Texas was far from perfect in its last game, but still managed to notch its third straight Big 12 victory. It was more than enough to impress coach Rick Barnes.
The 11th-ranked Longhorns look to build on a hard-fought victory and extend the longest Big 12 home winning streak in team history Saturday when they meet a Kansas State team that handed them their last conference loss in Austin nearly two years ago.
Texas (15-4, 4-1) outlasted Baylor and took a 78-72 road win Tuesday night. The Longhorns missed 11 of their 14 3-point attempts, gave up 17 offensive rebounds and never led by more than six points.
Though his team has performed far better statistically over the course of the season, Barnes found the Longhorns’ perseverance Tuesday particularly encouraging.
“Coming in, we expected a hard-fought game and I thought to start both teams were digging in, trying to play as hard as we could play both ways,” Barnes said. “I thought it was a great team win. … As complete a win as we have had as a team.”
Barnes hopes for a similar performance as his team goes for its 15th straight conference win at home. The Longhorns, who have the fourth-longest overall home win streak in Division I at 19 games, haven’t lost to a conference rival in Austin since Kansas State beat then-No. 22 Texas 73-72 on Feb. 3, 2007.
This year’s Wildcats (13-7, 2-4) are anxious to try for another upset of the Longhorns after rebounding from a slow start to Big 12 competition. They lost their first four conference games by an average of 16.0 points before defeating Colorado 77-75 in overtime last Saturday and topping Missouri 88-72 on Wednesday night.
“We have some inexperience and we lost a few games in a row and kind of forgot how to win,” said sophomore guard Jacob Pullen, who had 23 points and five 3-pointers against Missouri. “Getting that win against Colorado provided us that spark, telling us that we can beat any team in the Big 12 and get a streak going.”
Kansas State coach Frank Martin is relieved his team snapped out of its funk, but knows there’s still a lot of work to do to overcome its first 0-4 start to conference play since 1996-97.
“We’ve got to be excited about where we’re going, that we’re back to playing the kind of basketball that we played for the majority of the year, but we’ve got to grow,” Martin said. “We’ve got to be willing to accept what comes our way and be willing to take it on and continue to grow.”
Though the Wildcats are 9-8 in their all-time series against the Longhorns and won their last game in Austin, they’re just 1-5 on the road in the series since the creation of the Big 12 before the 1996-97 season.
In these teams’ lone meeting last season, Texas’ A.J. Abrams made four 3-pointers to help the Longhorns to a 74-65 road win. The senior guard matched the Big 12 record with his 338th career 3-pointer in Tuesday’s victory. He’s tied atop the list with Jeff Boschee, who played at Kansas from 1999-2002.