Hoops: No. 3 Horns Face Cornered Cowboys

When the No. 3 Texas men&#146;s basketball team faces No. 16 Oklahoma State at hostile Gallagher-Iba Arena Saturday (3 p.m. CST, ESPN+), head coach <B>Rick Barnes</B>&#146; bunch will hardly recognize the team they bounced, 78-65, February 1. Or will they?

Depending on one’s perspective, the showdown in Stillwater is either an opportune or an unfortunate time to catch the reeling Cowboys. OSU boasted the nation’s longest winning streak (15) before Texas humbled them in Austin, but have now lost four of the past six. Wednesday’s setback at Oklahoma was not unexpected. However, the inexplicable 74-72 home loss to Baylor Saturday currently ranks as the Big 12’s upset of the year.

How rank was it for head coach Eddie Sutton?

Sutton described the shocker as one of the ten worst defeats of his career and kept his beleaguered team behind closed doors until after midnight. Consequently, Saturday’s contest against Texas is not only a chance to ease the stench from last week’s stinker but also a must-win affair for a Cowboys team that has dropped from first to fourth place in league standings.

In other words, this one smells like Texas’ game at Kansas January 27 when the reeling-but-really-talented Jayhawks had dropped two straight but responded with their A Game. But it’s not something you can worry about, according to junior G Brandon Mouton, who has found his A Game offensively, averaging 22.5 ppg in the previous two outings.

"I think Oklahoma State is a great basketball team, but we know what we’re playing for," Mouton said. "We’re aware of what other teams are doing, but we can only be concerned about ourselves and trying to win the Big 12."

In other words, it’s just another arduous road trip in the NCAA’s most physical league, but the road to Stillwater has been relatively successful for Barnes. The fifth-year Texas coach has taken three-of-four at Gallagher-Iba, and none more impressive than last year’s 70-61 triumph at No. 5 OSU considering Texas had just lost Chris Owens for the season and was opening conference play on the road.

Texas enters the game at 18-4, and tied with OU for second in the Big 12 at 9-2. The Cowboys are still Tournament bound at 19-5, 8-3 in league play. Kansas remains atop the conference standings at 10-1, 20-5 overall, but travels to Oklahoma Sunday.

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