KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Texas coach Rodney Terry decided shortly before facing Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals that he would be cautious with Timmy Allen, his senior leader, who’d been dealing with a nagging lower leg injury.
Sir’Jabari Rice, Arterio Morris and Dylan Disu picked up the slack quite nicely.
Rice jumped into the starting lineup and scored 13 points, Disu scored 11 while playing more minutes than he has nearly all season, and Morris contributed 10 while also getting extended time. Together, the trio helped the seventh-ranked Longhorns roll to a defensive-minded 61-47 victory Thursday night and a spot in the semifinal round.
Texas, the No. 2 seed, will play sixth-seeded and No. 22 TCU on Friday night.
“Timmy got a little bit nicked up in the Kansas game (last weekend),” Terry said. “We just made a decision that we’re going to go day to day. We’ll put him back out there when the opportunity presents itself that he’s 100 percent.”
“Timmy was up cheering all game, supporting us,” added Tyrese Hunter, who also had 11 points. “We got some good minutes from Arterio coming off the bench and that probably filled in a little of the gap.”
The Longhorns held the Cowboys (18-15) to 27% shooting from the field, including a 3-for-21 clip from beyond the 3-point arc. Oklahoma State missed 21 of its first 24 shots after halftime while finishing with 19 turnovers.
“I thought our guys really had a great defensive effort,” Terry said.
Caleb Asberry had 16 points for the Cowboys, whose slim NCAA Tournament hopes may have taken a devastating blow with the lackluster performance. Kalib Boone finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
“Give credit to Texas,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton said. “They pressured us quite a bit and forced us into some turnovers we’d kind of gotten away from the last few games, and compounded by not making shots when we were open.”
The Longhorns, who two years ago won the Big 12 tourney title for the first time, have dominated the Cowboys when the calendar rolls to March. They improved to 6-2 against them in the conference tournament.
They had handled Oklahoma State in very different fashions during the regular season.
When the teams met in Stillwater in January, the Longhorns smothered the Cowboys on defense, holding them to a season-low for points in a 56-46 victory. And in the return matchup later that month in Austin, the Longhorns proved they could ramp up the tempo, rolling to an 89-75 victory while sending a message to the rest of the league.
The performance Thursday night was more the former, less the latter.
The Longhorns hassled the Cowboys’ guards every time they touched the ball, forcing two backcourt violations in the first half alone, and made certain that every perimeter shot was contested. But they didn’t have a whole of success of their own offense, either, struggling their way to a 35-26 halftime lead.
It didn’t help that the Cowboys were missing Avery Anderson III following his wrist surgery, or that fellow guards John-Michael Wright and Chris Harris Jr. were banged up in their opening-round win over Texas Tech.
Any chance the Cowboys had of a comeback evaporated in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the second half. They failed to score a point over that span while Texas ripped off eight straight to take control, and the lead swelled to 18 points at one point before Oklahoma State made a halfhearted run to make the final score a little more respectable.
Oklahoma State was an attractive NCAA Tournament team a few weeks ago, when it was sitting at 16-9 midway through the league race. But the Cowboys lost five straight before beating Texas Tech in their regular-season finale, and topping Oklahoma in the opening round of the Big 12 tourney might not help their cause much.
Texas has probably solidified a No. 2 seed for the NCAA Tournament, and the question now is whether two more Quad 1 wins in the semifinals and the championship game would be enough to boost the Longhorns to the No. 1 line on the bracket.
The Longhorns play TCU in a Lonestar State showdown Friday night.
The Cowboys head home for a nervous Selection Sunday.