On a Senior Night celebrated by Clint Chapman and Alexis Wangmene, a freshman did much of the work in keeping the Longhorns upright. Sheldon McClellan poured in a career-high 24 points on a night where he was forced to play 29 minutes to help make up for the absence of Julien Lewis, out with a back injury. So McClellan started, played the third-most minutes on the team, and generally took advantage of his opportunities.
"When my shots were open, I took them and was real aggressive," McClellan said. "I got discouraged in the first half when I missed early shots, but the coaches told me to keep shooting, and that's what I did in the second half."
Texas certainly needed him in the first half. With the Longhorns getting blitzed 23-11, it seemed to be the Sooners that had all the answers. But McClellan scored 12 in the first half in helping the Longhorns claw back to within four by the halftime break, at 37-33.
"We started the game the exact opposite way that we wanted to," said Texas coach Rick Barnes. "We came in the second half and told the guys [after the first second-half timeout] that they have 16 minutes that might define their entire life. They fought through it and got some things done.
In the second half, the Longhorns really seemed to find their way through the Sooner 3-2 zone, screening along the baseline and taking advantage to extra attention paid to J'Covan Brown. That led to open looks for teammates like McClellan, and to big assist nights for Brown (five) and Myck Kabongo (nine).
"They were setting screens with their big guys on the baseline and trying to get McClellan or Brown extra attention at the top," said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger. "McClellan and Brown then stepped up there to make big baskets at critical times. I give credit to both of them for that."
The biggest shots came with Texas trailing by five, 55-50, with under nine minutes to go. McClellan hit a three, then, after a free throw from Romero Osby, Brown hit one of his own to tie the game at 56. Cameron Clark made a jumper, but McClellan canned another one to give Texas its first lead of the game, with 6:15 left. Clark made another two before Brown hit a fourth three, putting Texas up 62-60.
Still, Texas was tied 62-all with less than four minutes left when the Longhorns closed on a 10-2 run. Jonathan Holmes rebounded a Brown three-point miss and stuck it back in. Then, following a Holmes defensive board, Brown darted in for a layup. Oklahoma threw away the inbounds, which was stolen by Kabongo, given to Brown and shoveled to McClellan, who dunked it. Just like that, Texas was up 68-62, and Oklahoma called timeout.
Out of the break, Holmes stole the ball, and Brown knocked down another jumper. Osby made two free throws to stop the run, but the damage was done. Brown added two late free throws, and Texas won by eight.
The Longhorns held the Sooners without a field goal in the game's final 4:25.
In addition to his 24 career, and game-high points, McClellan also grabbed three steals. He was 10-of-18 from the field. Brown struggled early, but finished 22 points and five assists. Kabongo was 0-for-6 from the field and 0-4 from three, but dished out nine assists to three turnovers and had three steals of his own. And while Holmes's overall numbers of six points and seven boards might not jump off the page, he made several plays in crunch time. Five of his seven boards were offensive, one of the defensive rebounds was one that he pulled out of four Oklahoma players in the clutch and he had three steals.
Osby scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds, but was held to three points and two boards in the second half. Steven Pledger was also strong in the first half with eight points, but he finished with 13. Clark scored 12 points and had a game-high 11 boards. Andrew Fitzgerald added 12 and six.
Oklahoma fell to 14-15 and 4-13 in Big 12 play.
Texas (19-11, 9-8) was able to grab a big win on a night when several other fellow bubble members — Miami, Dayton, St. Joseph's and Northwestern — fell. The Longhorns will wrap up their regular season on Saturday at Kansas.