Texas will look to move past its eighth double-digit loss of the season – a 12-point defeat at home to Kansas State – tonight when it hosts the streaking Oklahoma Sooners at 8 p.m. (ESPN2).
6-foot-8 forward Romero Osby scored 29 points and grabbed eight rebounds when Texas traveled to Oklahoma in January.
The Sooners come into tonight’s contest fourth in the Big 12 standings after winning four of their last five, and with their lone loss coming in overtime at in-state rival and 15th-ranked Oklahoma State.
On the flip side the Longhorns enter this one losers of four of their last six, and with one of the wins coming by the skin of their teeth at home against Iowa State in double overtime.
With the only path to the NCAA Tournament being a miraculous Big 12 Tournament run, Texas (12-15, 4-10 Big 12) has got to dig deep to play inspired basketball for the remaining four games of the regular season.
Effort has been a real issue with this club all season. With the negative results stacking up, along with coaching to win the game, Rick Barnes will be watching to see which of his players continue to fight all the way through to the finish line.
“[What] we'll find out over the closing four games here and going into the conference tournament is the real character of guys,” he said on Tuesday. “I think that's what you find out.”
Considering the continued lack of effort throughout the season, the character of the guys in burnt orange is already a big question before these final four games.
Without Kabongo nobody was confusing the talent level of the Longhorns for a Sweet Sixteen team, but it’s been the seeming lack of will and desire in some outings – the ones that have usually resulted in the lopsided losses – that have Texas followers and the head coach himself deflated about this year’s team.
“At some point in time you've got to stop coaching effort,” Barnes said. “You've got to coach the game.”
All that said, technically the Horns still have a shot at making the Big Dance.
The Big 12 Tournament begins in exactly two weeks. As unlikely as it is for the Horns to be able to win four games in four days – they’re all but assured to get a bottom four seed, meaning they’ll have to play in the opening round – Barnes is still holding out hope that somehow, some way the light will come on for struggling shooting guard Sheldon McClellan and the rest of the players by March 13.
“I'm disappointed because of the expectations I have for this team and this program, but I will say this, I don't think we're done,” Barnes said. “And I won't think we are done until the conference tournament's over with”
Quick Look at Oklahoma
The Sooners currently sit at around a No. 8 or 9 seed for the NCAA Tournament in bracket projections. Oklahoma (18-8, 9-5 Big 12) is coming off an impressive 14-point win over NCAA bubble team Baylor, and registered a win over No. 6 Kansas earlier this month.
Bottom line: head coach Lon Kruger as these Sooners playing a lot better down the stretch run than people expected of OU this season.
Oklahoma isn’t great at anything, but it is solid at everything. It’s not a team that will blow you away with the way they play, but Kruger has them playing sound ball all over the court.
The Sooners are led by senior Romero Osby. A 6-foot-8, 232-pound forward who went off for 29 points and eight rebounds when Texas traveled to Norman, but most of his production came after Texas lost Jonathan Holmes to a broken hand in the first half. While Holmes hasn’t been the same since he returned from the injury, his presence on the defensive end could be a big help going up against the Big 12’s seventh-leading scorer.
G Steven Pledger, 6-4, Sr. (11.6 pts (42.2% FG, 36.5% 3s), 3.2 reb)
G Isaiah Cousins, 6-3, Fr. (3.0 pts, 2.0 reb)
G Buddy Hield, 6-3, Fr. (8.6 pts (39.8% FG, 27.1% 3s), 4.3 reb, 2.0 ast)
F Romero Osby, 6-8, Sr. (14.3 pts (51.2% FG, 79.2% FT), 7.1 reb)
F Amath M'Baye, 6-9, Jr. (10.2 pts, 47.1% FG, 5.7 reb)
G Cameron Clark, 6-6, Jr. (6.3 pts, 3.2 reb)
G Je'lon Hornbreak, 6-3, Fr. (5.5 pts, 39.3% FG, 2.6 reb)
F Andrew Fitzgerald, 6-8, Sr. (5.7 pts, 3.2 reb)
G Sam Grooms, 6-1, Sr. (4.3 pts, 1.5 reb)
F Tyler Neal, 6-7, Jr. (1.4 pts, 1.6 reb)