Shaka Smart

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Just two days after Mo Bamba declared for the NBA Draft, Texas lost another piece of its 2017-18 rotation. Sophomore shooting guard Jacob Young has announced on Twitter that he is transferring from the program.

“Thanks to the coaches, teammates, and staff. After my past two years of experiences at UT, I am transferring. I wish Coach Smart and his program all the best. Jacob Young,” he tweeted Thursday afternoon.

Young, primarily a three-point specialist, averaged 6.2 points per game in his sophomore year while shooting 32.3 percent beyond the arc. Although Young endured limited minutes at the beginning of the season, the loss of several backcourt members including Andrew Jones and Eric Davis Jr. spiked the Houston native’s minutes. During the final six contests of the year, Young averaged 13.3 points per game in increased playing time.

The shooting guard more than doubled his career-high during a 29-point scoring barrage on Texas Tech during the second round of the Big 12 Tournament. In the 4-point loss, he drained a personal-best six threes and kept a shorthanded Texas team competitive with the Red Raiders. Young’s 29 from that night mark the best scoring output for a Longhorn since Isaiah Taylor tallied 35 on Jan. 2, 2016.

Young played 40 minutes in Texas’ 87-83 overtime loss to Nevada in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament this year. The heartbreaking defeat in Nashville was Young’s final game as a Longhorn.

“I appreciate all of the effort that Jacob has given to our University over the past two seasons,” head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “Jacob has been a valuable contributor to our program, and we wish him and his family the very best moving forward.”

Recruited out of Yates High School, Young received offers from Texas, Baylor and Duquesne. His older brother Joe Young — a point guard for the Indiana Pacers — also transferred (to Oregon) after two seasons at his original, in-state program (Houston).

Young’s current destination remains unknown at this time.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A 14-point second-half lead, career performances by guards Matt Coleman and Kerwin Roach II and a lopsided height advantage in the paint — the 10-seeded Texas Longhorns had everything pointed in their favor in the second half of their opening March Madness game against 7-seeded Nevada.

But minute by minute, the Wolf Pack scratched, clawed and erased the Longhorns’ dreams of attaining their first tournament victory since 2014.

A dejected Texas team trotted off the court empty-handed, wondering about the what-ifs and could-haves. The season concluded to the tune of an 87-83 overtime loss to Nevada.

“In a game like today, we need to add one or two more winning plays,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “That's the difference. One more stop, one more rebound. It's a cruel, hard assessment. But in games like this that go in overtime — and we've been in as many as anyone in the country — one play does make the difference.”

Nevada’s impeccable 6-of-6 shooting in the overtime period completed the Wolf Pack’s dramatic comeback over the Longhorns in Nashville. But to even get to the overtime period, Nevada asserted its physicality in the final seconds, down 68-67.

Just 3.8 seconds away from defeat, Nevada power forward Jordan Caroline showed no fear of freshman center Mo Bamba, posting the 7-footer up and drawing a crucial foul call in the paint. Bamba, who entered halftime with zero fouls, fouled out in presumably his final collegiate game.

Caroline’s first free throw bricked off the back iron. His second, with the season on the line, sunk through the fibers of the net. The Longhorns turned the ball over on an errant inbounds pass, giving Nevada an unlikely chance to win in regulation.

Caleb Martin airballed the buzzer-beating three, but that would be the Wolf Pack’s final miss from the floor Friday evening.

“I just think that us fighting and Jordan going up and hitting the big free throw to tie it up to go into overtime gave us confidence,” Nevada small forward Caleb Martin said. “You could kind of tell when we walked back on the floor, you could tell the energy of (Texas) was low.”

Despite Bamba’s absence, overtime opened up in a favorable manner for the Longhorns. Coleman, who had a career-high 25 points, drilled a three on the first possession and Roach, who finished with a career-high 26, followed it up with his second 4-point play of the day — nailing a triple from the corner and drawing contact.

“During (overtime), I was just trying to impact, you know, rub some energy off my teammates, try and impact the game as much as possible even from the sideline,” Bamba said.

Texas led 77-73, but Nevada’s long-distance shooting caught fire at the optimal time.

