February 27, 2011
And just like that, Texas's firm grip on a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament has loosened.
The Longhorns on Saturday suffered a loss that was nothing short of utterly shocking. They let a 22-point lead vanish and opened the door not just for the Colorado to get back on the bubble with its 91-89 marquee win, but also fell into a tie for first in the Big 12 with Kansas.
Are two losses in three games enough to make us question whether Texas is falling apart like it did a year ago? Not quite.
But it's clear that the Horns have lost a bit of their mojo at the wrong time.
Sophomore gunner Jordan Hamilton: "We're not as good as we thought,"
Head coach Rick Barnes: "We didn't play with a purpose."
Senior guard Dogus Balbay: "We didn't help each other. We couldn't stay in front of them."
It's tough to buy Hamilton's claim, because on paper and with the eye test, the Longhorns are still really, really good. Talent-wise, Saturday didn't change that.
But it's the second time in three games that Texas was simply out-worked. The loss at Nebraska last Saturday, which was their first of the conference season and only the second time a league foe played them to within single digits, saw the Horns have to fight from behind for much of the afternoon.
The stats don't lie. Colorado was 14-of-29 from the floor in the first half, but a team that loves to chuck threes was limited to just eight attempts.
Texas let up on defense in the second half, CU was 18-of-31 from the floor, and after realizing it was in danger, UT couldn't hit shots when rushed. The Horns were 10-of-34 from the floor after the break, and had an abnormally frantic look.
It's hard to blame Texas for lagging a bit. Its run through the first 11 games in its Big 12 schedule was better than that of any team in America to that point in league play.The Horns out-rebounded every team they faced in that run and defended consistently for 40 minutes. The offense came naturally by focusing elsewhere.
Maybe they just got bored.
If that's the case, this will certainly wake them up, because there's no such thing as a soft landing ahead.
Just a week ago, after Kansas had suffered its second conference loss at Kansas State, the Longhorns appeared destined for their first outright Big 12 title since 1998-99, up two games on the Jayhawks.
Kansas has claimed at least a share of six straight league regular season crowns, and now has hope of getting a seventh. It'll host Texas A&M on Wednesday night, then finish up at Missouri next Saturday. Texas has to bounce back quickly to host surging K-State on Monday night and travel to take on Baylor Saturday night.
Thanks to its win in Lawrence last month, Texas holds the tie-breaker with Kansas for seeding in the Big 12 tournament. So at least it can still cling to that.
Last season, Texas got off to a memorable 17-0 start before dropping 10 of its last 17 games and bowing out of the NCAA tournament in the first round. It was one of the more notable flame-outs in recent years.
Texas hasn't shown any severe signs yet that a similar meltdown is on the horizon, but it's obviously going to spring into the minds of some now.
"We're not going to let anything like (2010) happen again," Balbay added.
We shall see.