Two of the nation’s top freshmen will be under the spotlight as No. 11 Texas begins its delayed Big 12 Conference campaign while playing host to Oklahoma State on Sunday afternoon at Austin, Texas.
The Longhorns (6-1) return to play after a dominating 79-63 home win over Sam Houston State on Wednesday in which they were led by freshman Greg Brown’s 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Oklahoma State (6-1, 0-1 Big 12) heads to Austin on the heels of a 77-76 loss at home to TCU on Wednesday in its conference opener. The Cowboys received 17 points from freshman Cade Cunningham in the setback, their first of the season.
Texas scored the first 11 points of the game against Sam Houston State over the opening 2:18, and its lead did not dip into single digits after the 13:03 mark of the first half.
Courtney Ramey also had 17 points and a team-best six assists for the Longhorns, while Andrew Jones had 13 points for Texas, whose current ranking is the highest in coach Shaka Smart’s five-plus seasons on the Longhorns’ bench.
Texas rolled up a 27-point lead in the second half before sleepwalking over the last 10 minutes, missing 10 of its final 12 shots. That gave Smart plenty to focus on in the run-up to Sunday’s game.
“The best teams know how to finish — they know how to step on the other team’s throat,” Smart said. “There’ll be a lot of tape watched from that last 10-11 minutes.”
The Longhorns were scheduled to play their Big 12 opener on Dec. 13 against No. 2 Baylor, but that game was postponed after the Bears could not meet the minimum player threshold under conference COVID-19 protocols. The conference requires each team to have at least six healthy players.
“We played some really good teams to this point in the year, but now we get into conference play,” Smart said. “Obviously, the intensity always goes up from there.”
Against TCU, Oklahoma State let an eight-point lead slip away in the final two minutes of its Big 12 opener.
Cunningham took an off-balanced shot from the corner at the buzzer that missed. The five-star freshman scored 15 points of his 17 points in the second half.
Rondel Walker added 12 points for the Cowboys, with Isaac Likekele and Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe scoring 10 each in the defeat.
“Welcome to Big 12 basketball,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said after the loss on Wednesday. “This is every night out — a fight for 40 full minutes. We did some good things, but we didn’t do enough to win and in this league you’ve got to go win the game. You have to make the plays down the stretch.”
The Cowboys have started 0-1 in league play in all four seasons under Boynton.
“We’ve got to find a way to close this game out,” Boynton added. “We need to go back and look at what things actually did happen. We’ve got tomorrow to figure that out, and then get ready for a really good Texas team on the road.”
–Field Level Media