“Across the board, we just got guys that have played in hostile environments,” Nevada point guard Kendall Stephens said of the chaotic start to overtime. “We've been there before so we know that all we need is a chance. We're confident. Once we get back down the court, we're able to score effectively, and that's what we did.”

The Wolf Pack converted on three Caleb Martin threes in the extended period, creating disarray in Texas’ defense. Trailing 85-80, Roach wound up connecting on an NBA range three, but the clock did not allow for enough time for Texas to charge back from the deficit.

Nevada continues dancing Sunday in the second round against Cincinnati, while Texas laments on how a nine-point halftime lead and a 14-point second-half advantage with 18:42 to go evaporated so rapidly. From the 17:59 mark until 2:26 remained in overtime, the winning team did not lead once.

“Being up nine in an NCAA tournament game, you know the other team's going to really do everything they can to make a run,” Smart said. “Obviously, at that point, (Nevada) had nothing to lose. They were behind, they were attacking and we just didn't do enough to match them.”

Texas finished its season at 19–15, still without a tournament win over a higher-seeded team since 2002. The Longhorns’ roller coaster season, which featured an NCAA-high eight overtime games, concluded in Nashville.

Photo Credit: Angel Ulloa | Daily Texan Staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Country and rock music echo through the streets of downtown Nashville as basketball fans previously dispersed across the nation flock together to Bridgestone Arena for a weekend full of March Madness.

For many Texas players, this will be their first rodeo. The Longhorns were devoid of college basketball’s biggest stage last March, but head coach Shaka Smart powered his young roster to 19 wins, drawing a 10-seed in the 68-team bracket. Now, the third-year head coach is searching for his first win in the tournament since stepping into the job in Austin back in 2015.

Assuming junior shooting guard Eric Davis Jr. does not play, junior swingman Kerwin Roach II is responsible for all 12 total minutes of tournament experience in Texas’ supply. But what Texas (19–14) lacks in experience, it makes up for in its formidable frontcourt duo of two newcomers — junior power forward Dylan Osetkowski and freshman center Mo Bamba, both ready to guide Texas to its first tournament victory since 2014.

“You look at some of the Texas greats like KD (Kevin Durant) and T.J. Ford and the legacy they left on the program is mainly based on what they did in March,” Bamba said. “The opportunity and the platform is there for me now. It's just my time to seize it.”

Bamba, who has been battling a toe injury for several weeks, claims he is “100 percent” for the Round of 64 contest against 7-seed Nevada (27–7) after playing just 14 minutes in Texas’ two-game Big 12 Tournament run. The NBA Draft hopeful is poised for a productive day against the mismatched Wolf Pack. Bamba stands 7-feet tall, while Nevada doesn’t boast a single player on its roster above the height of 6-foot-7.

“When that ball goes up in the air, (having something to prove is) what it's really about,” Smart said. “And (Bamba’s) very motivated. One of the things that we've tried to help him understand this season is some of the guys you're going up against on a night in, night out basis, they're a lot better than maybe you thought they were coming in.”

Texas cannot afford to overlook the higher-seeded, regular season Mountain West champion Nevada, who fell victim to a 90-73 thrashing from San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament. The Wolf Pack operate a high-octane, quick-tempoed offense, ranking 17th in the nation scoring 83.1 points per game. Nevada shoots the three-ball at a much higher rate (39.8 percent) than Texas (31.5), so Friday afternoon’s clash on the hardwood will be a struggle between differentiating styles.

“We like to say we're cosmetically pleasing at times, getting the ball up the floor as fast as we can and spacing out,” Nevada coach Eric Musselman said. “Having said that, we've got to be better than them for one game, for 40 minutes. But yeah, they're long and we're not.”

Nevada presents several challenges for the Longhorns, one of which includes guarding the duo of brothers Caleb and Cody Martin. The identical twins combine for 32.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game. Shaka Smart attempted to recruit the two during his VCU tenure, but the twins instead committed to NC State, before transferring west and landing in Reno.

“The challenges that they present, they're extremely versatile,” Smart said. “They play every position for (Nevada) because of the way they play. But both of them, their natural position is kind of small forward, big wing. That's one spot we don't have.”

Smart continued on how vital the twins’ contributions are to the current state of Nevada basketball, claiming their numbers would be in the rafters had they come to VCU.

