Texas was stunned after losing its conference opener to an unranked team. Though they’ve come away with wins in two Big 12 contests since then, the 12th-ranked Longhorns haven’t looked much better.
Texas looks to snap out of its funk against conference rivals on Saturday when it hosts Texas Tech.
The Longhorns (15-3, 2-1) opened this season 11-0 for their longest undefeated start since 1981-82, but haven’t carried their strong play into their conference schedule. They dropped their Big 12 opener against Missouri on Jan. 12, had to overcome a 13-point deficit to beat Colorado 69-67 last Saturday, and nearly blew a double-digit lead in a 63-61 victory over Oklahoma State on Monday.
Texas is averaging 72.0 points and shooting 42.0 percent from the field against Big 12 foes after averaging 80.5 points and shooting 49.3 percent in non-conference games.
Despite the Longhorns’ struggles, Texas coach Rick Barnes remains unfazed.
“Sometimes we overanalyze this, and it’s just part of the game. You go through it,” he said. “The good thing is we know we haven’t peaked. That’s the good thing, and I don’t think you want to be a team that’s playing your best basketball right now.
“Even though you want to play great every time you go out, it’s just not going to happen.”
Texas salvaged the victory on Monday thanks in part to the clutch play of sophomore point guard D.J. Augustin, who went 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the final minute and finished with 26 points.
“I just liked his demeanor, the way he carried himself,” Barnes said of Augustin, averaging 22.7 points and 5.3 assists in conference games. “The fact that he went up there and made those was really big. We all know how important he is.”
Augustin will try to get his team back on track against the Red Raiders (11-7, 2-2), who are coming off a 92-84 win over Missouri on Wednesday. Martin Zeno scored a career-high 33 points - including a career-best 19 from the free-throw line - to give coach Bob Knight his 901st career win.
Knight became the first coach to reach 900 career victories with the Red Raiders’ win over then-No. 10 Texas A&M on Jan. 16. His team has won two of three games against ranked opponents this season.
The Red Raiders, though, are just 3-22 against the Longhorns since the formation of the Big 12, including a 2-18 mark against Barnes. They haven’t won a road game against Texas since a 75-58 victory on Feb. 24, 1996 - losing 11 straight in Austin.
Zeno has averaged 22.0 points in six games this month, but has scored just 7.3 per game while shooting 21.6 percent (8-for-37) from the field in his last four games against Texas - all losses.
Augustin, meanwhile, averaged 15.0 points and 8.5 assists while shooting 52.6 percent in two games against Texas Tech last season.