Last weekend, Texas was eager to prove that a blowout loss to Duke was an aberration. After being routed again, the stunned Longhorns are now just trying to avoid a third straight defeat.
The No. 15 Longhorns (8-2) look to get back on track when they host lowly Texas State on Thursday night.
The excitement surrounding the showdown between top-ranked Duke and then-No. 2 Texas on Dec. 10 turned out to be unwarranted, as the Blue Devils pounded the Longhorns 97-66 at East Rutherford, N.J. behind J.J. Redick’s 41 points.
Texas returned home and prepared to put the memory of the humbling defeat behind it Saturday, but unranked Tennessee proved to be just as tough an opponent as Duke, knocking off the Longhorns 95-78.
The loss to Vols dropped Texas another seven places in the Top 25, putting it in a 13-spot, two-week freefall in the poll. Before facing Texas State, the Longhorns will have had four days to think about what their season could become if they don’t get things turned around quickly.
“I still think we should be a good basketball team,” coach Rick Barnes said after the loss to the Vols.
Barnes’ task of getting his team back on track has been made tougher by injuries. Already playing without senior forward Brad Buckman, sidelined with a calf injury, Texas lost point guard Daniel Gibson early in the first half Saturday with a concussion.
Buckman and Gibson combine to average 24.1 points, and the 6-foot-8 Buckman also contributes 7.4 rebounds per contest. The status of both players for Thursday’s game is uncertain.
“I do not want to take anything away from Tennessee because I thought they came in and did what they wanted to do, but Brad is a big part of what we do,” Barnes said. “He is a senior and a leader.”
Injuries, however, can’t be blamed entirely for the poor play of Barnes’ team on both ends. In the two losses, the Longhorns committed 38 turnovers, and defense was an even bigger problem. Duke and Tennessee each shot at least 50 percent from the field and made 24 total 3-pointers.
Against Tennessee, Texas made just two field goals in the first seven minutes and trailed by 20 at halftime.
Freshman A.J. Abrams stepped in at the point Saturday when Gibson was injured and had 19 points, but also committed a team-high five turnovers. If Gibson can’t go Thursday, Barnes will have little choice but to stick with the first-year player.
“We spent our whole preseason with Daniel and Brad being a big part of what we’re doing, so now we’re making adjustments and we’re getting new guys out there,” Barnes said. “We didn’t expect A.J. to be playing 31 minutes at this point in the season, but hopefully, with the experience he is getting right now, he can improve on more areas of his game.”
Texas, which saw its 33-game home winning streak against nonconference opponents end, got 20 points and 11 rebounds from P.J. Tucker against the Vols.
As poorly as the Longhorns played in the last two games, they should be facing the right team as they attempt to get back in the win column. Texas State (1-7) is coming off a 58-57 victory over Texas-Pan American on Thursday, as Jushay Rockett hit the winning shot with 38 seconds remaining.
Trevor Cook had a game-high 17 points for the Bobcats, who don’t have anyone averaging double figures in points. The team does boast a pair of accurate long-range shooters, as Antwoine Blanchard is 10-of-17 from 3-point range and Jeremy Johnson is 6-of-12.
Texas and Texas State last met Nov. 19, 2004, when the Longhorns opened their season with a 95-63 rout.