AUSTIN, Texas – When Texas is engaged in a close game, it can call on experience, energy and poise. The No. 6 Longhorns needed all of that against Oklahoma on Saturday.
Senior reserve Sir'Jabari Rice scored 19 of his game-high 24 points in the second half and overtime, and Texas held off the Sooners 85-83.
The Longhorns (21-6, 10-4 Big 12) have not lost two straight games all season. They are 7-0 under interim coach Rodney Terry in games decided by five points or fewer or in overtime, including a 70-69 victory at Oklahoma on Dec 31.
“I see in Texas the veteran, tough mentality,” Oklahoma coach Porter Moser said.
Rice's fourth 3-pointer of the game gave Texas an 84-77 lead with 2:26 left in overtime.
Oklahoma had a chance to tie or win when Texas' Tyrese Hunter missed one of two free throws with 6.8 seconds left. But Sam Godwin missed a shot from near the rim, and Texas extended its winning streak against Oklahoma to five games.
Marcus Carr added 17 points for Texas and Timmy Allen had 15 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Both are seniors, as is Dylan Disu, who scored 12.
Though the Longhorns made several clutch shots, Terry cited other factors that were critical.
“We forced 18 turnovers, and we had 19 assists,” Terry said, calling it "the difference in the game.”
Grant Sherfield led Oklahoma (13-14, 3-11) with 18 points, including a 3-pointer that sent the game to overtime. Milos Uzan scored 15 for the Sooners. The Sooners' top big man, Tanner Groves, fouled out with 2:30 left in regulation.
The Longhorns led by five with 1:30 remaining in regulation, but the Sooners secured two offensive rebounds and Sherfield's tough 3 came with 7 seconds left.
“(Sherfield) made a great play, a step back, hit a great shot,” Carr said.
Carr missed a jump shot — a chance to win — at the buzzer in regulation.
Oklahoma led 67-61 with six minutes remaining, but Texas took a 70-67 lead a minute later with consecutive 3-point baskets by Rice, a first-year Longhorn who transferred from New Mexico State. Rice's 24 points are double his average and matched his season best. He converted 8 of 13 field goal attempts, including 4 of 6 3-pointers, and 4 of 5 free throws.
“I've said this to everybody: I think Rice is one of the most unheralded players in this league,” Moser said. “He's so good. Look how efficient he was.”
The game was tied at halftime at 34 largely due to defensive lapses by Texas. The Sooners created a 24-12 edge in points in the paint and had an 8-2 advantage in fast-break points. Sometimes Texas failed to retreat quickly enough in transition, and other times the Longhorns allowed unimpeded drives to the basket.
Fortunately for Texas, it had reserve Brock Cunningham. He scored 10 in the first half — double his average per game — including eight of Texas' points in a row. Known as an energy guy for his hustle and physical play, Cunningham has developed into a dangerous 3-point shooter and made two in a row in the first half.
“Brock was just tremendous in that first half,” Terry said. “He was playing winning basketball all over the floor.”
Oklahoma: It's been a rough season in the tough Big 12, which occupied five of the first 12 seeds in the NCAA Tournament selection committee's bracket preview Saturday. The Sooners are in last place but have a few big moments: snapping a seven-game conference losing streak on Wednesday by beating No. 12 Kansas State in Norman and defeating (now) No. 1 Alabama 93-69 on Jan. 28.
Texas: One issue for the Longhorns is a lack of size; only two players are taller than 6-foot-7. Interior post players Disu (6-9) and Christian Bishop (6-7) missed chunks of the game. Both were in foul trouble early, then Disu left the game twice with injuries, but returned. Bishop and Groves were called for flagrant-1 fouls with 16:40 remaining — their third fouls of the game — and Bishop picked up his fourth foul with 6:20 left.
SHARE OF FIRST
With No. 5 Kansas beating No. 9 Baylor on Saturday, the Longhorns and the Jayhawks are tied for first in the Big 12.
BEARD CHARGES DROPPED
Terry took over after Chris Beard was suspended on Dec. 12 and later fired after his arrest on a domestic violence charge. The third-degree felony charge was dismissed this week.
COMFORTABLE NEW DIGS
A big reason the Longhorns reached first place in the Big 12 is that they’ve been successful in their new home arena, the 10,763-seat Moody Center. It's been sold out for all 15 games, including the nonconference ones.
Texas is 14-1 at home, losing only to Kansas State; the Longhorns avenged that defeat by beating the Wildcats in Manhattan. Texas also beat Gonzaga and Creighton at Moody when those teams were ranked in the top 10.
Oklahoma: Hosts Texas Tech on Tuesday.
Texas: Hosts No. 19 Iowa State on Tuesday.
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