It's not easy to win on the road in any major conference. But it's only acceptable to lose to sub-.500 teams like Oklahoma State if you can also beat ranked opponents, something Texas hasn't done all year. Luckily for the Longhorns, they have a chance to course correct tomorrow, at home against Baylor for Big Monday.
For now, we can just lament the loss to the Cowboys. Texas continued its dirty habit of falling behind early, trailing 51-39 at the half. Only this time, all its attempts at mounting a comeback fell short. It wasn't a game Texas deserved to win, and, lo and behold, the Longhorns finally lost to derail a four game winning streak .
Obviously, when you score 40 points like Oklahoma State's Keiton Page did, you're doing something good. But Page didn't have an otherworldly game from the floor. He shot 8 of 14, 4 of 8 from deep, and added one rebound, one assist, and two steals. Most of his damage, 20 of 20 from the free throw line, was the result of stupid, irresponsible, and often ugly basketball by Texas.
The Longhorn guards actually played pretty well offensively. Almost every contributor looked good at one point or another. Sheldon McClellan had a nice first half, scoring 10 of his 15 early in the contest. Myck Kabongo had a team-high 22 points and looked Jeremy Lin-esque at times, for better and for worse. Kabongo often had the announcers ooh-ing and ahh-ing, easily breaking down defenders and getting into the lane. However, he can't kick his bad habit of forcing ridiculously dumb turnovers, and probably won't before season's end.
Back to the good offense. J'Covan Brown, after a quiet first half, found a spark in the second and ended up scoring 21. Even Sterling Gibbs had a solid day off the bench, scoring 6 first-half points when Kabongo was benched with foul trouble.
But again, Texas played stupid, irresponsible basketball. 15 bad to ugly turnovers, including 9 combined by Brown and Kabongo, often stalled Texas comebacks. 11 of those turnovers came on Cowboy steals, and Oklahoma State added 8 blocks ("hidden" turnovers) as well. The Texas bigs combined to shoot just 5 of 15, often contributing little in an offensive possession. And giving Julien Lewis 20 ugly minutes (often at the expense of McClellan) was unacceptable, especially given Lewis' 1 of 5 shooting and mediocre defense on Page and Markel Brown.
But if there was any one trademark of stupid, irresponsible basketball, it was Texas' free throw discrepancy. The Longhorns shot 18 free throws, and gave Oklahoma State a staggering 56 attempts. The defensive effort by Texas was one of its worst on the year: sometimes lazy and often braindead. Texas' young defenders fell for shot fake after shot fake, giving Page and company easy points from the free throw line. Further, Texas continually fouled Oklahoma State in careless situations, grabbing Page running through screens or hacking at loose balls after bad box-outs or careless turnovers.
The foul trouble burned Texas. Both Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene drew two fouls early in the first half, forcing Barnes to use Jaylen Bond and Jonathan Holmes early and often. As fifth-year seniors, both Chapman and Wangmene have to play smarter, as their absences allowed the Cowboy freshmen bigs, Le'Bryan Nash and Mike Cobbins, to blossom in confidence. Nash and Cobbins combined for 30 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks; Chapman and Wangmene for 7, 9 and 0.
Beyond the fouls, the Longhorns never communicated on Oklahoma State's backdoor cuts, found themselves repeatedly outhustled on rebound opportunities, and played piss-poor defense on a slow-footed, 5'9" gunner who had never had more than 10 points in 6 career games against Texas. And perhaps most damning of all, even worse than Page's 40 or Oklahoma State's 56 FT attempts: Markel Brown, all 6'3" of him, was the leading rebounder in the game with 11 boards.
For Texas, four games remain in conference play. At 17-10 (7-7), Texas needs either a win against Baylor or at Kansas to reach 20 wins (and 10 in conference). If you prefer to take your chances in Allen Fieldhouse, it's your funeral. I'd rather see Texas notch a win against a tumbling Baylor team tomorrow. Its season hopes hinge on a favorable outcome.