Trae Young

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: Carlos Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

ESPN’s College GameDay paid a visit, the Frank Erwin Center was sold out and the energy from the fans skyrocketed to a season-high during the Texas-Oklahoma game on Saturday evening. Why?

The Longhorns’ Mo Bamba and the Sooners’ Trae Young were in the building.

One is seven feet tall, the other stands at just 6-foot-2-inches. One excels in rejecting opponents’ shots and grabbing rebounds, while the other has made a name for himself with his uncanny passing ability and the ability to drain shots consistently from Stephen Curry range. But they share one key commonality: The two freshmen rank among the top players in the nation, destined to be selected in the forefront of the 2018 NBA Draft.

Bamba’s team won Saturday’s showdown, defeating Oklahoma, 79-74. Here’s how the two future NBA lottery picks performed individually:

Trae Young, Oklahoma

Young contributed to a plethora of the game’s early points for the Sooners. The freshman point guard recorded an assist in transition as the Sooners etched their name into the scoreboard first. Then, Young stunned the crowd by hitting an off-balance three on Oklahoma’s ensuing basket.

Young wasn’t money from long range on the night, shooting just 2-of-14 from beyond the arc. He accumulated only five first-half points and struggled with his jumper. But what makes a player like Young special is his ability to attack in other ways. His passing was stunning, and he was able to throw darts behind defenders’ backs and attack Texas’ defense with no-look assists in transition. The nation’s leader in assists dropped nine dimes in the first half and finished the evening with 14.

"I just try to find different ways to affect the game,” Young said. “My shot wasn't falling early, so I was trying to get everyone involved.”

The point guard matched his first-half points total less than two minutes into the second half. Young penetrated the lane numerous times, but his tendency to shoot in these situations increased in the game’s final 20 minutes. Young’s floaters were the primary source of his 19 points, but Texas’ Kerwin Roach II and Matt Coleman managed to limit him well below his season average of 30.3.

“One thing that he’s really improved on is his passing ability,” Bamba said of Young. “We did our job making it as tough as possible on him, and we came out victorious.”

Mo Bamba, Texas

Bamba collected most of his baskets in the win from point-blank range. He used his 7-foot-9-inches wingspan and capitalized on being the tallest player on the floor. The center from New York hauled in 13 points and a game-high nine rebounds over a mismatched Sooners team.

Bamba is one game removed from setting the single-season record for blocks at Texas, but the freshman tallied zero in the first half. An astounding 34 of Oklahoma’s 40 first-half points were pitched in from the paint. The Sooners often relied on speed and quick ball movement to defeat Bamba’s length and shot-altering ability — and it worked.

But Bamba adjusted and was a force to be reckoned with during the latter sequences of the game.

“Mo didn’t have his best offensive night, but he didn’t cave,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “He was a presence on the defensive end, and he did a very nice job in all the blitzes on pick-and-roll.”

Bamba’s first block nearly blew the roof off of the Erwin Center. It occurred right after the Longhorns surged from a 10-point deficit to tie the game at 52 apiece early in the second half. He then hauled in a key offensive board to retain possession while Texas was up two with two minutes left. But with 33 seconds left and a six-point advantage, Bamba perfected the highlight of the night.

The big man sealed the envelope on the game by catching an alley-oop from junior guard Eric Davis Jr. and finishing with an emphatic reverse jam. It brought the crowd of 15,533 to its feet and injected an unheard-of amount of energy into the Texas faithful.

“It was surreal,” Bamba said. “Eric told me before the game he was going to throw a lob. I looked at him, I read him, he didn’t want to throw it but he was like, ‘dang, I promised him,’ so he threw it. It was a little short, so I improvised.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

Freshman guard Matt Coleman stood near half court and raised his arms to the sold-out crowd. The Frank Erwin Center, as electric as it has been all season, erupted in response.

The display came on the heels of a furious Texas rally as the Longhorns erased a 10-point second-half deficit to upset No. 12 Oklahoma, 79-74, in the Red River Showdown on Saturday evening.

The Longhorns (15–8, 5–5 Big 12) trailed for all but seven minutes of the game before a late run earned them the victory. Coleman finished with a game-high 22 points, including a number of huge shots down the stretch to lead Texas to its third Big 12 home upset over a ranked opponent this season.

“The crowd tonight was phenomenal,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said. “They really gave us a lift, because our guys didn’t have great energy early on. There was a level of fatigue that our guys felt from a long week. But I’m proud that they found enough to be within striking distance for the whole game and to make that big run at the end and come back and win.”

Oklahoma freshman guard Trae Young was the focal point for the Longhorns on defense — and for the home crowd. The Frank Erwin Center erupted with boos as his name was called in the starting lineup, and the jeers lasted all night.

On the first possession for the Sooners, Young caught the ball in the corner and faced up. His hesitation move was quickly cut off on the baseline, and the arena went wild as he was forced to pass the ball back to the top.

But early on Young never so much as glanced at the sea of burnt orange and white.

Young sank a deep three early before getting into the lane for a high floater over freshman forward Mo Bamba. Moments later Young found an open shooter in the corner, and then a man under the basket in transition. The guard collected six assists in the opening 10 minutes as Oklahoma jumped out to a 24-17 lead.

On the other end Bamba struggled to find his shot. The forward coughed up an easy turnover on a move to the rim before getting stripped in the lane on the ensuing possession.

Bamba’s hesitance on both ends turned into easy Oklahoma baskets as the Sooners torched Texas in the paint in the first half.

The Longhorns’ biggest advantage suddenly became a glaring weakness as the team found itself unable to get a stop in the lane. Thirty-four of the Sooners’ first 40 points came under the rim as they pulled ahead on what seemed like an endless array of dunks and layups. Oklahoma entered the break ahead 40-35.

“Early in the game we were a step slow,” Smart said. “They were getting wherever they wanted. Trae Young had guys on ice skates. And they were getting into the paint for drop-offs and lob dunks. So it was about picking up our defensive energy.”

The second half saw Texas bring a renewed emphasis on offense.

The Longhorns began with a multi-action set that ended in a Bamba hook shot. The next time down the floor, the team ran a similar series of screens and cuts which led to an open jumper by freshman guard Jase Febres to cut the lead to three.

But Young came out firing. After the nation’s leading scorer dished out nine assists in the first half, the guard scored a quick five points before finding a man under the basket for another uncontested dunk.

The Sooners made it a double-digit lead with 16 minutes to play, and Smart was forced to take a timeout. The momentum had shifted firmly in the favor of Oklahoma as the sound of the arena fell to an uneasy murmur.

“We were down 10, and I felt like our spirit wasn’t great at that moment,” Coleman said. “We just needed something — a stop, a block, a steal, a dunk — something to get us over that hump. And we found something and ran with it.”

But as fast as the lead came, it went. A second-half rally, fueled by the roaring crowd, saw junior guard Kerwin Roach II answer with a three and Bamba hit a pair at the line to cut the lead to four.

Texas immediately switched to full-court pressure and forced a turnover, leading to more Roach free throws.

Junior forward Dylan Osetkowski tied the game at 66 with just over five minutes left in the game, before Coleman gave the Longhorns their first lead of the second half — a lead they would not relinquish.

The Sooners went ice-cold down the stretch with under two minutes to play as Texas extended the lead to four. Bamba iced the game on a reverse alley-oop, and Texas escaped with the upset.

“We just have each other’s backs, and it's working,” Roach said. “And that’s what separates us from any other team. We really do genuinely care for each other, and we just went out there and displayed it with our defense.”