This NBA All-Star Weekend, a 3-point shootout erupted. But instead of Charlotte, this one stemmed from the Frank Erwin Center in the heart of Austin.
Texas and Oklahoma State combined to fire 44 3-point attempts in Saturday afternoon’s showdown. Despite the high volume of threes, it was the Longhorns’ paint efficiency that propelled them over the Cowboys in a 69-57 victory.
Texas’ offense rallied behind the revival of power forward Dylan Osetkowski, who provided efficiency with 14 points and a 5-of-5 showing from the floor. Sitting 22.9 percent from beyond the arc entering Saturday, Osetkowski shunned his previous struggles and proved his range by converting on all three 3-point field goals.
“I think he’s a much better 3-point shooter than his percentage indicates, but at the same time, at some point you gotta go by the percentage,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “Teams are gonna help off of him like they did today and he’s gonna get those looks. If he steps up and shoots the ball with the confidence he did today, we’re gonna like the results.”
Oklahoma State’s most reliable offensive weapon proved to be shooting guard Thomas Dziagwa. The quick-release sharpshooter topped all scorers with 23 points in the game, contributing to 40.4 percent of the Cowboys’ scoring effort. Beyond the arc, Dziagwa was nearly automatic, faring 7-of-11 on such shots. However, the marksman finished an imperfect 0-of-6 on 2-point attempts as Texas’ defense inside the arc shined.
“I went 0-of-6 from two, so I don’t want to be categorized as a 3-point shooter, but from the three, I was feeling it,” Dziagwa said. “I had great teammates giving me the ball when I was open and great play calls by coach, so credit to him.”
Winners of the previous meeting in January, Oklahoma State controlled the game in the opening minutes. But an 8-0 Texas run suddenly erased all of the Cowboys’ early progress, shifting Texas into the driver’s seat. From there, shooting guard Kerwin Roach II energized Texas by navigating through the paint and finishing strong on layups. Roach scored 16 points, but no basket was more vital than the three he sunk at the buzzer to elevate Texas’ halftime lead to 38-27.
“He’s an elite athlete,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton Jr. said of Roach. “He’s probably one of the top-five athletes — pure athletes — in our whole conference. He did a really good job of playing under control and forcing us to have to rotate, and really getting in and drawing fouls on our guys.”
The Cowboys led a 9-0 run at the arrival of the second half, guided by Dziagwa’s dexterity from three. Once Oklahoma State seized the momentum, Texas spoiled the Cowboys’ comeback. Shooting guard Courtney Ramey pitched in five consecutive points to halt the run, as the Longhorns reestablished their paint presence. Texas then closed by tightening the clamps on defense. From 6:40 to 33 seconds left, Oklahoma State was restricted to one field goal, placing victory in the hands of the home team.
Only five games remain on Texas’ schedule, signifying the regular season is approaching closure. Smart’s team continues its upswing with four double-digit wins in six outings. With success comes outside noise, though. Conversation regarding tournament bids and bracket placements can affect locker rooms, but Smart understands that winning cures all speculation.
“I told the guys in the locker room after the game, ‘We’re in better position now than we would have been if we would have lost. That’s the biggest area where your focus needs to be,’” Smart said. “As a team, we’re at our best when we have a true collective spirit about us that’s focused on one thing.”