The AP No. 19 Texas Longhorns used excellent offensive execution to jump out to a big halftime lead and never looked back in crushing Big 12 rival Oklahoma State 87-68 on Tuesday at Frank Erwin Special Events Center.
Star guard Marcus Smart was serving the first of a three-game suspension, and the Cowboys were not the same squad without him. Combined with playing on the road against a ranked conference foe, it wasn't a recipe for success for the visitors.
ESPN insider Jeff Goodman had a particularly strong opinion about Oklahoma State, and it's not going to make fans back in Stillwater happy:
As it was, the Cowboys had lost four previous contests in a row even with Smart in the lineup, so head coach Travis Ford will have to figure something out quickly to get his talented team to turn it around.
Javan Felix scored 16 of his game-high 27 points in the first half and hit six three-pointers to lead the way for the hosts in Austin.
Rivals.com's Eric Bossi alluded to how uncharacteristic it was for Felix to be a rainmaker from downtown, given his previous struggles from the perimeter:
Texas' Isaiah Taylor scored 16 of his own and dished out five assists.
But that was how the game seemed to go for the Longhorns on Tuesday, as every break seemed to go their way and shots flew in from all over the place. A 54-point first-half blitz gave Texas a 21-point lead heading into the intermission, and although the Cowboys were more competitive in the final 20 minutes, it wasn't nearly enough to stage any sort of comeback.
Max Olson of ESPN.com noted how the eruption was far different than what the Longhorns had experienced recently:
Freshman Martez Walker was only averaging three points per contest entering this one, but the young guard came off the bench and poured in 12 points for Texas.
Depth is a big problem for Oklahoma State, and that was on full display in this loss, which dropped the Cowboys to 16-8 and 4-7 in the Big 12.
Standout forward Le'Bryan Nash was the lone true bright spot, scoring a team-high 23 points and adding six rebounds in defeat. In his increased role with Smart's absence, senior guard Markel Brown struggled in sinking just four of 14 shots from the field for a solid but inefficient 18 points.
Rebounding was going to be an element that the Longhorns could exploit with their superior size, and they did so, thanks to the excellent effort from center Cameron Ridley, who pulled down 13 boards to go with 11 points. Ridley's 285-pound presence in the paint also thwarted Oklahoma State's ability to penetrate, which was partially to blame for its 35.6 shooting percentage from the field.
Here is a look at some letter grades for the marquee players in this game, along with a look at what lies ahead for these Big 12 teams as the conference season rolls on.
Javan Felix, G, Texas: A
There's no question Felix played well above his typical level on Tuesday, shooting far better from the three-point line than his previous 30.3 percent clip for the season would suggest.
The undersized sophomore got the job done in a game that could serve as a big breakthrough for his confidence from the outside and result in his scoring average experiencing a steady, welcome increase.
Le'Bryan Nash, F, Oklahoma State: B+
The Cowboys could have rolled over when they fell into an even deeper hole in the second half, but they battled and Nash was a one-man show for several possessions to make the final score more respectable.
Nash could have been a bit more assertive and established himself earlier on, bearing the burden of keeping up with Felix since few Longhorns could guard him. It probably wouldn't have made much of a difference, though.
Cameron Ridley, C, Texas: A-
As amazing as the Longhorns were in draining 11 of 23 threes and shooting 47.3 percent from the floor overall, Ridley provided the requisite, complementary attitude down low to set the tone defensively.
The big man secured a plethora of rebounds and created mismatches on the offensive end that helped the Longhorns get proper spacing. When the Cowboys fouled Ridley, he converted 10 of 12 free throws to keep the momentum going for an eventual blowout.
Markel Brown, G, Oklahoma State: C
Although Brown was able to get to the rim when the game was already well in hand and made nine of 11 free throws, his shot selection was generally not good. With Smart out, Brown wasn't able to consistently create for himself in the midst of Texas' early onslaught.
That wound up being enough to get the Cowboys in a big hole that they never came close to climbing out of, and Brown played pedestrian basketball throughout, hence the average grade.
Adversity is at a season-high for the Cowboys, who will have to face the next two opponents without Smart. To start, Oklahoma State will take on the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday at home.
This was a nice bounce-back for the Longhorns (19-5, 8-3 in Big 12) after a 74-57 loss to Kansas State in the previous contest. Texas will gear up for another home game against the West Virginia Mountaineers—also scheduled for Saturday.