Cowboys Brand Longhorns Again, 65-49

Texas went nearly 14 minutes without a second half field goal as its offensive futility mitigated a furious comeback in falling 65-49 to Oklahoma State Sunday in the Big 12 Tournament championship. The Cowboys won their first Big 12 Tournament title by knocking off Texas for the third time this season in front of 17,324 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Did it matter? No. 11 Texas obviously locked up the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament prior to tip-off and will now face No. 14 seed Princeton in Denver on Thursday. However, Sunday's affair was as pleasant as athlete's foot and exposed (again) Texas' Achilles' Heel should it stub its toe sooner then expected in the Big Dance.

Texas is simply rewriting the book on scoring droughts.

These extended stretches without a FG were par for the course during these three days in Dallas, as Texas had to weather double-digit deficits to overcome both Oklahoma and Kansas to reach the championship round. Overall, Texas was just 19-of 58 (33 percent) from the field, including 2-of-15 from beyond the arc.

"I'm disappointed in the way we started the whole tournament," head coach Rick Barnes said. "We put ourselves in a hole and had to fight from behind in every ballgame."

The cold (shooting) fact is simply this: Texas is not going to outshoot many teams in the NCAA Tournament, once it gets past the opening round. Texas simply must control the boards, get to the free throw line and handle the ball (as it generally has done all season) for it to enjoy any kind of successful run this month.

On Sunday, Texas did none of the above. The Horns entered the Big 12 Tournament with a league-leading plus-7 rebound advantage but the Cowboys controlled the boards for the third time this season against the Horns (42-35). In what has become an unsettling trend, an opponent again made more free throws than Texas even attempted. The Horns were just 9-of-16 from the charity stripe while OSU was good for 17-of-25. Meanwhile, Texas committed 13 turnovers Sunday, but 10 in the first half when it fell behind by as many as 16 points.

"We just totally didn't work the game the way we had to work it," Barnes said. "Oklahoma State is capable of beating anybody in the country."

Against the No. 7 Cowboys (the No. 2 seed in the East Rutherford bracket), Texas ran into superior guards and quicker post players. The Cowboys jumped to a 21-6 lead at the 9:50 mark with an 18-2 run as Texas misfired on 8-of-11 shots. Terrence Crawford's bucket gave OSU a 30-15 lead with 2:52 remaining until halftime. Texas trailed 36-24 at intermission.

"The most disappointing thing was our shot selection and the passes we threw in the first half," Barnes said. "It was as bad as I've seen. We don't have to take bad shots. We have too many guys who can score. We were just throwing the ball all over the place."

Still, this one became anyone's game as Texas fought back by pounding the ball inside. But after junior C Jason Klotz converted a three-point play with 14:48 remaining to narrow the gap, 42-39, the Horns would not register another FG until C James Thomas' putback with 56 seconds left. By then, the Cowboys had fashioned an insurmountable 63-47 advantage.

Only when G Brandon Mouton registered a meaningless FG in the closing seconds did Texas avoid the mark for the lowest point production of the season. The problem is that previous low-water mark was just last weekend in a 58-48 loss at lowly Kansas State. Mouton, Texas' scoring leader with 13.6 ppg, was the lone Longhorn on the All-Tournament team but contributed just six points (3-of-11 FG) in Sunday's setback.

Klotz led his team with 15 points but hardly got any touches after the Horns had pulled within striking distance. Barnes hinted that his senior-led team may have played selfishly down the stretch.

"I don't know if egos got in the way, or what," Barnes said.

For now, the Texas head coach has four days to get egos in check, or whatever it takes to get his team back to mid-season form when the Horns led the league in scoring and rebounding.


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