West Virginia earlier this week. Strikingly, Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger’s starting five outscored West Virginia by 39 points by night’s end. Senior forward Kristian Doolittle played a significant role in that statistic, as he went for 19 points on 7-13 shooting from the field and 5-8 from the three-point line.
Meanwhile, Texas, despite their hot hand, will be without four players for tonight’s game. Freshman guard Donovan Williams, who left during the Texas Tech game last weekend, is unlikely to play due to the aggravation of a left knee injury. Williams has racked up his fair share of playing time since junior guard Jase Febres, who’s set to undergo surgery after suffering a hyperextended knee during the first match against Texas Tech earlier this year, and sophomore forward Gerald Liddell, who’s out indefinitely, have been out. In Williams’ 11 minutes of play, he’s averaging 3.3 points on 36.8 percent shooting from the floor.
Being without certain players might not be as consequential as one might think, though. Through Texas’ four-game win streak in Big 12 play, they’ve converted 51.9 percent (95-183) from the field, including a 46.2 percent mark (36-78) from the three-point line. They’ve also managed to top 50 percent field goal shooting in each of the aforementioned four victories. Texas is 8-0 on the year when converting at least 50 percent from the field.
Redshirt sophomore guard Andrew Jones has been especially vital to those statistics. During their four-game win streak, he’s averaged a team-best 19.3 points in 36.1 minutes per game while hitting 26-of-51 (.510) from the field, including a 14-of-27 (.519) from the three-point line. He’s also topped the 20-point water line in three of the last four games.
The last time Texas and Oklahoma met was in early January, when the Longhorns caved down the stretch, losing to the Sooners by a score of 72-62 at home in the Frank Erwin Center. It wasn’t pretty by any means. But then again, arguably, this is a rebranded team.
The game tips off at 8 p.m. Tuesday night on ESPN2. According to KenPom.com, Texas has a 30 percent chance of winning with an expected margin of 69-63.