“Caleb is a phenomenal scorer. He's always been wired to score. He's extremely confident. He really gets going. His first step is very, very fast,” Smart said. “Cody is as versatile as there is in college basketball. He literally can do anything you ask a guy to do on the court, rebound, defend, play point guard, initiate offense, shoot, drive, post up. Whatever you need.”

But Smart will play the cards he was dealt to counter Nevada’s quickness, including freshman point guard Matt Coleman. Coleman’s development from November to present day has been noteworthy, and plenty of pressure will be on the 20-year old freshman to ensure Texas’ backcourt does enough to advance past Nevada and earn a ticket to the second round against Cincinnati or Georgia State on Sunday.

“As a point guard, I always want to find ways to get my big fellas involved here,” Coleman said. “So I'm going to do everything I can to always make sure their presence is felt offensively and defensively. If it's giving them the ball, making them run the floor, just getting them involved.”

Despite the team’s status as a 10-seed, the Longhorns are already dreaming big of what their 18th tournament appearance in 20 years could culminate to — a trip to San Antonio for the Final Four. Texas’ road to the Final Four starts Friday at 3:30 p.m.

“Personally, I would love to have that feeling of being a freshman, going all the way to the Final Four,” Coleman said. “That's what you dream of. You dream of playing in March and having an opportunity to actually be here is why not make the best of it?”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

According to an updated bracket from ESPN, Texas and USC are expected to face off for a play-in game to the NCAA Tournament. After a big overtime win against No. 20 West Virginia this past Saturday, the Longhorns now stand with a record of 18–13 and a conference record of 8–10. This has been another up-and-down season for head coach Shaka Smart’s team, but the Longhorns still have this week’s Big 12 Tournament left to help with their March Madness hopes.

The seventh-seeded Longhorns tip off Wednesday evening against 10th-seeded Iowa State in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament. If the Longhorns are upset by the Cyclones, a team Texas beat twice this year, it could hurt their chances to even make it into the NCAA Tournament. There is additional concern heading into the game since freshman forward Mo Bamba is still nursing his sprained toe, which caused him to miss the West Virginia game.

Smart is in his third season with Texas. After making the NCAA Tournament in his first season, Texas took a step back last year and finished with an 11–22 record. The Longhorns have been up-and-down this season, but Smart knows his team still can finish the season strong.

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Nine short days ago, the Longhorns were on the NCAA Tournament bubble fighting for their lives. 

Texas needed two wins in its final three regular season games, and a late-season toe injury to freshman forward Mo Bamba threatened to derail any shot at a tournament bid. 

But the injury to Bamba hasn’t been all bad for the Longhorns.

Texas rose to the occasion, winning two of its final three games. In the process, the Longhorns also found a future star: freshman forward Jericho Sims.

“My future is bright,” Sims said. “I am going to have a good career here. I’m just going to keep having to, whether it is this season or the season after that, just keep on improving each year.”

Fans were treated to the Sims show on Saturday as Texas upset then-No. 20 West Virginia at home in the final game of the regular season. There, Sims rocked the rim on not one but five separate occasions, any of which could have been featured on ESPN’s nightly highlight reel. 

Sims has emerged, not just as a stand-in, but as a formidable force in his own right. 

Texas head coach Shaka Smart sees it — and coaches around the Big 12 see it, too.

“Sims is going to be really, really, really, really good in the not too distant future,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton Jr. said after Texas’ 65-64 win over the Cowboys in Austin on Feb. 24. “Shows you the type of job Shaka has done in continuing to recruit high-level guys. So even when a guy who is likely going to be a top-five pick goes down, you can still find a way to sustain and overcome.”

Sims is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds in his last three games while shooting 69 percent from the floor. On Monday, he was named the Big 12 newcomer of the week. 

Bamba, the team’s transcendental talent, averages 13 points and 10 rebounds on the season. 

Sims has been more efficient than Bamba while maintaining similar production. He has even matched Bamba’s ability to get the crowd involved with awe-inspiring plays. 

Sims and Bamba came to Texas under very different circumstances. Sims is the future of Texas — a raw talent with a high ceiling. Bamba is a one-and-done prospect for whom the 40 Acres is a brief stop before professional play. 

