Texas has been dominant in conference openers during the Rick Barnes era, and Saturday’s game probably shouldn’t be any different.
Texas looks for its 10th straight win in Big 12 openers when it travels to face Missouri.
Under Barnes, the 12th-ranked Longhorns (13-2) have won all of their conference openers by an average of 17.6 points. Texas also will be looking for its 10th straight win over the Tigers (10-5) and fourth in a row at Missouri.
“It’s going to be a tough race this year, we know that,” said Barnes, who has won two conference championships in 10 seasons at Texas. “We’ve had a pretty good non-league start, but that’s all behind us. We’re still shaping our team.”
The Longhorns finished third in conference play last year with freshman Kevin Durant on the team. Durant was selected second overall in the 2007 NBA draft by Seattle.
Last Saturday, D.J. Augustin broke out of a mini-slump to finish with 30 points in an 81-62 win over St. Mary’s. Barnes criticized the sophomore guard for his effort and decision-making in consecutive losses at then-No. 9 Michigan State and to Wisconsin to close out 2007, and also after a 67-59 win over TCU on Jan. 2.
Augustin leads the Big 12 with 92 assists and is second in the conference in scoring with 20.5 points per game.
Texas also got 15 points last Saturday from freshman forward Gary Johnson in just his second career start.
“It felt good,” said Johnson, who was 7-of-10 from the floor. “Just getting in the flow of it, everything is coming back. It felt good out there tonight.”
Junior guard A.J. Abrams scored 13 against the Gaels after missing the win over TCU with a sprained foot. He’s third in the Big 12 with 18.4 points per game, and has shot 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from 3-point range in two games against Missouri.
In 2006-07, the Tigers finished sixth in conference play with a 7-9 record. This season, they were projected to finish tied for fifth, but also have struggled with inconsistency in recent weeks.
Despite a 96-76 rout of Missouri-Kansas City on Tuesday, the Tigers have alternated wins and losses in their last five games. The score was tied against the Kangaroos heading into halftime, but Missouri scored 61 points in the final 20 minutes - the most they’ve had in any half this season.
Leo Lyons made a career-high 10 field goals en route to a 22-point game, and fellow junior forward DeMarre Carroll added 16 points. Senior guard Steffon Hannah posted his first double-double of the season with 13 points and a season-best 11 assists.
Carroll, Hannah and Lyons all are in the top 25 in the conference in scoring, accounting for 41.0 of the Tigers’ 83.4 points per game.
The Tigers are 9-0 at Mizzou Arena this season, and have won 12 straight there overall.