Texas is member of the Top 25 heading into Saturday’s matchup against Kansas State. That may not be the case much longer, regardless of the outcome.
The 23rd-ranked Longhorns will try to avoid their fourth straight loss when they meet Kansas State at the Frank Erwin Center.
Four losses in five games has dropped Texas (15-7, 4-5 Big 12) to No. 23 in the rankings, and even a victory over Kansas State (13-7, 3-6) may not be enough to prevent the Longhorns from dropping out of the poll next week.
Despite a huge comeback in the second half, Texas couldn’t overcome a poor opening 20 minutes and off night from freshman Daniel Gibson in an 88-79 loss at Colorado on Tuesday.
The Longhorns, down to seven scholarship players, including three freshmen, because of injuries and grades, fell behind by 23 points with 14 minutes remaining. With Brad Buckman and Jason Klotz leading the way, the Longhorns pulled within four with 7 1/2 minutes to play, but Colorado built its lead back up as quickly as it lost it.
Buckman finished with 27 points and 21 rebounds—most by a Texas player since LaSalle Thompson had 21 in 1982. Klotz added 16 points, but Gibson, averaging a team-high 14.1 points, shot 4-of-12 for 10 points and had eight turnovers after leading the Longhorns in scoring the previous six contests.
“I can sit here and rave about the fact that we (came back) from whatever it was we were down, but that’s not what it’s about,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “We shouldn’t have gotten down like that. We didn’t have to get down like that if we had done a better job on the offensive end.”
The loss gave the Longhorns just their second three-game losing streak in Barnes’ seven years as coach. The only other time Texas dropped three in a row came when it opened 0-4 in 1998-99, Barnes’ first season in Austin.
Injuries and academic problems are two of the reasons for the sudden drop in the rankings.
The Longhorns are 1-4 since sophomore forward P.J. Tucker was declared academically ineligible. Making matters worse, a hip injury will sideline freshman center LaMarcus Aldridge for the rest of the season.
Tucker was the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 13.7 points and 8.0 boards, while Aldridge averaged 9.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in 16 games—all starts.
A left foot injury sustained by guard Kenton Paulino, the team’s best 3-point shooter, in a 92-80 overtime loss to Iowa State last Saturday prevented him from playing against Colorado.
“It seems like a domino effect,” Buckman said. “People keep falling, falling, falling.”
With three straight road losses, returning home might be what Texas needs to get back in the win column. Winners of 41 of their last 43 at home, the Longhorns are 11-1 this season at the Erwin Center, winning by an average of 18.1 points.
Texas has never failed to make the NCAA tournament under Barnes but now faces a must-win situation in every game. The Longhorns must win four of their final seven games to finish at least .500 in the Big 12.
Kansas State lost its third straight, 74-65 to archrival Kansas on Wednesday.
Fred Peete and Jeremiah Massey each had 20 points for the Wildcats, who have lost 22 consecutive home games to the Jayhawks.
“We knew about the streak against Kansas,” Peete said. “We knew we were 3-5 coming into the game in the Big 12. We knew we had to win.”
Kansas State, 0-2 this season against ranked opponents, has lost three of four Big 12 road games.
Texas is 3-0 against Kansas State in Austin under Barnes with an average margin of victory of 14 points.