In the midst of National Signing Day hoopla, you'd be forgiven for forgetting that the Texas Longhorns have a basketball game tonight. It's on Longhorn Network, so it barely counts, anyway. Texas hosts the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Erwin Center. The Pokes and Horns sport identical 14-7, 4-5 records. That sounds ridiculous, considering the talent disparity. Yet here we are.
Starters / Key Reserve
PG - Anthony Hickey (5' 11", 185 lb)
G - Phil Forte (5' 11", 185 lb)
G - Jeff Newberry (6' 2", 190 lb)
F - Le'Bryan Nash (6' 7", 235 lb)
F - Michael Cobbins (6' 8", 230 lb)
W - Tavarius Shine (6 '6", 195 lb)
Tjarks posted a solid rundown of OK St's personnel in the first matchup. You can review it here.
Keys to the Game
1. Don't Let Forte and Nash beat you. The Oklahoma State duo each put up a 20-spot en route to the Cowboys' 69-58 victory in early January. Maybe don't let that happen again? Forte drains balls into holes as impressively as the lead actor in a Raffi and Dirty Randy film, but Texas has had success in neutralizing him in the past. Last year, Barnes utilized box-and-one principles with Javan Felix chasing him around. Unfortunately, Felix has been ruled out with a concussion this time around. As for Nash, he clearly had the upper hand in his senioritis matchup against Jonathan Holmes, who put up a glaring donut. NBA scouts are watching, Jon. Get your shine on.
2. Figure out the D. Does Rick Barnes stick with the zone? OK State's personnel looks more TCU/WVU than KU/ISU/BU, which bodes well for the success of Texas' recent zone infatuation. Michael Cobbins is the only major concern on the glass, and Forte is the only plus shooter from BTA. Texas plays zone. Cowboys' role players can't hit shots and rebound. Ipso facto, Texas is good again!
3. Find someone who can make 3's. Felix has quietly upped his 3-pt% to a very respectable 38.3% by shooting well in conference games. Contrary to popular internet belief, not having him available is a liability. The rest of the team is shooting 25.2% (28-111) BTA in Big 12 play, a number even Josh Smith would be appalled by. Who will step up in Felix's absence? Taylor? Holmes? Holland? Bueller? Bueller?
4. Show some pride. Protect your court. Oklahoma State is not a particularly talented team. Its best non-conference win is against...Tulsa? The Cowboys are 0-4 on the road in conference play, reflective of their skill level. Still, Travis Ford has his crew playing above their potential while Rick Barnes...whatever. Texas needs home wins, otherwise it's NIT-bound.
7 pm. LHN. Hook 'em.