When the Texas Longhorns traveled to Stillwater two weeks ago to face the Oklahoma State Cowboys, first-year head coach Chris Beard’s team was 12-2 with a 2-0 record in conference play ranked No. 14 nationally. The defeat by the Cowboys started a stretch of three losses in four games for the Longhorns, who enter Saturday’s home contest ranked No. 23 and in desperate need of a win following Tuesday’s home loss to the Wildcats.
In Stillwater, Texas struggled with the length and athleticism of Oklahoma State in the 64-51 loss, hitting only 6-of-22 shots from three-point range and shooting 29.6 percent in the second half. Defensively, the Horns weren’t able to force enough turnovers as the Cowboys took advantage of mistakes by Texas to score 18 points off 14 turnovers.
Generally a poor three-point shooting team, Oklahoma State is hitting at less than 30 percent from distance this year, but Keylan Boone hit 5-of-7 three-pointers in scoring a career-high 17 points in the first game against Texas. Shooting 41.7 percent from beyond the arc in that game was the second-most efficient three-point shooting performance this season by Oklahoma State, surpassed only in a win over Cleveland State.
Since beating the Longhorns, the Cowboys have experienced the lows of double-digit losses to the Mountaineers and the Red Raiders and the high of of beating the Bears in Waco last weekend before pulling out a narrow win over the Horned Frogs in Stillwater on Wednesday.
Texas enters the game with senior guard Marcus Carr asserting his will more often in the last two games, during which he’s averaged 20.0 points per game and 4.0 assists per game while hitting 16-of-19 (.842) free throws.
Carr needs more consistent help, however, especially from a struggling Texas frontcourt — junior forward Tre Mitchell hasn’t scored in double figures since the UIW game in late December, junior forward Dylan Disu has scored six or fewer points in five of the last six games, and senior forward Christian Bishop has only managed to make more than one basket in one of the last four games.
The Longhorns have won 14 of the last 17 matchups against the Cowboys in Austin and hold a 76-percent win probability in Saturday’s game, according to KenPom.com, but Beard understands that his team needs to ramp up its intensity because every game in the Big 12 is difficult to win.
“We have to be a lot more aggressive,” Beard said after Tuesday’s loss. “There needs to be an urgency to everybody that plays for us in this league right now — I mean, you can’t come in and get warmed up. You’ve got to hit the floor and be ready to go.”
And it has to start on the defensive end — in the three Big 12 wins, the Longhorns have held their opponents to 56.0 points per game on 39.6-percent shooting, but in the three Big 12 losses, Texas has allowed 69.7 points per game on 47.1-percent shooting.
How to Watch:
Time: 1:00 p.m. Central
Radio: Texassports.com affiliates