Brock Cunningham was speechless when asked why No. 6 Texas struggled against Oklahoma State’s 2-3 zone in Saturday’s 75-67 double overtime loss.
The Longhorns shot just 5-of-35 from three-point range against the zone, designed to limit shots inside and force shots from three, and committed 21 turnovers in an ugly display of offense.
“I don’t have the answer to that one,” redshirt sophomore forward Cunningham said.
But even despite the struggles in their half-court offense, the Longhorns still had opportunity after opportunity to come out of Stillwater, Oklahoma, with a win. Oklahoma State star freshman Cade Cunningham missed two potential game-winning shots at the end of regulation and at the end of the first overtime.
But Texas couldn’t capitalize, going cold at the wrong time and shooting 0-for-12 from the field in both overtimes.
“For the most part, those are shots that I know we can make,” senior guard Matt Coleman said. “We were making the extra pass (and) making the right play. They just didn’t fall.”
Texas’s defense kept Saturday’s game close. Brock provided much-needed energy off the bench and helped force 22 Oklahoma State turnovers, leading to 22 points for Texas that would help keep the struggling offense afloat. The Longhorns held Cade, one of the top players in the nation, to 5-of-22 shooting and only 12 points in regulation.
But Oklahoma State would finally put the game away in the second overtime. After junior guard Courtney Ramey made two free throws to get Texas within 2 with 1:52 left, Cade rose up for an off-the-dribble three right over Ramey to give Oklahoma State a 72-67 lead.
Texas didn’t score again.
“We played hard enough and good enough on the defensive end to beat most teams in the country,” Brock said. “We just couldn’t put it together on the offensive end.”
In the first half, Oklahoma State center Kalib Boone gave Texas fits, scoring 22 points and leading the Cowboys to a big run to end the half. Texas led 23-14 before a 21-6 run by Oklahoma State left the Longhorns down six at halftime.
From that point on, the afternoon game turned into a sloppy slugfest, with both teams committing careless turnovers and failing to get a rhythm going against the opposing defense. On several plays, Texas players traveled while attacking a closeout. On others, a Longhorn had a foot out of bounds while receiving a pass in the dunker spot.
And on the majority of Texas’s offensive plays, it ended with a missed shot.
Texas’s trio of starting guards, Coleman, Ramey and redshirt junior Andrew Jones, combined for 10-of-49 shooting from the field and 3-26 shooting from the three-point line.
“Our three guards obviously had a tough, tough day offensively,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “We’re going to put the ball in their hands regardless of what we’re running and what we’re playing against. We’re going to live with them going and making plays … Today, we had a tough time with that.”
Saturday’s loss brought Texas to 11–5 and 5–4 in Big 12 conference play. The Longhorns have lost the last four of their five games after starting 10-1.
The good news is that they face Kansas State and TCU on Feb. 9 and Feb. 13, respectively. The two teams are a combined 4–15 in conference play.
“It’s time to be better,” Coleman said. “It’s time to take that next step, getting that mojo back and playing how we know we can play.”