Oklahoma basketball: Sooners off to Texas and Red River Showdown

AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 5: Dinjiyl Walker
AUSTIN, TX - JANUARY 5: Dinjiyl Walker /

Oklahoma basketball enters the difference-making month of February with a road trip to Austin, Texas, and a Saturday showdown with its biggest rival, the Texas Longhorns.

Fresh off a way-too-close-for-comfort, two-point home win over Baylor, the 12th-ranked Sooners (16-5, 6-3) are hoping to piece together consecutive wins for the first time in almost three weeks. Oklahoma has lost its last four road games and is 1-3 in the Big 12 in games played away from Lloyd Noble Center in Norman.

Texas (14-8, 4-5) returns home to Austin after a heartbreaking overtime loss on Wednesday at Texas Tech. The Longhorns have won four consecutive games at home and have beaten the Sooners there in eight of the last 10 games played between the two archrivals in Austin.

The two Red River rivals have played each other a total of 91 times, dating back to 1910, with Oklahoma owning a 54-37 advantage all-time. The two teams have met 49 times since Texas became a member of the Big 12 and the series has been as close as you can get, with the Sooners holding a one-game edge, 25-24.

A year ago in Austin, then-freshman Andrew Jones hit a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer, as the Longhorns stuck a dagger in the hearts of Oklahoma fans, giving Texas a come-from-behind 84-83 victory. Jones is not available this time around, having been diagnosed with leukemia earlier this season.

That’s an unfortunate development for the Longhorns, but they have plenty of firepower available to step up in Jones’ absence.

The case for Oklahoma to win the game

  • When you have the best player in college basketball this season, you always have a chance to win.
  • Trae Young is averaging a nation-best 30.3 points per game and the Sooners lead the nation in scoring, averaging 90.7 points per contest.
  • With opponents naturally looking to stop or slow down Young on the offensive end, the Sooner super freshman is becoming more selective in the shots he is taking, although he makes 45 percent of the shots he takes, and looking to be more of a ball distributor, finding open teammates. Young just so happens also to be the nation’s assist leader, collecting nearly 10 dimes a game.
  • Oklahoma owns the third-best shooting percentage in the Big 12 at 48 percent. When the Sooners shoot 50 percent or better from the field, which they did in their last game, a 98-96 win over Baylor, they are 8-0 this season.

The case for Texas to win the game

  • Texas is 4-3 in its last four games, but all four wins have been at home. The Longhorns are 10-2 this season at the Frank Irwin Center and 3-1 in Big 12 play.
  • With three starters averaging in double digits, the Longhorns have good offensive balance, which stretches and stresses a defense, something that is far from Oklahoma’s strong suit.
  • Texas is second in the Big 12 in both scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense, allowing opponents an average of 66.6 points per game and just under 40 percent shooting.
  • Texas plays well defensively, and teams that have done so have done well against the young Sooners this season.
  • Six-foot, 11-inch Mohamed Bamba and 6-foot, 9-inch Dylan Osetkowski give Texas a strong presence at the rim on offense and legitimate rim protectors on the defensive end. Oklahoma has had issues this season preventing points in the paint, despite having a pair of strong shot blockers of its own.
  • Oklahoma is 2-8 in its last 10 games in Austin.
  • ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be in Austin on Saturday, which will give an added boost of adrenaline and spirit to Longhorn fans and the Texas players.

The Bottom line

I’m torn in predicting the outcome of this game. Based on recent history, I know Texas has been a difficult place for Oklahoma to win (Blake Griffin’s Sooner teams never won there and Buddy Hield won just twice in four trips to Austin.) What does that say for Trae Young and this season’s edition of OU men’s basketball?

O.K., having gotten that out of my season. I believe Young and the Sooners will find a way to pull out a win in this important rivalry showdown on the road. I’m sensing a breakout game from OU sophomore Kameron McGusty.

Oklahoma 78, Texas 74