It might appear to be just another game on the schedule, but if you are an Oklahoma basketball fan or your allegiance lies south of the Red River, and especially if you bleed burnt orange, you know differently.
It doesn’t matter what sport or endeavor it is, Oklahoma and Texas don’t like each other, and on Wednesday night in Austin, the two schools battle it out on the hardwood in the first of two games this season.
The Sooners and Longhorns both sport 10-3 records, but are coming off different outcomes in their Big 12 openers. Oklahoma came from behind late to edge Kansas State at home, 66-61, while Texas fell on the road to then No. 6 Baylor, 59-44.
Unlike the Red River football rivalry, Oklahoma holds the advantage all-time in basketball with a 55-40 record in the series. . The two teams have split the last 10 games, but OU is just 2-8 in its last 10 trips to Austin.
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Oklahoma is averaging 74.6 points a game with three players averaging in double figures and ranked in the top 10 in the Big 12 in scoring. Senior Kristian Doolittle leads the Sooners in scoring at 16.9 points a game. He is joined in double figures by juniors Austin Reaves (16.6) and Brady Manek (14.9).
Points will probably be at a premium in this game. The Longhorns are only averaging 67.1 points and are holding opponents to 60.7 points a game. Further feeding into this probability are the chronic slow starts that have plagued the Sooners in virtually every game this season.
Oklahoma has trailed at halftime in seven of its 13 games. The Sooners have come back to win five of the seven games in which they trailed at the intermission, but the slow starts is something that head coach Lon Kruger and his staff have no answer for at the moment.
Kruger told The Oklahoma City Oklahoman this week that getting off to a fast start is something you can’t simulate in practice.
Regardless, the slow starts have put the Sooners in a hole early in games and in catch-up mode, which can take you out of your game plan and cause you to press and force shots and also lead to ball-handling issues if not quick transitions going the other way for the opponent.
Texas also has three starters scoring in double figures, led by Matt Coleman, who averages 12.3 points per game. Andrew Jones, who missed most of the last two seasons after being diagnosed with leukemia, has been a valuable contributor off the bench, adding 11.3 per contest.
Ball security has been a big plus for OU this season. The Sooner average just 10.5 turnovers per game, sixth best in the nation. Free-throw shooting is another area that has played to OU’s advantage, particularly in so many second-half come-from-behind wins. The Sooners lead the Big 12 and rank seventh in the country with a team free-throw percentage of close to 80 percent.
The two teams are fairly evenly matched statistically, which leads me to believe this will be a close game probably played in the 60s, similar to what Oklahoma encountered against Kansas State. Home court advantage will be the difference. The game will be carried live on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. CT.
Texas by 3