Sims is remarkably soft-spoken for a guy standing nearly 7 feet tall. He is a man of few words, but he maintains an air of quiet confidence. Sims and Smart have developed a close relationship off the court. 

And that relationship was a big reason why Sims chose Texas. 

“(Shaka) has described it like coaches are like parents,” Sims said. “And I think that is very true. I think that he has really made me feel comfortable here — Texas away from home. One of the reasons I came here was because I thought he was kind of like me, a guy I could relate to.”

Coming out of Minneapolis’ Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Sims had to transition from competing against small-school, Division 1A talent to facing off with the top centers every week in the deepest conference in the nation. 

Smart joked that the teams Sims played against back in Minnesota looked like “me and four of you guys,” gesturing to reporters. 

Even compared to the other freshman, Sims acknowledged that his transition was particularly difficult. A fact that has made his rapid development all the more remarkable. 

Smart has pushed Sims hard to make that happen.

“He is just scratching the tip of what he is going to be able to do,” Smart said. “He’s had a good amount of opportunity his freshman year, but it is a whole different story when Mo is not in there. Now you need him in there 30-something minutes a game, and I think that he has really embraced that. I like the way he’s attacked things.”

The team’s forwards have pushed each other as well. The group often competes one-on-one during practice. Sims said Bamba or junior forward Dylan Osetkowski usually win — but not always. 

“Sometimes I win,” Sims said with a smile. 

Sims’ teammates know what he is capable of, and they aren’t surprised by his breakout. After Sims’ recent success, junior guard Kerwin Roach II issued a warning to the rest of the conference that the flourishing forward isn’t going anywhere. 

In fact, he’s just getting started. 

“I always tell Jericho that he is cold,” Roach said. “Mo is out, but Jericho is going to step up in his place and he is going to make some noise. And you are going to see his name a lot. So be ready for it.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns’ thrilling, last-second victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon was largely overshadowed by the fallout from documents from a federal investigation published Friday in an explosive Yahoo Sports report on corruption in college basketball.

The report asserted that junior guard Eric Davis Jr. received improper benefits in the form of a $1,500 loan from ASM Sports. UT athletic director Chris Del Conte announced Friday evening that Davis will not play “for precautionary reasons until further notice” while Texas investigates the situation.

Texas was one of more than 20 Division I programs involved in the federal investigation, including North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, Alabama and USC.

A number of high-profile active players were also linked to receiving improper benefits, among those included Michigan State’s Miles Bridges and Duke’s Wendell Carter — potential future NBA lottery picks.

Texas head coach Shaka Smart released a statement on the situation, stating, “I am, and always have been, fully committed to ensuring that our program operates within NCAA rules.”

After Saturday’s victory, Smart and several Texas players spoke publicly about the situation for the first time. Smart reaffirmed his condemnation of the alleged actions, but acknowledged the importance of the discussion they raised.

“Things need to change, and people need to follow the rules better,” Smart said. “We have a long haul ahead of us as a sport — to figure out what the right thing to do is moving forward. There is no easy answer. There is no quick fix.”

Davis continues to practice with the team, but he did not suit up against the Cowboys and will likely not play in the team’s final two regular season games. For now, his future remains in limbo as Texas conducts an internal investigation.

The new information only further stirs the conversation about the role of the NCAA and the student-athlete. The topic remains one of the long-standing and hotly debated issues in collegiate athletics.

“The stuff that has been on the media, obviously it sheds light on something that, as a sport, we need to address and improve,” Smart said. “I don’t have all the answers, but I know there is going to need to be a lot of change.”

Texas players, when asked, offered a more straightforward solution.

“Pay to play is how I feel,” junior guard Kerwin Roach II said. “I feel like if that happens, a lot of allegations and a lot of scandals and all that would be taken care of. But you just have to find a way where everyone gets paid evenly and there won’t be any problems in the NCAA.”

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski echoed that sentiment.

“I’m not going to say too much about it. But like (Roach) said, I think we should get paid,” Osetkowski said.

And does Osetkowski think it’ll happen?

“Someday.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

It was a movie that many Texas and Oklahoma State fans have seen before — but the sequel reversed the roles.

