Game Preview: Oklahoma State

Jarrett Allen vs UAB. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Jarrett Allen vs UAB. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Hoops Preview: Oklahoma State
Wednesday, January 4
Time: 7:00 pm Central
Television: LHN
Location: UT

Opponent Strengths:

Texas will look to end its two-game skid tonight in a home matchup with the Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-3, 0-1). OSU’s new coach, SFA’s Brad Underwood, has the Cowboys playing an up tempo, aggressive style as he leans on three of the better guards in the Big 12 in Forte, Carroll and Evans. The Longhorns (6-7, 0-1) will have their work cut out for them as they look to hang with the offensive firepower of Oklahoma State. Here’s the game thread.

Guard play. Underwood’s no dumby. He’s got a long ways to go to build his roster to where he wants it to be, so he’s relying on the plus players he’s got. And his perimeter contributors are as good as it gets in the conference. Evans is impossible to keep out of the lane. Forte’s perimeter shooting prowess is well documented. Carroll’s the rugged wing who can bang inside and shoot from deep. When things do get into their halfcourt sets, OSU will depend heavily on their backcourt to produce.

Tempo. OSU gets after it. They rank 4th in the country at over 91 points per game. They are 10th nationally in steals. They are 9th in the country in turnovers forced. Tonight is going to be fast. They want to overwhelm opponents and force them to outscore them given how capable OSU’s guards are in the open floor and on breakdowns. It’s a calculated move, we’ll see how it plays out for them against a Texas team that has some athletes of their own.

The Cowboys look to be led by 6’0 sophomore point guard Jawun Evans (19.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists per game). The Dallas Kimball product burst onto the scene last year after Forte went down early in the season but has taken the next step as a consistent playmaker this season. He’s the consummate point guard in his ability to create for others off the bounce, get to the rim, shoot from deep and, most impressively, get to the foul line (almost 7 foul shots per game). Evans will probably be the best player on the floor tonight.

Opponent Weaknesses

All in on the press. OSU will press all game long. That’s benefitted them in their ability to create turnovers and cause chaos for their opponents. But the flipside of any press is that it also creates easy scoring opportunities for teams that can break it. You saw it for them in their league opening loss against West Virginia. They pressed and pressed and WVU tore them up. If teams have the kind of ball movers and finishers to take advantage of a press, OSU doesn’t have many answers. Texas’ for their part, has looked good in the open floor. Can they pull that off against the Cowboys?

Texas Keys: Offense

Jones and Roach against full court ball pressure. It’s plausible that this could be a positive for Texas. The kind of speed that Roach and Jones are able to bring to the game is considerable. Jones, too, is the best outlet passer Texas has on the roster and is good at getting the ball ahead in the open floor. Still, the reality of their turnover issues are bad enough in low possession, half court games. How do they do in a high possession, up tempo affair? A big/competent game from Texas’ point guards could make this is winnable game.

Mack and Davis as spot up shooters in transition. The shot opportunities will be there. Especially from three. It’s not overstating it to say Texas’ fortunes have been directly related to the shooting fortunes of Tevin and Eric. The Longhorns will be without Kendal Yancy for a while as he deals with a high ankle sprain, so even more will be needed from UT’s sophomore wings. Can they be at that 35%, or above, shooting from deep, combined? If so, look out OSU. If not, how will Texas keep up when OSU’s playmaking is high level.

Texas Keys: Defense

Kerwin Roach. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Kerwin Roach. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Allen, Roach and Jones foul trouble. Texas’ interior advantage is going to be pointed. OSU is 18th, nationally, in free throws taken and 7th, nationally, in free throws made. Texas has to have Allen, Roach and Jones in the game as much as possible to have a good shot at this game. They’re the only players that bring certain skill sets (playmaking on the low block, rebounding, ball handling, creating for others) to the team. If any of these three (or, shudder, all) struggle with foul trouble, Texas is going to struggle accordingly. All three must avoid silly, fouls away from the basket.

The Endgame

I’m torn.

Evans is so good, that he’s the kind of player that can put a team on his back and win a game against an opponent that’s struggling like Texas has.

On the other hand, I also know that the Longhorns are filled with players that are better in a fast paced, open floor contest.

I’ll take Texas, but not wholeheartedly.

Prediction: Texas 88 – Oklahoma State 82

Projected Starting Lineup