Texas forward Jericho Sims (20) scores over Oklahoma forward Kristian Doolittle (21) and forward Brady Manek (35) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Austin, Texas, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. Oklahoma won 72-62.(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Men's Basketball

Oklahoma 72, Texas 62: Now 0-2 in Big 12 play, Horns better start force-feeding Jericho Sims

Longhorns go 8-for-29 from beyond the arc as Sooners get first win in Austin since 2015

Posted January 8th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • “Just being from Oklahoma, it’s always been Horns Down from where I’m from.”
  • Sims had just nine shot attempts. Smart admitted “in a game like tonight, we’d rather he get 15-plus.”
  • Asked if he can demand the ball more, Sims said, “That's something I can do more of. Something I look forward to doing.”

Some of the best things about Texas basketball remain hidden in plain sight.

Start with the new margarita machine in a concession stand behind section 28 at the Erwin Center. Not only that, but Texas is now serving mixed drinks, too. Bacardi and the Bevos.

Better make it a double after watching Texas struggle Wednesday night, another hard-to-watch affair that’s become all too routine. Texas led by nine but somehow wound up trailing at halftime. Oklahoma made more basic plays down the stretch and won 72-62 — the Sooners’ first victory in Austin since 2015.

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Texas (10-4) is now 0-2 in Big 12 play for the first time in coach Shaka Smart’s five seasons. While that may not sound like a big deal, this particular loss could be devastating for the Horns’ NCAA Tournament chances later on down the road.

Texas forward Gerald Liddell battles for a loose ball with Oklahoma’s Victor Iwuakor as Brady Manek (35) looks on during Wednesday night’s game. (Rodolfo Gonzalez/For Statesman)

“The rims are soft,” OU senior Kristian Doolittle said after scoring a game-high 22 points. As a freshmen, he rang up a career-high 29 in the Drum. “Just being from Oklahoma, it’s always been Horns Down from where I’m from.”

It’s understandable if UT fans didn’t know yet where to find the $12 margaritas and cocktails. But it’s odd how the Longhorns’ guards can’t, don’t or won’t force-feed Jericho Sims, easily the best player in Smart’s lineup. He’s smack-dab in the middle of the lane.

Sims has quietly exploded right before everyone’s eyes the last few weeks. He notched his third consecutive double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds in 31 minutes. Then again, everything he’s done at UT has been quiet. That’s just who this 6-9 junior is.

“As a unit, I know myself, he is our best option offensively right now,” guard Matt Coleman III said. “He’s dominating the paint. So we as guards, we as a team, have to have more sense of urgency of making sure that Jericho is where he needs to be.”

Sims had a nice bucket with 5:21 remaining that got Texas within six. He was 4-for-5 shooting in the second half, and Oklahoma (11-3, 2-0) didn’t really have anyone that matches up well against him one-on-one.

But instead of going to Sims on key possessions down the stretch, the Horns tried to shoot their way to victory. That’s always a dicey proposition.

Courtney Ramey missed a 3-point attempt against OU’s zone. Kamaka Hepa missed another. Jase Febres got fouled on a 3-point attempt and then hit a 3-pointer on the next possession. But Febres missed another trey, and Ramey missed again.

Texas guard Jase Febres gets a jump shot off against Oklahoma. (Rodolfo Gonzalez/For Statesman)

Sims didn’t get another shot attempt in the final five minutes. The Sooners were happy to collect the long defensive rebounds and go score on their end.

Texas finished the game 8-for-29 from 3-point range. And this was after the Horns started 4-for-4 beyond the arc.

De’Vion Harmon’s driving layup and foul on Febres with 1:36 remaining basically clinched it. The Sooners had an eight-point lead and cruised to the finish.

Smart literally hammers home the importance of “paint touches” every practice, if not every waking hour. The coaching staff has analytical data that proves how the offense is more productive when the ball goes inside.

This team lacks a true offensive identity. So when the Horns finally get something going, like Sims inside, they must capitalize on it.

“We actually made a lot of play calls for him tonight,” Smart said. “They did a good job of taking away some of the post entries.”

Sims had just nine shot attempts. Smart admitted “in a game like tonight, we’d rather he get 15-plus.”

“Some of that is on Jericho in terms of being a little bit more aggressive with his ceiling,” Smart said. “In a game like tonight, we’ve got to force-feed it down there. If you look at us offensively right now, it has to go in there to him more.”

Sims was considered something of a project when he signed with UT from Minneapolis. He was in the shadows as a freshman when Mo Bamba was at Texas. Last season, Jaxson Hayes got the spotlight. Both Bamba and Hayes became first-round draft picks.

Now, Sims is center stage, dominating at times with vicious dunks and look-at-that post moves. And he can’t get the ball enough.

Asked if he can demand the ball more, Sims said, “That’s something I can do more of. Something I look forward to doing.”

Yes, but does he have it in him to tell younger players to just give him the bleeping ball? “I’ve been here a while, so I say so,” Sims said in his normal low-key way.

Smart has been here awhile, too. He’s seen how it goes whenever Texas relies solely on its streaky 3-point shooting and not on its big men. Typically, it hasn’t gone well.

Wednesday night was a prime example. The key to victory is there, hiding in plain sight.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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