STILLWATER, Okla. — Tell the coach of any team remaining on the Oklahoma State men’s basketball schedule that his team will get star OSU freshman Cade Cunningham in foul trouble and hold him under 23 percent shooting, and that coach likely would feel very optimistic about the chances of knocking off the Cowboys.
The Longhorns did just that Saturday afternoon at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Cunningham was relegated to the bench for much of the first half with a pair of fouls and just three points at the intermission. But after the teams ended up tied at the end of regulation, the Longhorns failed to make a single field goal in two overtime periods and fell, 75-67.
The loss was the fourth in the last five games for No. 6 Texas, which fell to 11-5 and 5-4 in Big 12 games, while the Cowboys improved to 12-5 and evened their conference record at 5-5. A couple of weeks after climbing as high as No. 4 in the country in the Associated Press rankings, the Longhorns are now fifth in the Big 12 standings.
“Give Oklahoma State credit for the way they battled and fought,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought both teams showed a lot of fight throughout the second half.
“There was too many possessions where we lost poise and turned the ball over, and obviously in a close game, every one of those matters.”
The game plan for any team starts with containing Cunningham, who finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, two steals, two assists and a blocked shot — a stat line most players would gladly accept against any opponent. But for the player many anticipate will be the first selected in the next NBA Draft, Saturday’s performance was sub-standard. He shot just 5-of-22, including just 2-of-17 inside the three-point line, often forcing ill-advised shots while double- and even triple-teamed, and coughed up six turnovers. In the final seconds of the first overtime period, he stole an inbound pass by UT’s Brock Cunningham under the Oklahoma State basket … and missed a would-be game-winning shot from four feet out.
But the Longhorns were unable to take advantage of Cade Cunningham’s sub-par performance. UT shot 29.4 percent in the first half and a barely-better 30.3 percent in the second, and misfired on all 12 field goals attempted in the two overtimes.
“We obviously didn’t play with the level of poise we needed to have on offense,” Smart said. “We missed a lot of shots, which, you know … I think, mostly, were very good looks. Obviously we’d love to have some of those shots back, but the 21 turnovers is way too many. I thought our guys defended really well, for the most part in the second half, but there were some crucial possessions where we just didn’t finish the way we needed to.”
Andrew Jones led the Texas offense with 17 points, one of three Longhorns who scored in double figures, along with Courtney Ramey, who scored 13 points, and forward Kai Jones, who added 11. But the three starting Texas guards — Jones, Ramey and Matt Coleman — combined to hit just 10 of 49 shots from the floor. The team’s top three scorers this year have shot a combined 42.2 percent from the floor this year; that number dropped to just 20.4 percent in Saturday’s game.
“Our three guards — obviously, they had a tough, tough day, offensively,” Smart said. “We’re going to put the ball in their hands, regardless of what we’re running, and (who) we’re playing against. We’re going to live with them making plays, for each other and for their other teammates. Today we had a tough time with that.
“Andrew Jones shot 13 threes. I like him shooting wide-open threes. It wasn’t his day, but on most days, we’re going to have a lot of success if you get those kind of shots. Today, we obviously didn’t make enough, and again, the turnovers … put those two things together (and) it’s really hard to win.”
The Longhorns will try to get back on track at 7 p.m. Tuesday when they take on Kansas State in a game that can be seen on Big 12 Now / ESPN+.