On Jan. 13 in Stillwater, Texas led Oklahoma State by double digits in the second half, but a late Cowboys’ run swung the entire momentum of the game. On the final shot of the game, Oklahoma State claimed an unlikely 65-64 victory.

Down 64-63 as the seconds dwindled down on Saturday afternoon at the Frank Erwin Center, Texas junior shooting guard Kerwin Roach II navigated around the court, then crossed over on a dime and pursued the basket driving down the left side of the hardwood. A potential shot-blocker, Oklahoma State power forward Mitchell Solomon, stood in his way. Roach switched to the right hand mid-air to avoid Solomon and finished with an acrobatic, buzzer-beating layup with 1.2 seconds left.

Against all odds, Texas escaped a dramatic afternoon with an identical 65-64 victory.

“Coach just believed in me to go ahead and play and get the winning bucket,” Roach said. “At one point, I thought I (had to give it up), but I just wanted to see what I could do.”

The Longhorns’ bizarre win over Oklahoma State on Saturday can best be described as a pitch-black indoor roller coaster. Right when it seemed as if the Longhorns (17–12, 7–9 Big 12) would plummet into the ground, a launch of momentum would springboard them right back into the game. But at the final buzzer, Texas rose out of a freefall, gaining enough energy to claim its 17th win.

“In a lot of ways, it was the opposite of what happened at their place,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “Our guys did a good job of staying together down the stretch. We had some different lineups in there that we hadn’t played a lot this year, and we just were able to make one more play.”

Texas came out flat at the beginning of each half. The Longhorns didn’t register their first field goal of the game until the 15:01 mark of the first half. Texas eventually rallied to lead by eight points, but an Oklahoma State three at the first-half buzzer to make the score 33-28 sparked the start of a dominant Cowboys’ run.

Texas’ second half somehow started worse. Freshman forward Jericho Sims’ free throws with 16:34 left were the team’s first points of the half, but Texas’ first field goal didn’t even occur until junior power forward Dylan Osetkowski scored on a post move with 13:07 left. During those seven minutes, Oklahoma State spurred a 17-2 run to secure a lead as great as 10 points.

“To start the second half, there was one stretch of the game where the spirit got away from us,” Smart said. “We didn’t have the same energy and they were able to get on a run. When they got up 10, we fought back and guys made plays.”

But after all of the energy had seemingly drained, Texas recovered once more. With the absence of freshman center Mo Bamba (toe injury) in the second half, unlikely heroes, including Sims and sophomore shooting guard Jacob Young, helped claw Texas back to tie the game. A jumper by freshman point guard Matt Coleman vaulted the Longhorns ahead with 3:09 left.

“Stepping up is just my role,” Young said. “I have to step up because Andrew’s not here, Mo is out, Eric Davis is out. They basically just picked me up and allowed me to do that.”

The final 100 seconds ushered in six lead changes, as the two teams traded floaters and close jumpers to steal one-point leads from each other. Oklahoma State point guard Kendall Smith converted go-ahead shots on back-to-back possessions, including one to lift the Cowboys ahead, 64-63, with 22 seconds left.

But a determined Roach provided closing duties. Despite his 4-for-14 day from the floor, Roach didn’t waver as he converted a game-winner for the ages, turning the Erwin Center from a silent house into a grounds for celebration in the Longhorns’ penultimate home game of the season.

Sophomore guard Eric Davis Jr. is averaging 11 points over his last conference six conference games, after struggling with shooting for most of the season. Davis has helped Texas capture three wins in its past five games. 

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Texas announced Friday evening that junior guard Eric Davis Jr. will be withheld from playing for the Longhorns “until further notice.”

The news comes in response to a Yahoo Sports report released Friday morning, which obtained documents and records from a recent federal investigation that lists Texas as one of several college basketball programs that has former and/or current players who have allegedly received improper benefits.

“We have initiated an internal review of the recent report that included allegations involving current and former University of Texas men’s basketball players,” Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a statement. “We are in the process of gathering facts, but I did meet with Eric Davis Jr. this afternoon and let him know we are withholding him from competition for precautionary reasons until further notice, pending the review of this situation.

