Sometimes, it’s just your night, and thanks to a career-high 27-point display from sophomore wing Tevin Mack, the Texas Longhorns outlasted the Oklahoma State Cowboys 82-79 in the ‘Horns Big 12 home opener to improve to 7-7 on the season.
Considering the competition level of a veteran Oklahoma State team that entered the meeting at 10-3, the victory serves as arguably the Longhorns best performance of the season. Mack led the way for Texas with 27 points on an incredibly efficient 10-17 shooting performance (4-7 from 3) and more notably, Eric Davis Jr. tied his season-high with a confidence-building 16 points on his most efficient performance of the season.
Eric Davis Jr stepping up huge for Texas tonight, here with a confidence building 3 to extend the lead #HookEm pic.twitter.com/Y1RdQBzXv8— Cody Daniel (@CodyDanielSBN) January 5, 2017
Though it may not show up on the stat sheet, Kerwin Roach Jr. was Texas’ unsung hero in the much-needed victory, dishing out a career-high six assists and immaculately orchastring the Longhorns offense in the second half with poise and confidence. Not to mention, his hyper-athleticism was on full display as he forced Juwan Evans, the Big 12’s leading scorer, to work exceptionally hard for nearly each of his 19 points, while making key defensive plays throughout. Andrew Jones also joined in with 10 points of his own, while Jarrett Allen added eight points, snagged 11 boards and blocked two shots, as did James Banks.
As a unit, the most noticeable difference against the Cowboys was Texas avoiding significant offensive slumps while allowing the opposition to score at will. Rather, it was the ‘Horns that sparked the game’s most notable offensive onslaught, as Mack added 11 points during an 18-2 run that transformed a 48-43 Oklahoma State edge into a 61-50 Texas advantage.
The Pokes responded with an 11-2 run of their own, but the ‘Horns were able to stop the bleeding in time to protect the lead down the stretch, despite cashing in on just 6-11 free throws during the final 1:56 — an area of concern throughout the season for Texas. Aside from the free throw deficiencies and a prayer three-pointer just before the buzzer, Texas victory wasn’t as close as the score indicated, though the ‘Horns didn’t escape without a run for their money, by any means.
Along with Evans’ 19 points on 5-10 shooting, Jeffrey Carroll led the way for Oklahoma State with 24 points after connecting on 11 of his 18 looks. No other Cowboys scored more than nine (Phil Forte III) and Oklahoma State’s three other starters combined for just 20 points.
Despite the victory, the ‘Horns still shot a less than ideal clip from the floor (25-57, 7-19 from 3), but the defense played exceptionally for the majority of the night and the effort was remarkable throughout. Texas didn’t play like a team in fear of slipping to 6-8 and 0-2 in Big 12 play, but rather, like a team confident in what it can become with tons of basketball remaining. Whatever Shaka Smart has been telling this bunch in practice is working because they’re still competing and playing with pride.
There’s still a lot of improvement to be had, but Texas ended its two-game skid and now earns a much-needed conference victory before heading to Ames to face Iowa State on Saturday.