The Longhorns found themselves just three seconds away from a crucial road win over No. 10 Texas Tech on Wednesday night.
The victory would have marked the Red Raiders’ first defeat at home this season and would have set the stage for the end-of-season run that Texas has preached about for the past two weeks heading into the final 10 games of conference play.
Instead, Tech senior guard Keenan Evans handed the Longhorns their fourth straight road loss on a fadeaway jumper in overtime. Now, the team returns home for a must-win matchup against another ranked opponent, No. 12 Oklahoma.
“It’s kind of hard to lose, but you also have to keep in mind that there is another game coming up,” junior guard Kerwin Roach II said. “And we have another top-25 game coming up. So you just have to move on and focus on the next one. And don’t really dwell on the past.”
After allowing Evans to score a career-high 38 points, Texas turns its attention to another dynamic playmaker in freshman guard Trae Young. The Wooden Award front-runner currently leads the nation in points and assists and will prove a handful for any Longhorn defender head coach Shaka Smart throws at him. Slowing down Young will be the team’s top priority if it hopes to rebound from the tough loss.
“(Young) has no conscience,” Roach said. “He will shoot it from anywhere, anytime, no matter what. And that’s the dangerous part about him. And he is going to make shots that he is not supposed to make.”
On the other end, Texas will need a strong performance from its own NBA prospect. Freshman forward Mo Bamba recorded seven blocks to go along with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the loss to Tech. Bamba set the single-season block record for Texas in Wednesday’s matchup, and his presence in the paint will allow Texas to key in on Oklahoma’s dangerous three-point shooters.
Even Young and the formidable Oklahoma roster have struggled on the road in Big 12 matchups. The team has notched only one victory in four road games — a testament to the power of the home-court advantage in arguably the country’s most rigorous conference.
Texas has already earned two upsets at home since the start of conference play. The team’s only Big 12 loss at the Frank Erwin Center this season came in the conference-opener against then-No. 11 Kansas.
Since then, the Longhorns have earned wins at home over TCU and Texas Tech and will look to make it a third Saturday evening. Tickets are already sold out for the evening matchup as the rivalry game will likely have postseason implications.
“Last year here was one of the most fun games I’ve been a part of,” said junior forward Dylan Osetkowski. “Granted, I didn’t even play, but I was really able to feel that rivalry, that Red River Rivalry. But it is going to be a great game. It is a great rivalry, great competition and it’ll be a lot of fun.”