After the withdrawal of the No. 11 Kansas Jayhawks from the Big 12 Tournament on Friday, the No. 13 Texas Longhorns advanced to Saturday’s title game, its first appearance since 2011. The opponent? The surging, No. 12 Oklahoma State Cowboys, who took down the No. 2 Baylor Bears to advance to the championship round for the fourth time in school history.
The 83-74 win over Baylor provided just another data point for how well No. 5 seed Oklahoma State has played in recent weeks — the Cowboys finished the game with a 13-2 run — even as star guard Cade Cunningham overcame an ankle injury and fellow guard Isaac Likekele dealt with foot and hand injuries.
Cunningham was typically sensational against Baylor, scoring 25 points on 7-of-16 shooting with eight rebounds and five assists. Guard Avery Anderson III, who has stepped up as Cunningham and Likekele battled injuries, added 20 points of his own.
The pace the Cowboys played with helped determine the outcome — head coach Mike Boynton’s team scored 15 fast-break points in the first half by taking advantage of poor transition defense by the Bears. So the Longhorns need to avoid taking bad shots or live-ball turnovers on Saturday to limit those opportunities on the break.
Limiting Cunningham is key, too, as he took 10 of the 16 three-point attempts for Oklahoma State and had four of the six makes. If Texas can shoot with a reasonable level of efficiency and keep Cunningham from going off beyond the arc, head coach Shaka Smart’s team could create a sizable advantage from three.
Since beating Texas in double overtime five weeks ago, the only Oklahoma State losses have come against Kansas and Baylor, an impressive 8-2 stretch for the Pokes.
But there’s plenty on the line for the Longhorns, too — Texas will play for its first Big 12 Tournament title when the game tips off at 5:00 p.m. Central on ESPN.