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Stuck in the mud offensively, No. 14 Texas can’t maneuver its way through Oklahoma State

Horns look all out of sorts as winnable game escapes them: ‘The more aggressive team won tonight.’

Texas' Timmy Allen fights Oklahoma State's Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe for a rebound in the first half of a game at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday. Oklahoma State won 64-51.

STILLWATER, Okla. — Texas coach Chris Beard got his dander up the other day when pressed about whether the Longhorns were passing up too many open shots.

“You guys love to talk about the offense,” Beard quipped with noticeable edge. “Let’s talk about the offense.”

Yes, after that display Saturday at Oklahoma State, it’s time to talk about this offense.

No. 14 Texas had the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense coming out of nonconference play. But you can’t win without scoring a little, too.

The Longhorns looked all out of sorts in a 64-51 loss Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Cowboys led from the opening tip to the final horn, forced the action at every turn and got a much-needed Big 12 home win.

“We don’t say this often with our teams, but we’ll own it when it’s true,” Beard said afterward. “The more aggressive team won tonight.”

That had to be painful for Beard to admit, but it was true. Texas (12-3, 2-1 Big 12) leaned on jumpers and dribbled away each possession instead of going hard to the rim. The Horns were 6-for-22 from 3-point range and shot 29.6% in the second half when it was mostly a one- or two-possession affair.

For the second straight game, Beard’s veterans didn’t initiate much contact. Texas didn’t have a single free throw attempt in the first half Tuesday against Kansas State. And it happened again. UT didn’t get its first free throw until Courtney Ramey got his defender up in the air on a 3-point attempt with 12:31 remaining. 

More:Beard looking for more aggressiveness, more free throws as Texas travels to Oklahoma State

Overall, the Horns made just five of seven free throws. The Cowboys were 16-for-23 at the line. But before anyone blames the officials consider this: the Horns committed fouls within the opening seconds of both the first and second halves.

Asked about his level of concern about the lack of aggression, Beard said “there’s no time for anger” when you’re playing in the Big 12.

Texas' Courtney Ramey celebrates a 3-point basket next to Oklahoma State's Rondel Walker in the first half of a game against Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday.

“You stay the course. You don’t get too high. You don’t get too low,” Beard said. “You continue to tell the truth, though. And you work on things. And the truth is, we’ve got a lot to work on the offensive end and the defensive end right now.

“But now, you stay the course, you stay poised, you stay composed,” Beard added. “You know, it’s prince today, frog tomorrow. This is what playing, coaching at this level is like. We’ve got a lot of leadership, we’ve got a lot of care factor in that locker room. We’ve got a lot of players that I believe in. I think we'll be back.”

No Texas players were made available to reporters afterward. That was fine with the larger Oklahoma State media contingent assembled Saturday. “Football season must be over,” OSU coach Mike Boynton joked. 

Boynton praised the trifecta of Isaac Likekele, Bryce Williams and Avery Anderson III for their defensive effort on Texas guard Marcus Carr. UT’s offensive catalyst the last two league games had just four points and went 1-for-6 shooting. 

“I was really proud of all three of those guys defensively because I felt they were the difference in the game,” Boynton said.

Said OSU’s Keylan Boone: “Marcus Carr having a green light, being a shooter, being a play-making scorer, we just wanted to limit him and make somebody else make the play.”

Oklahoma State's Bryce Thompson (1), Isaac Likekele (13) and Moussa Cisse (33) celebrate in the final seconds of a game against the Texas Longhorns at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday. OSU won 64-51.

It’s unfair to pin this solely on Carr. Multiple Longhorns had problems. In the first half, Christian Bishop was called for traveling. Timmy Allen missed a wide-open layup in the first half. Dylan Disu was called for a moving screen. 

“Winning or losing tonight isn’t on Marcus,” Beard said. “It’s on everybody, including myself.”

The Horns were without Tre Mitchell, perhaps the team’s best interior distributor. Mitchell was back in Austin due to COVID-19 protocols. But they did have Andrew Jones, who missed the Kansas State game. So far, Texas has been down one player for all three conference games it has played — a different one each game.

Oklahoma State had a 30-28 halftime lead and never really ran away with it. But each time Texas would get something going, OSU had an answer.

Texas went 1-for-8 during a mini stretch when OSU pushed the lead to seven. Then, Jones drove hard, got around a defender and scored a tough layup. On the next possession, Jones buried a 3-pointer and it was back to a two-point game. 

Would that change Texas’ mojo? Nope. Williams answered with a 3-pointer, and the home crowd of 8,204 was rocking.

The game-closing sequence will be especially hard to watch on video afterward. Williams came out of nowhere to block Disu as he was going up for an easy layup. The Pokes took off the other direction, and Boone set up for a corner 3-pointer. It splashed home and effectively closed the door.

Fans celebrate a 3-point basket by Oklahoma State's Keylan Boone during a game against the Texas Longhorns at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday. OSU won 64-51.

Boone finished with a game-high 17 points for Oklahoma State (8-5, 1-1) while Williams added 11 more. Boynton’s club needed a shot of adrenaline; the Pokes next have three road games in a five-day span because of a COVID-19 rescheduling. OSU goes to West Virginia, Texas Tech and Baylor all this week.

Texas has a difficult week ahead, too, albeit not as stressful. Oklahoma comes to Austin on Tuesday, and then UT travels to play at Iowa State next weekend.

If Beard and the Horns can’t figure out how to score some points and get to the free-throw line, it could be a long week. 

“You got to give them credit,” Beard said. “Obviously, there are some things that we’ve got to do better. But I’m also not going to sit up here and not recognize how well and hard and aggressive Oklahoma State played tonight.”

Contact Brian Davis by phone or text at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com or @BDavisAAS.