Texas feels pressure to capture road win

Shane Lewis

Nobody knows struggles away from home quite like Texas does. 

The Longhorns have more losses outside of Austin than total wins all season.

Head coach Shaka Smart’s team heads to Norman, Oklahoma, tonight in search of its first road win of the year. With the regular season dwindling down, the Longhorns are running out of opportunities to capture a victory on an opponent’s home court.

“There is the reality of having not been able to come out on top on the road,” Smart said. “Our guys are aware of that, and there is a sense of urgency to change that.”

Texas’ difficulties outside of the Frank Erwin Center stem from its failure to respond to adversity in the later stages of games. 

In Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State, the Longhorns — down by only five at the break — were hit with a 10-0 Cowboy run coming out of halftime, and the squad
never recovered.  

A week prior, Texas was entrenched in a back-and-forth affair with TCU midway through the second half. But the Longhorns went cold from the field for a three-minute stretch, which proved lethal in the double-digit loss in Fort Worth. 

“The key word is response,” Smart said. “When you’re playing any game, but particularly on the road, teams are going to try and make a run. They’re going to make some plays, the crowd is going to get into it, there might be some calls that don’t go your way. We have to do a better job of responding.” 

Oklahoma may present the best opportunity for the Longhorns to finally pick up a road victory tonight at 8 p.m. 

The Sooners come into the contest sitting at the bottom of Big 12 standings as a result of a seven-game losing skid. Oklahoma has been outscored by an average of more than 10 points during that span. 

Despite the struggles, Oklahoma has already shown that it can compete with Texas.

In their first matchup with the Longhorns, the Sooners led by five with only seconds remaining before the late heroics of freshman guard Andrew Jones helped Texas pull off a stunning comeback.  

Smart recalls how well the Sooners played during the matchup, particularly praising the play of freshman forward Kristian Doolittle.

“Yeah, those guys are good players, and I think they’re going to take an aggressive mentality because of how well they played last time,” Smart said. “Doolittle’s shown he’s capable — he’s got a good stroke, but he can also put the ball on the floor. He’s a matchup challenge.”

Texas will combat the Sooners’ talented freshman with its own duo of blossoming first-year players.   

Jones and freshman forward Jarrett Allen have stepped up to shoulder the offensive load for the Longhorns. Since the suspension of sophomore guard Tevin Mack, Allen has led the team in scoring, with Jones trailing not far behind.

Although Allen and Jones are both freshmen, Smart sees the progress they have made as teammates. 

“Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen are just getting to know each other, and those are the two guys playing better than anybody on our team,” Smart said. “I think those guys have a better chemistry than they did two, three months ago.”

The Longhorns will depend on two big performances from the freshmen in order to get the much-needed road win they have been desperately fighting for all season.