Texas basketball returns home to the Moody Center after a week that saw them suffer an 11-point loss in Ames while picking up an eight-point victory in Morgantown. With the split, the Longhorns (16-3, 5-2) dropped three spots to No. 10 in the most recent AP Poll.
In their return home, Texas welcomes the Oklahoma State Cowboys to Austin for a Tuesday night, 8 p.m. CT tip. Led by sixth-year head coach Mike Boynton, the 11-8 (3-4) Cowboys find themselves squarely on the early bracketology bubble. A road win over a top-ten team would go a long way for this veteran-laden squad.
The Longhorns got the better of Oklahoma State 56-46 on Jan. 7 in Stillwater. That was a slugfest of a game that saw a combined 39 fouls and 33 turnovers. Neither team shot better than 31.5 percent from the field.
Oklahoma State has proven to be a team that enjoys playing in the mud. They like to muck up games, making it uncomfortable for opposing offenses for 40 minutes. It is important Texas plays this game on its own terms. The Longhorns should be able to dictate the pace and style of the game in what should be another raucous Moody Center environment.
Nuggets to know for Texas basketball vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 24
Here are five tidbits to be aware of before the Longhorns and the Cowboys square off.
1. The health of Moussa Cisse and Bryce Thompson
The status of Moussa Cisse and Bryce Thompson is up in the air for Tuesday night’s showdown in Austin. The two Cowboys went down with ankle injuries during Oklahoma State’s win over Iowa State on Saturday.
Cisse, the leader in blocks per game in the Big 12, did not play in the first meeting against Texas. This left a significant opening in the paint that the Longhorns were able to take advantage of. Thompson did play in the previous meeting and was held to just five points. That said, the former five-star prospect is the Cowboys leading scorer and can catch fire as a true three-level threat.
Without Cisse and Thompson in the lineup, the Cowboys would be without two starters and 30 percent of their season scoring production.
2. The free-throw disparity
One place Texas has a significant advantage over Oklahoma State is at the foul line.
In Big 12 play, Texas is getting to the line over 20 times per game, good for fifth in the conference. They are knocking down 81.7 percent of those attempts, first in the conference. Extrapolated over a whole season, that would currently be the country’s second-highest free throw percentage.
When these two teams met on Jan. 7, Texas knocked down 17-of-21 free throws. The Cowboys were just 12-of-21 from the line. If this game comes down to free throws, the Longhorns have a decisive advantage.
3. Carr and Rice in crunch time
Fifth-year senior guards Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice have been masters in crunch time this season. Time and time again, the duo knocks down clutch shots and free throws to seal late-game wins for Texas.
In the Longhorns’ five Big 12 wins, Marcus Carr and Sir’Jabari Rice are averaging a combined 8.6 points in the final five minutes of the game. They are shooting 47 percent from the field and 85 percent from the free throw line in these late-game situations.
At the college level, you need competent guards who excel in late-game scenarios. Texas has that with Carr and Rice.
4. The Cowboys’ turnover woes
Oklahoma State has been one of the sloppiest teams in the country on the offensive end of the floor.
This season, the Cowboys turn the ball over at a 21.2 percent rate. This ranks 316th nationally. They do not execute well in the half-court and often put themselves in precarious situations under even the slightest ball pressure.
Rodney Terry must emphasize how crucial it is to have active hands at all times on Tuesday night. The Cowboys had 18 turnovers when these two teams met on Jan. 7. Texas has the athleticism and defensive prowess to bother the Oklahoma State offense, but the buy-in must be there for a full 40 minutes.
5. The chance to go 2-0
Andrew Miller and I had the chance to discuss this on the most recent episode of the Hook’Em Horns YouTube Show – The opportunity to go 2-0 and sweep the season series against a conference opponent is massive when you are chasing a Big 12 title.
Coming into Big 12 play, we targeted Oklahoma State as a team Texas could potentially sweep, allowing them to inch towards the 13 or 14-win mark in conference play. The hard work of winning on the road has been done. All Texas has to do is hold serve at home as a sizeable favorite.
Sitting at 5-2 in Big 12 play, the Longhorns are just one game behind Kansas State for the top spot in the conference. It is paramount Texas defends the Moody Center, especially against the bottom half of the league, if they want a chance to win their first Big 12 regular season title since 2008.