Longhorns start tough stretch of games with road contest versus Oklahoma

Jacob Martella

The last four games have gone as well as the Longhorns could have hoped.

Texas has won each of those four games — including a road win at No. 15 Baylor — and most bracketologists have them as nearly a lock for the NCAA tournament.

But now the schedule takes another step up. The Longhorns will face six ranked teams in their final eight games, including tonight’s game against Oklahoma on the road.

“We are confident as a team right now, but we are not satisfied and we are not going to ease up,” junior guard Isaiah Taylor said. “We know that we have a tough stretch of games coming up, and we are looking to go in and just compete in every game.”

The Sooners won’t have a No. 1 next to their name at game time after losing 80-69 at Kansas State on Saturday, but they will have a Buddy Hield. The senior guard, considered one of the best in the nation, sits ranked second in the country with 25.6 points per game and first with a 51.1 percent 3-point shooting percentage.

Hield, however, doesn’t do it alone in the Sooner backcourt. Junior guard Jordan Woodard and senior guard Isaiah Cousins are both in the top 10 in the conference with 13.7 and 13.4 points per game, helping Oklahoma to a Big 12-leading 85 points per game.

Head coach Shaka Smart said the way Hield, Woodard and Cousins play off of each other makes it much harder to defend. 

“They’re all older,” Smart said. “They’re all very, very confident and they play together. [Woodard and Cousins], they make big shots. Every time Oklahoma needs a big shot, they make them.”

The Longhorns counter with Taylor, who’s on pace for a career year. Taylor is averaging 15.3 points per game and has scored in the double digits in all but five games this season.

But Taylor’s passing has also improved, dishing out 5.1 assists per game, including 17 in the last two games.

“He does a great job surveying the floor, almost like a quarterback,” Smart said. “When he plays with poise, he’s really, really good at making that read, as good as anyone I’ve coached.”

While the Lloyd Noble Center hasn’t been kind to the Longhorns in recent years — no one on the team has won in Norman — they come into the game with confidence in facing ranked opponents. Texas is 4–2 this season against AP Top 25 teams, and two of those wins have come on the road.

Both Taylor and senior guard Javan Felix said those wins give them confidence to spring the upset, but Taylor said they “know it’s going to be a dogfight.”

“Regardless of what kind of number they have by their name, we’re just going to come out every game and compete,” Taylor said. “They’re a good team. We’re a good team too.”