Longhorns Travel to Stillwater

The #24 Texas Longhorns have won four of the last five games with the beginning of the run starting with a 99-74 blowout win over Oklahoma State in Austin February 10. Saturday at 5pm on ESPN, the Longhorns will face a streaking Cowboys team that hasn't lost since the trip to Austin and is now in a position to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid.

The #24 Texas Longhorns survived on Wednesday night in Austin with an 87-81 win against Texas Tech, but the task at hand will be much tougher Saturday evening. In Oklahoma State, the Longhorns (19-8, 8-5) face a team that has the best perimeter scoring ability in the conference and has won four straight since being blown out in Austin 99-74 February 10th.

The Cowboys (18-9, 7-6) feature one of the top offensive players in college basketball in 6-6 guard James Anderson. The sophomore is coming off of Big 12 Player of the Week honors and is averaging 18.5 points per game. Anderson has the ability to catch and shoot out to 24 feet, is an adept offensive rebounder and can put the ball on the floor and finish strong going left.

The Arkansas native lit up the Longhorns on February 10 scoring 35 points on 12 of 16 shooting.

Joining Anderson on the perimeter is senior point guard Byron Eaton, who scored 18 in the first meeting between the two teams with ten of his points coming on 14 free throw attempts.

For Texas, the play of Dogus Balbay and Damion James has been key in winning four of the last five games. Balbay made his first career start against Oklahoma State posting ten points and seven assists. In five starts, the sophomore point guard is averaging 8.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists.

James has recorded four straight double doubles and is averaging 18.4 points and 10.4 rebounds since Balbay was inserted into the starting line-up and he returned to the power forward position.

Texas leads the all-time series 40-39 and has won six straight.

The game is set to tipoff at 5pm and will be televised on ESPN.

A Look at the Coaches

Rick Barnes has a career record of 468-235, including 266-101 at Texas. Barnes is 128-45 in Big 12 play at Texas. Barnes is 18-16 in NCAA Tournament play.

Travis Ford is in his first season at Oklahoma State. Ford has a career record of 141-124 at the D-I level.

A Look at the Numbers

Texas shoots 44.4% overall, 32.2% from the three-point line and 66.7% from the foul line.

Oklahoma State converts 46.4% from the floor, 40.0% from three and 74.3% from the free throw line.

Texas holds a +5.1 rebound margin and turns the ball over 12.2 times per game, while the Cowboys check in at -0.9 on the boards and commit 12.8 turnovers per game.

The Longhorn Starters

G Dogus Balbay 6-0 So. (3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists)

G A.J. Abrams 5-10 Sr. (17.3 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists)

G Justin Mason 6-2 Jr. (6.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists)

F Damion James 6-7 Jr. (15.7 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists)

C Dexter Pittman 6-10 Jr. (8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks)

Key reserves include 6-7 sophomore Gary Johnson (11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds), 6-2 freshman Varez Ward (3.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists), 6-11 senior Connor Atchley (5.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks), 6-10 sophomore Matt Hill and 6-10 sophomore Clint Chapman (1.5 points and 1.7 rebounds).

The Cowboy Starters

G Byron Eaton 5-11 Sr. (14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists)

G Terrel Harris 6-4 Sr. (14.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists)

G James Anderson 6-5 So. (18.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists)

F Obi Muonelo 6-5 Jr. (13.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists)

F Marshall Moses 6-6 So. (5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds)

Key reserves include 5-10 freshman Keiton Page (9.1 points and 1.3 assists), 6-8 senior Anthony Brown (2.9 points and 2.1 rebounds) and 6-4 sophomore Nick Sidorakis (1.3 points)

What to Watch For

The Longhorns fill face a very tough task on Saturday in Stillwater. Gallagher-Iba Arena will be packed with 13,611 fans and is one of the loudest venues in college basketball.

If the Longhorns are to survive the tough task against a now confident Cowboy team, they must defend the three-point line a lot better than Wednesday against Texas Tech and create some transition scoring chances against the pressure defense.

If the Longhorns get into a perimeter-shooting contest with Oklahoma State with one or two pass jumps shots in the half court, the result will be a loss. Texas has to use their height and strength advantage on the interior in the half court if the transition opportunities aren't available.

Both teams know each other well, so there will not be any surprises. Texas must force James Anderson to right off the dribble and for more than one hard dribble and a pull up jumper. Anderson has been playing at a very high level in recent games and the Longhorns must take away his strength. Texas also has to put a body on Anderson when shots go up as he can be a quality offensive rebounder.

In the first meeting, Texas sold out to guard the three-point line. That left Byron Eaton a lot of space to work one on one against Dogus Balbay. While Eaton had success with the open driving angles and the Longhorns not in a position or willing to rotate, his offense alone wasn't going to win the game for Oklahoma State.

The Longhorns will have to as good of a job or better on Saturday as three pointers in transition and in the half court on drive and kicks would grab momentum and make the crowd even more of a factor than they will be.

Texas has to attack Obi Muonelo on the defensive end. He is the only capable rebounder against Texas. That means it is on Damion James and Gary Johnson to attack Muonelo and get put him on the bench with early foul trouble.

For Texas, Dogus Balbay simply has to stay out of foul trouble. The Longhorns don't have the offensive firepower to hang with Oklahoma State in Stillwater if Balbay is on the bench for an extended period of time. As the lone shot and transition scoring chance creator, Balbay has to be on the court. Balbay has to be willing to force a tough contested 16-18 foot jumper by Eaton as if he gets to the paint will likely get foul calls on the home court.

When Dexter Pittman receives the ball down low, he should finish every time against the Cowboys. He can't afford to miss any point blanks or shots inside of five feet on the road against a high-powered offensive team.

Damion James has to play inside of 12 feet and pound the offensive glass. This is not a game for James to settle for perimeter jump shots or play away from the basket. Texas has to slow the Cowboys down by pounding the offensive glass and forcing Oklahoma State to keep three players in the paint to rebound.


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