AUSTIN, Texas -- It was with some degree of certainty Texas' coaches and players said that if J'Covan Brown didn't play because of his injured ankle someone else would step up.
And still, throughout Texas’ 58-49 win over Oklahoma State, no one else did.
Brown, the Longhorns' leading scorer played sparingly, and Texas was still so bad on offense that flashbacks of the football season could have been flickering in the heads of the 12,841 fans at the Frank Erwin Center.
That Texas (11-4, 1-1) was able to pull away and win might have been more a testament to the fact the Cowboys (8-7, 1-1) are void of any clue of what to do on offense or any talent with which to do it. But that is just the type of team Texas needed to face coming off a conference-opening loss and only having Brown at half speed.
Even at less than 100 percent, it was Brown who hit the key shot when it was needed. The junior, who was relegated to standing on the perimeter hoping the ball would come his way, got one such pass with 8:40 left and the game tied at 37. He nailed the three, the first for Texas after 13 misses, and gave Texas the momentum it needed to hold off the Cowboys down the stretch.
“I had to knock it down for them,” said Brown, who finished with six points, 13 less than his season average.
That he was in there to knock it down was surprising. Brown told the coaching staff he couldn't go the second half. Instead he asked that Julien Lewis start the half.
“When you need me, just let me know,'' Brown told the coaches. “At 10 minutes I was ready to go.”
And the Longhorns were ready for him. To that point, the offense had produced only a handful of jumpers. In fact, for most of the game the Longhorns were shooting less than 30 percent. They finished right at 30 percent and still won by nine.
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford was adamant the reason for that was because of the foul disparity. Ford, who did not want to risk a fine from the league office, complained as vehemently as he could about the 29-17 foul imbalance.
“They played pretty aggressive defense on us,” Ford said. “But we had a tough time getting in the flow because every time we turned around they were calling a foul on us.”
And when the officials weren't calling fouls, Oklahoma State was turning the ball over. Texas extended its defense, face-guarded the Cowboys and forced 21 turnovers.
“Defensively we worked hard as a group,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “It was the most consistent that we were on the defense end. You have nights like this when you can't make a shot and you put it on your defense and you grind it out.”
Point guard Myck Kabongo clearly got that message. Barnes said his defense was the best it has been all season.
On the offensive end, the freshman point guard was more willing to go to the rim, and as a result, was at the line 11 times. He made eight. That almost counterbalanced the less than 50 percent shooting from Kabongo and every other guard who stepped on the floor.
“Tonight we missed shots that we usually make,” Kabongo simply said.
But tonight the Longhorns played an opponent where it didn't come back to haunt them. That won't be the case as the Big 12 season progresses.
As for Brown coming back -- he was limping heavily most of the game and said, as the game progressed, his ankle became worse. But he classified it as a day-to-day situation. Texas has four days until it Texas A&M at the Frank Erwin Center.