The Longhorns are going back to Oklahoma this weekend for the second time in five days with a chance to further expand their NCAA tournament resume.
Texas visits Oklahoma State on Saturday looking to extend its four-game winning streak. Texas is fresh off an 11-point win at Oklahoma on Tuesday and will face OSU (12-14) for the second time this season when they meet at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.
The Longhorns (17-9) are playing their best ball of the season — and at the right time — with the end of the Big 12 season fast approaching. Texas is in better shape now than it was two weeks ago before rattling off four straight wins. UT sits alone in fifth place in the conference with a 7-6 record and remains on the bubble for an invitation to the program’s 14th straight NCAA tournament appearance.
But Texas still needs at least two more wins to have a chance at an at-large bid.
“I can assure you that nobody is going to talk their way into the NCAA tournament,” head coach Rick Barnes said. “In another two-and-a-half to three weeks, you’re going to have a resume, and you’re either good enough or you’re not.”
The final five Big 12 games on the Longhorns’ schedule include tests against No. 9 Baylor at home on Monday and No. 4 Kansas on the road in the regular season finale on March 3.
“We’ve got enough games to prove that we are good enough,” Barnes added. “And we’ve got a choice to make. If we want to do it, it’s there for us. I think it’s that simple. You’ve got to earn it.”
Still, Texas can’t become content with a four-game streak. There are no guarantees at this point, and each game has more importance than the previous.
“I don’t think we’re there yet, in terms of what we have to do to get where we want to go, until we understand it’s tough,” said Barnes, who has 19 NCAA tournament appearances in 25 seasons as a head coach. “We have to understand the urgency.”
OSU is 5-8 in the Big 12, but the Cowboys are a formidable team at home, where they are 9-3 overall. The Pokes upset then No. 2 Missouri, 79-72, in Stillwater on Jan. 25 but have gone 2-4 since.
“We’ve played well at times and other times we haven’t,” said OSU head coach Travis Ford. “It’s kind of who we are at this point.”
The Longhorns, though, haven’t been defeated since they lost to Mizzou, 67-66, on Jan. 30.
UT has turned its season around with free throws and rebounds. The Longhorns have made 98 of 127 free throws (77.2 percent) and limited opponents to just 63 attempts over the last four games. Texas is also averaging 35 rebounds per game against 29.3 for the competition over that span.
UT has won 11 of the last 12 meetings with OSU, including two straight. The Longhorns are 7-6 in Stillwater under Barnes.
Printed on Friday, February 17, 2012 as: Second road trip to Oklahoma provides opportunity for win