Three losses in four games earlier this month likely cost Oklahoma and Texas a shot at the Big 12 regular-season title, and for the Sooners, it was a narrow home win over the Longhorns that allowed them to avoid a four-game skid.
The Red River Rivalry reconvenes in Austin on Saturday with No. 3 Oklahoma hoping to keep its slim title hopes alive, while No. 25 Texas tries to draw even with the Sooners in the conference.
Oklahoma (22-5, 10-5) has won consecutive games in impressive fashion since a crippling loss at Texas Tech on Feb. 17, but it's still unlikely to be enough to track down Kansas. Wednesday's 71-49 home win over Oklahoma State followed last Saturday's 76-62 victory at then-No. 10 West Virginia, but the Jayhawks enter the weekend two games ahead of the Sooners and Mountaineers with each team having three remaining.
Even against tough odds, coach Lon Kruger likes the state of his team.
"I really like where we're at. The energy is there," Kruger said. "We've got three left in regular season, so it's kind of a sprint now. It's a long grind, Big 12 play night after night. Now, the end is in sight, and now the guys' energy picks up, not just here, but everywhere. I like where we're at. I like our energy. Most importantly, our guys understand how tough the challenge ahead will be."
It'll be a little easier if Ryan Spangler can follow up a career-high 26 points and 14 rebounds against the Cowboys with another strong showing. The forward is 13 of 16 in the last two games and provided a welcome relief to Buddy Hield, who's struggled with his shot some.
Dating to a Feb. 6 defeat at Kansas State that began the span of losing three of four, Hield has averaged 22.7 points on 38.6 percent shooting and 37.5 from 3-point range. Over the Sooners' 19-2 start, he was at 25.8 points on 52.8 percent and 51.7 from deep.
"I always tell him to keep playing and to keep shooting and scoring the ball," Hield said. "Ryan is always active, doing the dirty work for us. Seeing him get his confidence back up - because we need him to score the ball for us going down into the end of the season for us - I'm really happy for him and I hope he keeps on doing it."
In a 63-60 victory over Texas on Feb. 8, Hield had 27 points as the Sooners won their fifth straight in the series. Both teams shot 40.0 percent, but as has been the case for much of the season, Oklahoma won it on the perimeter by hitting 9 of 22 from 3 while Texas was 6 of 22.
The Sooners, who rank second nationally at 43.1 percent from deep, are 20-2 with single-digit losses at ranked opponents when they hit at least a third of their 3s.
The Longhorns (18-10, 9-6) got out of Kansas State on Monday with a 71-70 victory - their first game in five against an unranked opponent.
"We are still becoming who we really are," coach Shaka Smart said. "It was a good step to go on the road in this league and win - I do not care who you are playing."
Isaiah Taylor scored 19 points and has averaged 17.3 and shot 51.9 percent in his last three, including 23 in an 85-78 home win over West Virginia on Feb. 16.
The Longhorns are 13-2 at home, which also includes a victory over then-No. 3 North Carolina on Dec. 12 and then-No. 17 Iowa State on Jan. 12. Overall, they're 3-2 against the top 10.