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Texas Longhorns in the Big 12 basement; can Oklahoma State keep them there?

The Texas Longhorns were slated to finish fourth in the Big 12 and ranged anywhere from 15th to 21st in preseason Top 25 polls. Ashleigh Fontenette and Kathleen Nash earned honorable mention nods for the preseason all-Big 12 team. And then the season started.

Texas is alone in the Big 12 basement, winless in conference play after four contests after dropping games on the road to Missouri and Texas A&M and sending the home crowd disappointed in games against Baylor and Oklahoma.

They've fought hard, even bringing two games into overtime, but the Longhorns couldn't push through and finish with a win.

Today when Oklahoma State rolls into Austin, they know just how difficult getting that elusive first win in the conference can be, as theirs came this week against Colorado after losing to Kansas State, Baylor and Texas A&M.

"You can forget how to win," OSU head coach Kurt Budke said after putting one up in the positive column of the stat sheet. "I know that sounds crazy but you can forget how to win very quickly even though you've won your whole life. You can forget about the toughness that it takes to finish a game. You can back off and just let it happen to you or you can go out and stop it and we just found a way to stop it and finish."

On Tuesday, the Cowgirls remembered how to win and got that monkey off their back, due in part to remembering that winning attitude.

"Coming home, playing a team that we know we can compete with, know we can beat - this win was really important for the next game," OSU's Toni Young said. "To know oh yeah, we're still a good team, we can still play with anybody."

Is today the day that Texas remembers they can play with anybody? Are the Cowgirls a team that Texas looks to have the competitive edge over?

Statistically, the Longhorns can effectively shoot the three, swishing 37.3 percent of their 322 attempts this season good for second in the Big 12. Texas has the league's top scoring offense, averaging 84.4 points per game. But on the flip side the worst scoring defense with a 68.6 average points against tally. Oklahoma State defense is their pride, and the Cowgirls hold opponents to 51.6 points per game, behind only Baylor in the Big 12.

OSU has trouble manufacturing offensive points at times, coming in last in overall field goal percentage. But they find a way to crash the glass, averaging a league-high 18.6 offensive boards a game and a second-place slot in the stats for offensive rebounding percent. The Cowgirls can push the pace and capitalize on the 22.7 turnovers they force to put points on the scoreboard.

If OSU's defense isn't stout, the Longhorns could make it a long evening in Austin. If Texas doesn't limit second-chance and fast break opportunities, the Cowgirls might be able to keep the burnt orange clad out of the win column for one more game.

But above statistics, has Texas forgotten how to win?

"Teams in the Big 12 aren't going to quit, they're always going to find a way to make a run to get within a possession," Budke said. "They always do, but we needed to respond at the other end. Let's find a way. Someone's got to step up and play. Let's just find a way to get it done."

OSU found that way and regained some much-needed confidence on Tuesday.

"I just hope this gives us a little different energy," Budke said of the young Cowgirls. "Not just energy on the floor, energy in the film room, energy in the scouting reports. To feel a little bit better about themselves to where the focus might be a little bit easier."

"You just - you see a little doubt. They still practiced hard. They still practice hard every day, but you could just see the lack of confidence and a little doubt in their head. We just had to remind them that you've got three losses to three top 5 teams. Most of the country would lose to those top 5 teams, so maybe when we put that on the board and showed them, maybe that helped just a little bit."

According to Young, looking at who the Cowgirls lost to was an important step in realizing that OSU's three conference losses and fourth to Duke, didn't mean that losing should be the norm.

"The freshmen didn't really understand that we had been playing the top players in the nation and that's who we lost to," Young said, "And in the first half of them games we kept up with them. I think this win is good because the freshmen needed a boost of confidence."

Looking back and Texas' seven losses, the Longhorns should be doing the same - looking at the top-tier teams they lost to, knowing that their season not defined by the first three conference games. Texas has losses to Stanford, Tennessee, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas A&M - not exactly an easy schedule to weave their way through.

Budke isn't looking at the Longhorns' conference record as he prepares for today's contest, he knows that just like the Cowgirls had to remember how to win, Texas has to - and will do - the same eventually.

"There's never a good time to go to Texas, never a good time to go to Texas," Budke said. "Especially if they're oh-fer. She's a great coach and they've got great talent and trust me it's not a fun place to go play."

But one thing that the Cowgirls might have that Texas might be struggling with is that winning attitude and confidence that they can prevail over a conference opponent. Budke's Cowgirls got rid of their nerves and got a sliver of success against Colorado. Is today the day for Gail Goestenkors' Longhorns to do the same?

One thing Budke knows is this, "you can't play this game with nerves and self-doubt, you can't do it."

Today will be a benchmark for both on which brand of orange takes those words to heart, finds a way and remembers confidently how to win.