Following the Longhorns’ 72-59 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon, Texas head coach Rick Barnes summed up his team’s performance in three words before elaborating on the state of Texas basketball.
“I was baffled,” Barnes said. “That wasn’t a pretty game any way you look at it.”
After gaining a three-point lead early in the first half, the Longhorns (10-13, 2-8) fell victim to heavy defensive pressure from the Cowboys (17-5, 7-3) in yet another conference letdown.
Texas entered halftime trailing by seven points, holding the Cowboys to 32 percent field goal shooting, but freshman point guard Javan Felix’s four first-half turnovers kept the Longhorns from getting anything going offensively.
“Javan played his worst game by far this year,” Barnes said.
Felix eventually fouled out in the second half, but not before coughing the ball up eight times and recording just one assist in 27 minutes.
Ioannis Papapetrou led Texas in scoring for the first time this season with 15 points. Papapetrou has shown promise as of late, scoring in double figures in six of the last eight games. Only one other Longhorn, Demarcus Holland, reached double digits as the freshman added a career-high 13 points. Texas’ leading scorer Sheldon McClellan failed to score a basket until nine minutes remained in the game, and finished with just four points.
“We don’t play as a team,” Papapetrou said. “Guys worry about themselves, who’s getting the most minutes or their personal stats, but it’s a team game.”
Youth has played a role in the Longhorns’ downward turn this year, but the Cowboys aren’t too much older of a team. Freshman Marcus Smart, who had played five times prior in the Erwin Center, led the Cowboys with 23 points in what might as well have been a homecoming game.
“It felt good coming back,” Smart said. “I played on this court a lot during the State Championship so I was comfortable out there.”
Texas has lacked any sort of continuity from one game to the next and its inconsistency was on display once again against Oklahoma State. Although the Longhorns scored 19 points off 17 Cowboys turnovers, the Texas post players were manhandled on the offensive glass and pressured into making mistakes far too often.
Now that his 23-game suspension has been served, sophomore point guard Myck Kabongo is slated to make his season debut Wednesday night at home against Iowa State. After Felix’s last outing, Kabongo’s presence will be welcomed by Texas.
“Myck will definitely start Wednesday,” said Barnes. “He has been our hardest worker all year and he’s dying to play. There’s no doubt he has to start.”
According to Barnes, Holland has also earned a starting role moving forward due to his defensive prowess and improved decision-making.
With eight regular-season games remaining, Texas has an opportunity to string a few wins together, but the schedule remains difficult. Even TCU — by consensus the conference's worst team — knocked off Kansas this week.
“I told the guys that they were going to be graded in three ways,” Barnes said. “First is their effort. Second is how fearless they are on the court during games and third is if they actually want to be coached. You have to want to be coached in order to improve.”