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Texas Longhorns basketball: Horns can't hang on, lose to Sooners 71-69

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Oklahoma came from behind and won the game in the last three minutes.

Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

With a little more than three and a half minutes remaining, the Texas Longhorns were sitting on a six-point lead on the road. It was among the bigger leads of what had been a back-and-forth game.

But Rick Barnes' squad couldn't hang on, failing to get stops on each of the next four possessions, and the Sooners turned a six-point deficit into a four-point lead. A pair of Myles Turner free throws eventually got the lead down to two points with ten seconds remaining, and a missed Jordan Woodard free throw with seven seconds on the clock failed to shut the door completely on the Horns.

But there just weren't enough moves left to make after Kendal Yancy missed the front end of a one and one with six seconds left. Two Buddy Hield free throws and a Jonathan Holmes three at the buzzer would yield the final two-point margin.

This was not a defensively-oriented basketball game, despite the pedigrees of the two schools. Oklahoma came into the game as the third-best defense nationally in the kenpom.com adjusted defensive ratings, and has easily been the league's best defense during Big 12 play.

Against the tough OU defense, Texas scored 1.08 points per possession, thanks in large part to an efficient three-guard offense.

Texas played its now familiar motion offense in the first half, and in the second switched to a screen and roll-based attack that led to a lot of opportunities for Myles Turner (17 points), Javan Felix (10 points), and Kendal Yancy (14 points). Texas lead guard Isaiah Taylor had a surprisingly easy time breaking down one of the nation's best defenses.

But whenever Texas scored, OU struck back. Oklahoma was exceptional scoring in transition, taking advantage any time the Longhorns missed a shot after Isaiah Taylor had driven into the lane, leaving the backcourt relatively unguarded. The result was balanced and efficient offense for the Sooners, with four players reaching double figures. Fast breaks created clean looks for Lon Kruger's team from three (on the night, OU was 8-19 from long range), and a chance to get to the basket without the Texas shot blockers present (the Longhorns blocked 13 shots in total).

The game looked like one that was headed to a tight finish, where the first team that could string together a few stops would win. That team ended up being Oklahoma; Texas' chance for a nice resume win was lost.

Notes:

  • Myles Turner was impressive. He scored 17 points on 5-9 shooting from the floor, hitting all six of his free throws. He grabbed ten rebounds and blocked six shots. One of the criticisms that has been directed at Turner is that he hasn't registered big offensive numbers against good teams. Tonight does not support that particular critique.
  • For Texas fans wondering why Oklahoma did not play a zone defense to force the Longhorns to shoot from the outside and keep Taylor away from the basket  -- a tactic used by so many other teams -- the answer is simple: Oklahoma hardly ever plays zone. Coming into the game, fewer than two percent of OU defensive possessions were played in zone, and Kruger's squad didn't deviate from that tonight, playing almost exclusively in man-to-man defense. They have been one of the nation's best defenses doing this, so going away from what they do better than almost anyone to play a style of defense that they probably hardly practice apparently did not appeal to Lon Kruger. It wouldn't appeal to me either, if I were in his position.
  • Kendal Yancy was aggressive offensively, hitting several threes for Texas, and attacking the rim off the dribble. Yancy's development as an offensive player is a big help for this team. He needs to stay aggressive.
  • As a team, the Longhorns were 8-23 from three point range. That is perfectly average, and it is good enough for me. This isn't a great shooting team, but so long as the shooting is something other than bad, the Texas offense will be fine.
  • Lately, the Texas offense has been fine. Even better than fine. Since the reboot of the Texas offense, going away from being a post oriented/set play attack to an approach that mixes motion offense and ball screens, and runs with a three guard lineup, the Texas offense has been solid in every game. Texas is scoring just a hair under 1.1 points per possession during this stretch, which is much better than the 1.0 average of a typical Big 12 game. It is the defense that continues to have me worried.
The next game comes Saturday, with a home rematch against Iowa State.