After watching his team finish its non-conference schedule with a loss, Texas coach Rick Barnes stressed to his players the importance of working together.
That may be one key for the Longhorns to rebound in their Big 12 opener, but if the first two months of the season are any indication, they might just need A.J. Abrams to get back on track.
Abrams looks to snap out of a shooting slump as the seventh-ranked Longhorns open conference play with a home game against Iowa State on Saturday.
Texas (11-3) split four games against ranked teams during its tough non-conference schedule before suffering its first loss to an unranked opponent Tuesday night. The Longhorns shot 34.8 percent from the field and got outscored 40-30 in the second half of their 67-61 loss at Arkansas.
“We’ve had a lot of different things transpire for us trying to find how we’re going to play as a team,” Barnes said. “The fact is we’ve got really good guys that want to get better. Everything we’ve asked them to concentrate on, they’ve been able to do that.
“What we haven’t done at this point is put it all together consistently, night in and night out. But they’re good kids. They want to be a good team, and as long they continue with that attitude and keep working, we’ll get there.”
Getting Abrams back on track would help tremendously. The senior guard, Texas’ leading scorer with 18.1 points per game, was 3-for-16 from the field and 1-for-8 from 3-point range while totaling a season-low seven points against the Razorbacks.
“Same shots I’ve been hitting all year,” said Abrams, averaging 11.3 points over his last four games. “Tonight I just wasn’t knocking them in. It was just a tough night.”
Abrams is averaging 19.6 points while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 50.7 percent from 3-point range (38-for-75) in 11 wins, but has been held to 12.7 points, 26.4 percent shooting from the field and 20.7 percent shooting (6-for-29) from beyond the arc in three losses.
He’ll try to find his touch as the Longhorns go for their 13th straight conference win at home. They were 8-0 against the Big 12 at Frank Erwin Center last season en route to a 13-3 overall record within the conference.
Iowa State was just 4-12 in Big 12 play last season, but the Cyclones (11-4) have put together their best non-conference showing since winning 11 of 13 games before conference play in 2000-01.
Craig Brackins had 22 points and 16 rebounds to lead Iowa State to a 64-56 win over Houston Baptist on Tuesday night. But the Cyclones’ fourth straight win didn’t impress coach Greg McDermott.
“We won and we were very lethargic,” he said. “But that might be a good thing because I will have their attention. We were a step slow from the start of the game. I would like to think our guys are mature enough to respect a team and not pay attention to its record.”
McDermott knows his team will need a much more inspired performance to compete with Texas, which has won its last three meetings with Iowa State.
Abrams scored 25 points with seven 3-pointers as the Longhorns rallied from a 13-point deficit to beat the Cyclones 71-65 in overtime last Feb. 9.