“Winning with integrity is paramount to Texas Athletics, and we take these allegations very seriously,” Del Conte continued. “We expect all of our programs to comply with NCAA rules, and every year we have all of our student-athletes sign forms attesting they will follow those rules. Beyond that, we put a great deal of effort and resources into educating our coaches and student-athletes on NCAA rules and regulations. Our compliance department is constantly monitoring and communicating with our coaches and student-athletes, as we are in this case.

“We will continue to work through this recent development and provide further updates when we have the necessary information to do so.”

Davis is one of seven active college basketball players implicated in the report. Davis received $1,500 from ASM Sports, according to the report. Current players from Alabama, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, South Carolina and USC were also singled out by the FBI.

Ex-Texas center Prince Ibeh (2012-16) was also one of several former college players named in the report for either meeting with or having a meal with ASM Sports agent Christian Dawkins.

Davis has logged 26.2 minutes per game for Texas this season. He filled sophomore Andrew Jones’ place as the starting shooting guard after Jones was diagnosed with leukemia in January. Davis ranks sixth on the team in scoring with 8.8 points per game and leads the Longhorns with 40 converted 3-point attempts.

“I became aware of the report late last evening,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “I had no previous knowledge of the alleged extra benefits described in the report. I am working with our athletic department staff and am prepared to cooperate fully with the investigation into this matter.

“I am, and always have been, fully committed to ensuring that our program operates within NCAA rules. Our staff has always been very direct and thorough in educating our student-athletes about the specific parameters regarding agents.”

Texas plays Oklahoma State at the Frank Erwin Center on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Longhorns will have to shorten their already-tight rotation as the program sidelines Davis until the University gathers more information on the subject. Del Conte and Texas will err on the side of caution to prevent or limit possible NCAA penalty, especially in light of recent NCAA violations bestowed upon Louisville.

Photo Credit: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

A three-game losing streak paired with a trip to Norman to battle No. 23 Oklahoma didn’t appear to be an appetizing meal for Texas’ plate.

But with the Longhorns’ season seemingly pushed to the brink, Texas head coach Shaka Smart’s squad made a concerted effort and played the best brand of basketball the program has seen since the Longhorns’ win over Oklahoma in Austin on Feb. 3.

Texas completed the season sweep over the Sooners on Saturday with a 77-66 road victory — the program’s first win in Norman since 2012. The Longhorns (16–11, 6–8 Big 12) completed a rare wire-to-wire win and surged in the second half on a 12-0 run from about the 13-minute mark to the 9-minute mark to spoil Oklahoma’s Saturday in front of its home fans. Oklahoma has now lost five in a row.

Smart recycled several key strategies that vaulted Texas over Oklahoma back on Feb. 3.

The primary way to beat the Sooners is to lock down the likely Naismith Award winner, Trae Young. The star freshman point guard scored 26 points on Saturday, but for the second time this season, the Longhorns forced him to earn those points in an inefficient manner.

Young shot 33 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three. It wasn’t until Texas had built a comfortable lead in the second half that Young connected on his first triple, ending a cold streak of 20 consecutive misses from long range.

The Longhorns employed freshman point guard Matt Coleman and junior guard Kerwin Roach II as the chief “Trae Young stoppers.” The two played incredible defense and didn’t allow anything easy from beyond the arc, where Oklahoma shot 8-of-30 as a team. Roach and Coleman combined for 23 points, but Texas received its greatest offensive boost from a familiar contributor.

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski had struggled with his shot lately, faring 14-of-49 in his last five games. But the junior finally delivered the critical performance Texas fans have been longing for with a 21-point, six-rebound outing.

Although his shooting efficiency and resurgence from beyond the arc showed up in the stat sheet, Osetkowski’s game was defined by his hustle. He anchored key sequences in the second half, including rejecting a 3-pointer that led to a fast break, collecting a key offensive rebound and finishing with a momentum-swinging dunk to stave off an Oklahoma comeback with five minutes to go.

With Osetkowski returning to his high offensive caliber from nonconference play, Mo Bamba wasn’t relied on as much offensively. But the touted freshman center corralled a season-high 18 rebounds and stuffed four Oklahoma shots in the 11-point victory. Bamba’s interior presence, combined with the Coleman-Roach backcourt combo, hampered Oklahoma’s ability to score from anywhere on the court.

