NORMAN, Okla. — Texas fans were living it up earlier this month during a big win over Oklahoma. Baker Mayfield wanted to return the favor.
The Lake Travis High School graduate was introduced to the OU faithful during a timeout Saturday and hoisted his Heisman Trophy. Then the former OU quarterback started jumping around, flashing the upside-down “Hook ’em” hand sign, and got the locals all stirred up inside Lloyd Noble Center.
“I was born and raised in Austin,” Mayfield said. UT “didn’t recruit me. I grew up 15 miles from their campus. I can’t stand them. In anything they do.
“I talked to the NFL guys, and they say I need to calm it down a little bit. But when it comes to Texas, absolutely not. I can’t stand ’em. Just end of story.”
And yet, Mayfield was one of many OU fans headed to the exits early as the Longhorns captured a critical 77-66 victory over the 23rd-ranked Sooners. It was UT’s first win in Norman since 2012 and the program’s first season sweep in the Red River rivalry since that same season.
This was a day the Longhorns (16-11, 6-8 Big 12) let a ton of steam out of their teakettle. Dylan Osetkowski, wild mane and all, came roaring to life in the second half, scoring 17 of his 21 points after the break. Kerwin Roach II scored 12, and Mo Bamba had a career-high 18 rebounds.
The Longhorns organized a players-only meeting after Monday’s loss to Baylor. Whatever was said clearly worked. Texas is now right back in the NCAA Tournament hunt after snapping its three-game losing skid.
“It’s been ramped up,” Osetkowski said. “We knew we had a tough week and a half the past three games. We wanted to come out aggressive, with a high level of spirit, and I thought we did really well with that.”
The ball movement early was textbook. Seven players had at least one bucket in the first 10 minutes. A 12-0 run in the second half gave the Horns some breathing room. And there was no panic when the Sooners tried to press and force late turnovers.
“I told our guys we’re fighting for NCAA Tournament lives,” UT coach Shaka Smart said. “It’s not the same as fighting for your life, like life and death. But when you’re a basketball player or coach, it can feel that way.”
Roach’s suffocating clamps on OU star Trae Young really made the difference. Young, the nation’s leading scorer, had 26 of the quietest points you’ll ever see. He was 3-for-10 from 3-point range and just couldn’t get OU going.
Christian James had 11 points, but other than those two, OU didn’t have another player in double figures. The Sooners (16-10, 6-8) have now lost five straight.
“This is my first time winning here since I’ve been here” at UT, said Roach, a junior. “Our theme heading into the game was ‘One More.’ Everybody try to do one more thing to help us win. We had a lot of close games. My effort was just one more.”
In Texas’ final four regular-season games, the formula for success is simple. If the Horns play with effort and energy, they can win all four. If they show up flat, they could get steamrolled. “It gives us a great chance,” Smart said. “It doesn’t guarantee that we’ll win, but those things give us a great chance to win.”
It starts with point guard Matt Coleman. He had a nice bounce-back performance with 11 points and five assists. He drove right down Broadway and scored on a reverse layup with two minutes left that effectively ended it.
Osetkowski finally got out of his own head, it would appear. The second half, he was on fire. He said the entire team, coaches and teammates, were “continuously in my ear to keep letting it fly. Regardless if goes in or not, that’s what the team needed.”
Sometimes you need some breaks, too. Like when Jase Febres banked-in a 3-pointer to start the game. Or when Roach went into a full Superman extension to chase down a loose ball; Young fouled him. Eric Davis Jr. wasn’t called for traveling when he corralled a loose ball, rolled over on his back and flipped it to Coleman, who got fouled on a run-out.
But good teams create their own breaks. Give Jacob Young credit for some of the biggest defensive plays of the day. The sophomore reserve had two steals in the open court and ran the other way for buckets.
On a day when every player needed to give “One More,” Young did his part. He scored six points, including four during that critical second-half run that gave Texas a 57-44 lead.
“My role was to give the team a spark,” he said. “That’s what they’ve been asking for me all year. My teammates picked me up, and I did it. It felt real good.”
Said Osetkowski: “I told him right when he got in, ‘Give us some energy.’ And he did that.”
OU’s the team that might be near the end of its story. But Texas has more pages still to pen. Next comes Wednesday’s trip to Manhattan, Kan. After his team’s win over Iowa State, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber asked ESPN announcers who won Texas-OU. Told it was UT, Weber said, “Whoa!”
Mayfield “can’t stand ’em,” but the Longhorns are still going. This surprising roller-coaster season isn’t over yet.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email email@example.com.