North Texas (5-1) at Texas (7-0)

Cloudy Currently: Austin, TX
Temp: 39° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Wed Dec 5, 2007
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Texas lost its leading scorer and rebounder to the NBA in the offseason, but that hasn’t stopped the Longhorns from reaching their highest national ranking in two years.

Coming off a dramatic win over one of the top-ranked teams in the country, the fourth-ranked Longhorns look to remain undefeated when they host North Texas on Wednesday.

Kevin Durant put together one of the finest seasons in Texas basketball history as a freshman last season. He averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds to earn National Player of the Year honors, but left a huge hole in the lineup when he entered the NBA draft.

Texas (7-0), though, hasn’t had much trouble without Durant. The Longhorns were ranked 15th in the preseason AP poll, and have since improved their position with their second 7-0 start in three years.

Their current win streak includes two victories over teams ranked in the top 10. Texas beat then-No. 7 Tennessee 97-78 on Nov. 24, and held off then-No. 2 UCLA for a 63-61 win in Los Angeles on Sunday night. UCLA became the highest-ranked opponent Texas has ever defeated on the road.

“They didn’t flinch,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said of his Longhorns after he notched his school-record 41st win over a ranked opponent. “I think they’ve shown they are fearless.”

The Longhorns’ success, particularly against strong opponents, has helped Texas climb to its highest ranking since it was No. 2 on Dec. 5, 2005.

A big reason for the strong start has been the play of Damion James, who has emerged as a solid offensive option in the Texas frontcourt after playing in Durant’s shadow as a freshman last season.

James had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the second consecutive game on Sunday, including a putback dunk to provide the winning margin with eight seconds remaining.

“It’s like a dream come true,” said James, who led a Longhorn celebration at midcourt in front of 96-year-old former UCLA coach John Wooden and actor Denzel Washington. “Him and Denzel, wow, man.”

There will likely be fewer stars in attendance to see North Texas (5-1) in Austin, but the Mean Green have put together a strong start of their own. They overcame a 21-point second-half deficit on Saturday to pull out a 75-72 win over New Mexico State.

North Texas shot just 36.5 percent from the field, but Collin Dennis was 8-for-13 - including 3-for-5 from 3-point range - and scored a team-high 21 points off the bench. The Mean Green are undefeated when Dennis plays - their one loss came Nov. 21 against Texas-Arlington while he was sidelined by a sprained ankle.

This will be the 34th meeting between the Mean Green and the Longhorns. Texas owns a 28-5 advantage in the series, and has won six straight against North Texas since a 75-74 loss on Jan. 19, 1981.

The Mean Green have only one win in Austin - a 29-26 victory on Dec. 6, 1930.

Barnes, though, doesn’t want his Longhorns getting too confident.

“If we don’t get ready to play, it will be right back to the proud peacock today, feather duster tomorrow,” he said.

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