The win is especially vital for a multitude of reasons. Texas’ tournament odds sharply increased after knocking down another ranked opponent. The Longhorns now share the same conference record as the Sooners (6–8) and match them in the overall win column (16), inching Texas closer to the upper tier of the Big 12.

Texas failed to build momentum after its last victory over Oklahoma, but Smart knows the Longhorns cannot afford to release their foot from the gas pedal in the team’s final four games of the regular season if they want to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

Texas can sustain this level of play, but it'll require a collective effort from the team’s starters, as evidenced by Saturday’s win. The Longhorns take the floor again on Wednesday night when they face Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas, hoping to avenge a home loss to the Wildcats on Feb. 7.

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

One play away, and it changed everything. 

Tension lingered in the air at the Frank Erwin Center on Monday night. Frustration overwhelmed several members of the Texas roster following the Longhorns’ 74-73 double-overtime loss to Baylor. A chair was punched, and a players-only meeting was held immediately after the game.

“We were one play away,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said after the loss. “When it doesn’t go your way, you have to immediate analyze why and how to get better.”

After over 49 minutes of fighting and almost clawing their way to a much-needed victory, the Longhorns saw their brief 73-72 lead in double overtime dissipate before their eyes when Baylor guard Manu Lecomte’s layup rattled off the rim and into the waiting hands of Baylor center Jo Lual-Acuil Jr., who rose up for an uncontested putback slam.

The clock’s life was limited to just 10 ticks, and Texas was unable to respond, allowing Baylor to prevail in Austin.

Lual-Acuil’s dunk meant a lot more to this Longhorns team than just a devastating home loss. It meant their season.

After a statement victory over then-No. 12 Oklahoma in front of a sellout home crowd, Texas had everything trending in its favor. But in the nine days after, the Longhorns dropped three straight games, including two home games to teams equal or lower to Texas in the Big 12 standings at the time.

On Monday morning, prior to the Baylor game, Joe Lunardi, ESPN’s chief “bracketologist,” listed Texas as a 10-seed in his projected NCAA Tournament bracket. But after Monday’s loss, it appears unlikely that the 15–11 Longhorns can sneak into the tournament, which seemed to be a certainty just a month ago.

Texas’ upcoming schedule consists of five games: three are on the road, three are against ranked opponents and four are against opponents Texas has already lost to this year. Road games against No. 23 Oklahoma and No. 13 Kansas seem like longshots with the way this Texas team has played away from Austin this season. No. 20 West Virginia, which shredded Texas by 35 points in the teams’ first meeting, will pay a visit to Austin in the regular season finale.

The lingering question is this: how many games can Texas (15–11, 5–8 Big 12) afford to lose?

One way the Longhorns can clinch a tournament bid involves winning the Big 12 conference tournament in early March. But a more likely way is to earn a coveted at-large bid. In 2017, just four teams with less than 20 victories secured at-large bids, with Vanderbilt sporting the worst record at 19–15.

But the biggest problem with Texas dropping games to Kansas State and Baylor — especially in its own arena — is that the Longhorns are feeding and providing fuel to their at-large competition. Texas now possesses worse conference and overall records than Kansas State and Baylor and the same record as Oklahoma State — the latter of the three aren’t even in Lunardi’s field of 68 yet.

Texas failed to separate itself from this competition, compiling an 0–4 record against the aforementioned opponents this season. And in most of those games, Texas was, as Smart said Monday night, just one play away.

If Texas doesn’t hear its name called on Selection Sunday on March 11, they’ll likely lament on all of the game-changing plays that cost the team from creating greater gap between the win and loss columns. 

Allowing two offensive rebounds and a game-winning tip-in against Oklahoma State in Stillwater, allowing an offensive rebound and a game-winning putback dunk versus Baylor on Monday, missing a potential game-winning free throw versus Duke and blowing a four-point lead in the last 50 seconds against Texas Tech in Lubbock are just a handful of sequences that could come back to haunt Texas.

Texas is 2–4 in one-possession games and 2–4 in overtime games this season. Perhaps struggling to closeout those games could provide a different, frightening closeout to Texas’ 2017–18 season — the NIT.