The Cowboys head to Austin, Texas fresh off a huge upset win over the Texas Tech Red Raiders this past Wednesday. The Cowboys were able to play fast and (finally) hit their shots as they kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive heading into their last three regular season games. You can read the full Cowboys Ride for Free recap here.
Let’s preview the ‘Horns.
Who: Texas Longhorns (16-11, 6-8 Big 12)
Where: Frank Erwin Center - Austin, Texas
When: February 24, 2018 - 1:00 p.m. CT
TV: Longhorn Network
Radio: Cowboy Radio Network
Live Stats: okstate.statbroadcast.com
The Longhorns come into this game having lost their last two home games and five of their last seven overall. They most recently lost Wednesday night at Kansas State in which they only scored 48 points. The last time UT faced OSU, the Pokes prevailed 65-64 thanks to a tip-in during the final seconds.
Texas is not ranked in the AP or Coaches Poll, and they are currently 41st on KenPom.com. A season sweep of the Longhorns would be a nice boost for Oklahoma State’s resume.
Players to Watch:
The Longhorns are led by their two big men, Dylan Ostekowski (13.8 ppg and 7.1 rpg) and Mo Bamba (13.4 ppg and 10.9 rpg). Texas looks to run their offense through these two, and even though both haven’t shot well from three, neither are afraid to fire it up if they get an open look. Bamba is also the primary force on defense for UT. His 3.96 blocks per game ranks him second in the nation, and he had two the last time he faced off against the Cowboys.
In the backcourt, the Longhorns’ main guy is 6’4 junior guard Kerwin Roach II. He’s averaging 11.7 ppg and 3.6 rpg. He did not play in the last meeting between these two teams due to a hand injury. Along with Roach, junior guard Eric Davis Jr (8.8 ppg and 2.4 rpg) really hurt the Cowboys from deep in the last contest going 4 - 5 from beyond the arc.
Three Big Things:
1. Dictate Tempo
Similar to Baylor and Kansas State, the Longhorns like to slow the pace down. KenPom.com has them ranked 300th in the nation in adjusted tempo. For comparison, Baylor ranks 282nd and Kansas State ranks 310th. Oklahoma State has struggled against teams that slow the pace and prevent them from scoring in transition. According to Hoop-Math.com, only 17.6 percent of the total field goals attempted against Texas are in transition, which has them ranked 26th in the country.
The last time the Pokes and Longhorns met, OSU only scored seven points off turnovers in the first half and had just two fastbreak points. In the second half, the Cowboys turned up the energy and scored 12 points off turnovers and had nine fastbreak points. This was especially noticeable in the final six minutes of the game when Oklahoma State went on a 15 - 2 run in which they played solid defense, and upon a turnover or stop... they were off to races.
And speaking of turnovers, this is key to dictating the tempo. The Longhorns average 12.1 turnovers per game, which isn’t a lot, but the Pokes were able to force 15 in the first contest and they will need to get close to this number again on Saturday if they want to win. Additionally, when they get a turnover, they have to make it count on the other end.
Oklahoma State was able to score 20 (!) fastbreak points in their upset win against Texas Tech on Wednesday, and if Texas is lazy getting back on defense, similar to what you see in the video below against K-State, the Cowboys will be able to expose them.
OSU will need to play their fast-paced style from the jump and look to push the ball off not only turnovers, but off any change of possession... even a made basket.
2. Need Points Inside
The Cowboys were down 32 to 25 at halftime to UT when these two teams met in mid-January. At that point, Oklahoma State had only four points in the paint. As you know, the Cowboys went on to win the game, and in the second half they had 20 points in the paint... Now, you may be saying “But, what about Mo Bamba?”, and granted the Texas big man is the best rim protector in the Big 12. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t attack him. Attacking the inside opens up the outside, and the more you attack the higher likelihood you have of getting Bamba in foul trouble. Bamba only had one foul in the first half the last time these two teams played. Then, in the second half, when the Cowboys started attacking the rim, he wound up with three fouls.
Oklahoma State has solid low post scorers in Cam McGriff and Mitchell Solomon (as seen below), and they need to take advantage of their skills in the paint.
And with Solomon, once the defense shifts to him after a couple of buckets, he is a skilled enough passer to dish it to the open man. Whether that be on a cut, similar to the video below, or kicking it out for 3, scoring in the post opens up passing lanes all over.
And I’m not talking about just the big men, the guards need to get involved as well. That could be driving it to the hoop or cutting back door (as seen below), they have to attack UT inside.
Solomon didn’t have a great outing against TTU, mostly because of foul trouble, but the Pokes will need him if they want to win in Austin.
3. Force Perimeter Shots
The Longhorns really like to work inside on offense. They have two solid low post scorers in Bamba and Osetkowski. They run a lot of pick and roll/pick and pop and they love to dump it to Bamba and Osetkowsk in the post and let them go to work. A set you will probably see on Saturday is “Horns”. They will use run several different variations of this play, and they are all very dangerous. In the GIF below you see the “Opposite Dive”, in which the man rolling to the basket is not the screener.
Here’s Texas running it last Wednesday.
Osetkowski misses the shot, but it was open, and I’m sure the Cowboys will see it this weekend.
Oklahoma State will have to do their best to keep these guys out of the paint and not allow UT to get easy buckets inside. The Longhorns are 335th in the country in 3-point percentage at 30.8 percent (they went 2 - 18 against K-State), and the Cowboys must do everything they can to force this Texas team into taking perimeter shots. One way they can do this is by utilizing their zone defense. The Cowboys have been in man more times than not this season, but we have seen Boynton switch it up and I think he will need to on Saturday.
I believe the Cowboys head to Austin riding high of their win in GIA against Tech and bring the energy against the Longhorns from the tip. Even though Texas plays slow, I don’t think they are going to be able to keep this Oklahoma State team from pushing the tempo and scoring in transition. And, if the hot shooting from the TTU game carries over, I think the Pokes could run away with this one. My final prediction is 69 - 61 Cowboys.