The impossible happened Wednesday.
Holding a 22-point lead with less than eight minutes to go, Oklahoma’s win seemed to be written in stone.
After all, this was the Texas team that had made a habit of coughing up late-game leads, and that had been run out of the gym by Kansas and Kansas State recently. Oklahoma was a team fighting for NCAA tournament seeding. There was no way it was going to let a lead like that get away.
The game was over.
But then, suddenly, it wasn’t. The Longhorns dug deep and found some offense.
Through the first 32 minutes and 22 seconds of the game, Texas scored 47 points on a 1.4 point-per-minute pace. Over the final seven minutes and 38 seconds, Texas scored 30 points to send the game into overtime on a 3.9 point-per-minute pace.
Including overtime, Texas scored 44 points in the final 12 minutes of the game. This same Longhorn team that scored 47 points in 40 minutes against Kansas and 41 against Georgetown. Their 49 second-half points were the most since scoring 53 in the first half against Nicholls State on Dec. 13, 2011.
Texas had a mental toughness in this game that it had only shown glimpses of in the previous home overtime win over Iowa State. It started when Barnes went to the full court pressure in the second half. That move put energy back into the team and it responded by hitting outside shots. Those shots opened up the lane for Myck Kabongo, who took over the game and showed a knack for getting to the rim that had been severely missing from Texas’ arsenal this season.
While it may be happening too late to really be relevant, Texas is starting to show what could have been this season. To his credit, Kabongo has come in and put some energy into this team. The losses to Kansas and Kansas State are still very bad and slightly humiliating, but the wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma are significant. Texas beat a pair of NCAA tournament teams with nothing to play for except pride.
Oklahoma State will be a different monster though. The Cowboys have a shot at a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament with a strong finish and cannot afford a late home loss to Texas. The Cowboys have everything to play for. Considering that the Longhorns’ only road win came last Tuesday against TCU, it would have been asking a lot for this team to steal a win even before taking into account the kind of emotional fatigue that will plague them on Saturday.
Avoiding a blowout in this circumstance would be a mild success. But who knows, maybe this team is starting to figure something out.
It certainly did on Wednesday.