With the cloud of former head coach Chris Beard’s suspension now lifted following his with-cause termination on Thursday due to his felony arrest in December for domestic violence, perhaps the Longhorns can re-focus on the defensive effort that defined Texas under Beard but has slipped in recent weeks since his arrest.
One can only hope that Tuesday marked the low point of that regression — an historic home loss to an unranked Kansas State team sitting in the bottom half of the conference in most offensive measures that featured 116 points allowed, the most scored by the Wildcats in school history and tied for the most ever allowed in a Big 12 game. Kansas State shot 60 percent from the field and 54.2 percent from three as guard Markquis Nowell set his career high with 36 points and forward Keyontae Johnson tied his career high with 28 points.
Head coach Jerome Tang’s team entered the game believing they had a quickness advantage at several positions and took advantage of Texas overplaying passing lanes to get downhill for layups or drive and kick for open threes.
“Our defense is a work in progress,” acting coach Rodney Terry said. “We have to take a little more ownership in trying to get better.”
The defensive meltdown dropped the Horns from No. 13 to No. 41 in KenPom.com’s defensive efficiency metric.
At 9-5 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 play, Oklahoma State has played well at home, boasting a 6-1 record at Gallagher-Iba Arena, including a win over West Virginia, and slots at No. 26 overall in KenPom.com’s rankings with the No. 67 offense and No. 13 defense.
A trio of guards lead the way for the Pokes — Bryce Thompson, Avery Anderson III, and High point transfer John-Michael Wright, while Moussa Cisse does the dirty work on the glass, ranking No. 16 nationally with 9.9 rebounds per game.
Oklahoma State’s defense will pose a challenge for a Texas team that has now reached the 100-point mark twice in the last four games. Against the Wildcats, guard Tyrese Hunter broke out of his recent slump with a career-high 29 points, but Terry knows that to survive the gauntlet of Big 12 play, the Longhorns will have to defend better, especially on the road.
“We can score. We have a number of guys that can score. We have to continue to try to buy in and understand that defense is going to travel and defense is going to help us win games and that’s where we’re going to really have to get better,” Terry said.
How to watch
Time: 11 a.m. Central
Odds: Texas is a 1.5-point favorite, according to DraftKings.