So what’s next?
How will Rick Barnes' team come out today after pulling off the biggest comeback in his tenure at Texas?
Texas pulled off its biggest come-from-behind win in the Rick Barnes era on Wednesday night – a 92-86 overtime win over Oklahoma after trailing by 22 with less than eight minutes to play.
Big deal, right? After all, no matter what happens today in Stillwater against No. 15 Oklahoma State (3 p.m., ESPN) the Horns are still destined to finish the regular season with a losing conference record and need to win their last three regular season games to assure a .500 overall record. And they’re only path to the NCAA Tournament is still a win on March 16 in the Big 12 tourney final.
So at 13-15 (5-10 Big 12) does that exhilarating win over the Sooners really matter?
“If it parlays into another win it was great, if not it really doesn’t make a damn,” Texas assistant coach Chris Ogden said on Thursday. “We’ve got to win some more and we hope that this can kind of give us some energy. “
Energy and effort have been two words used more than any others this season. Up until the 7:38 mark of the second half Wednesday night it was always for their absence.
Texas switched to a full-court press against the Sooners – a team not known for its great ball handling – to dig itself out of that 22-point hole, and in the process a spark was lit. Maybe due to the pressing defense, the dire situation or maybe due to Oklahoma’s Amath M’Baye flashing the “Horns Down” after an emphatic dunk to push the lead to 22, the Longhorns switched from a team that looked ready to mail in the final four games of the regular season to one that was willing to scratch and claw its way to the finish, no matter what its ultimate destiny.
The Texas coaches have to look at the film from the win and wonder how effective they can be in the full-court press going forward. It may not be the recipe for success against every team they face from here on out, but it sure seemed to help the players dig in and go 100 percent on Wednesday night.
“It’s not like we’re turning into Nolan Richardson’s 40 minutes of hell. That’s not the answer,” Ogden said. “The answer is we finally played with some passion and energy that we were looking for and the press got that going for us.”
So what’s next?
Does Texas continue to play with that energy or was that a brief look at what might have been? Or is what we saw the beginning of a run that could – could – end with the Horns cutting down the nets in Kansas City in two weeks in one of the most improbable runs to the NCAA Tournament you’ll ever see?
The performance of the Longhorns today against a team that came to Austin a month ago and won by 13 may tell us all we need to know.
Quick look at Oklahoma State
Behind a 23-point performance by freshman guard Marcus Smart, No. 15 Oklahoma State (21-6, 11-4 Big 12) easily dispatched of the Longhorns back on Feb. 9.
The big 6-foot-4, 225-pound point guard can and does do everything for the Cowboys – he’s the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the top 20 in points (7th) and rebounds (17th) and the top 15 in assists (6th) and steals (1st).
The last time these teams met OK State held the Horns to just 1-of-18 from three and outrebounded them by a 41-30 margin. It will come into today’s game as the conference’s second best scoring defense, allowing just 61.1 points per game.
Along with Smart the Cowboys also have a number of other threats. There’s junior guard Markel Brown, the league’s No. 3 scorer at 15.6 points per contest. Three-point specialist Phil Forte - his 170 attempted long balls are the third most in the conference. And there’s wing Le’Bryan Nash who averages 13.8 points per game on 44.8 shooting from the field.
Also keep an eye out for Brian Williams, a 6-foot-5 wing player who had played only 14 total minutes in the season when the Horns hosted the Cowboys as he was slowly returning from a wrist injury. His minutes have gone up – he’s averaging 18 minutes per game since the win at Texas – and he’s starting to look more and more like the guy that scored 9.6 points per game as a freshman last season.
Put all those pieces together and this is a team right there with Kansas State and Kansas as one of the hottest in the Big 12. OSU sits just a game behind the two Kansas schools in the conference standings after winning nine of its last ten games with its lone loss coming in double overtime to KU.
G Marcus Smart, 6-4, Fr. (14.7 pts (40.3% FG, 30.2% 3s), 5.6 reb, 4.4 ast, 2.9 stl)
G Markel Brown, 6-3, Jr. (15.6 pts (44.6% FG, 39.1% 3s), 4.5 reb, 2.4 ast)
G/F Le'Bryan Nash, 6-7, So. (13.8 pts (44.8% FG, 20.5% 3s), 4.2 reb)
F Michael Cobbins, 6-8, So. (6.9 pts (54.7% FG), 6.4 reb, 1.6 blk)
C Phillip Jurick, 6-11, Sr. (3.2 pts (64.1% FG), 6.1 reb, 1.1 blk)
G Phil Forte, 5-11, Fr. (10.6 pts, 170 of 227 FG attempts are 3s)
G/F Brian Williams, 6-5, So. (4.3 pts (39.4% FG, 33.3% 3s), 1.9 reb)
F Kamari Murphy, 6-8, Fr. (4.3 pts, 4.1 reb)
G Kirby Gardner, 6-2, Jr. (1.4 pts, 1.0 reb)
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