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February 11, 2014

Texas Responds in Impressive Fashion...

Just a couple of days after getting blown out at Kansas State, the No. 19 Longhorns (19-5, 8-3) responded emphatically at home against a struggling Oklahoma State (16-8, 4-7) team. Both teams were without key players - Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart is serving a three-game suspension and Texas' Jonathan Holmes was ruled out with a right knee injury - but Texas was the team that came out ready to pick up the slack with a ton of confidence from the opening tip. The game got out of hand early, and the Longhorns cruised to an 87-68 victory.

1) Texas didn't bring the effort and toughness to the court in Kansas State the way it normally does. On Monday, the Texas players and Rick Barnes all mentioned that the most important aspect of this game would be the effort and getting out to a quick start. Well, the Longhorns did both Tuesday night.

After four minutes, the Longhorns were up 12-7, and less than two minutes later it was a 10-point lead. It would only get worse for Oklahoma State because this one was basically over when Javan Felix hit three jumpers, two of them three-pointers, in less than a minute to put Texas out in front 36-14 with just under nine minutes left in the first half.

After the game, the Longhorns could put a big checkmark next to their biggest key of the game.

2) All season Texas has been known for its toughness, chemistry, and business-like mentality. But it didn't have to deal with the adversity of being without its leader in a conference game until Tuesday night.

Texas responded by playing with a ton of confidence immediately and a sense of urgency. Guards shot the ball with confidence and attacked off the dribble; big men crashed the boards hard and challenged shots well; and bench players like Kendal Yancy and Martez Walker entered the game and immediately made contributions.

"We knew going into that game we had to play hard and compete. When the ball went up, we just didn't. That's something we went over in film a lot," said Felix about the Kansas State game. "We corrected it yesterday in practice. Just going hard, competing. We wanted to come out today and build on it. Coach told us if we really want it we'll prove it tonight. He said it would test our character. I think we came out tonight and played hard and competed. We have to keep that going."

3) Every time Felix let it fly, it looked like it was going in. The sophomore scored 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting (6-of-8 from deep), and did a great job of getting squared, getting his legs into the shot, and being ready to shoot.



After that sequence of three straight jumpers made to put Texas up 36-14, Felix gave Phil Forte one of those "I can knock down these bombs just like you can," look, which also came after Felix forced two straight misses from deep by Forte.

"I know I can make those shots," Felix said after the win. "It's a matter of me taking me. It's something my teammates got on me about, not passing up shots."

4) You could tell Oklahoma State really wanted to try to pack people into the paint and take away Cameron Ridley. The good news for the Cowboys was that Ridley made just one field-goal. The bad news for the Cowboys was that Ridley only attempted three, and scored 12 points because he shot 10-of-12 from the free-throw line. Ridley was aggressive when he touched the basketball, and handled the double-team looks much better than he did at Kansas State. Also, the sophomore grabbed 13 rebounds, and pretty much grabbed any rebound near him in the first half.

Texas needed a strong performance from the big fella, and it got one.

5) Without Holmes, Texas needed Connor Lammert to play a ton of minutes, and he responded with 34 good ones. The lefty finished with 9 points on 3-of-6 shooting, all from three-point range, 9 rebounds, and provided some of that toughness Texas misses when Holmes isn't on the floor.

After the game, Barnes mentioned that Lammert turned his ankle early in yesterday's practice, couldn't finish the practice, and played through some pain Tuesday night.

"We're not in practice 15 minutes and Connor turned his ankle and left practice," Texas' head coach said after the game. "He showed some guts tonight because it really swelled up. I told him tonight, 'You better shoot it every time you're open."

That's exactly what Lammert did because when he was left open from deep, he let it fly with no hesitation.

6) Credit Walker and Yancy for being ready to provide some minutes. Yancy's aggressiveness on offense crashing the glass and attacking off-the-dribble was impactful, and Walker added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting (2-of-3 from beyond the arc).

7) Predictably, Le'Bryan Nash (23 points) was a bit of a problem for Texas without Holmes, but other than that, the Cowboys were kept in check, especially Forte (8 points on 2-of-7 shooting).

8) When Texas wants to really move the basketball, it can get good looks at a high rate against a zone, which is what Oklahoma State showed immediately to begin the game. The Longhorns dished out 14 assists compared to just 12 turnovers, and the ball wasn't stagnant nearly as much as it was at Kansas State.

"We took shots," Barnes said about the performance against Oklahoma State. "Last two games we've gotten too hesitant. We played like a team. Those turned down shots lead to a lot of turnovers. You can't get hesitant."

9) This is probably the best Texas has been in transition in a while. It really got out and ran every chance it got, and converted on attempts (17 fast-break points).

10) A convincing win like this one was very important for the Longhorns. After two straight sluggish games, especially at Kansas State, the Longhorns needed to come out and show improvement both mentally and in their execution. They did both. They showed some character, confidence, and the coaching staff showed again the ability to press the right buttons to get the players prepared for a big game.

"Everybody is desperate," said Barnes about the Big 12. "We did a nice job of just coming back and playing as a team."

Barnes on Jonathan Holmes

"I think he will," Barnes said about Holmes playing the next game. "He hasn't been cleared to play. He's definitely doing better today. We're not going to do anything until the doctors clear him. I'll be surprised if he doesn't play [next game]. His knee sort of locked up on him. He had some situations with that in the past. They decided he didn't need surgery. Cam and Jon collided. He just couldn't get it straight. He was doing better today."


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