Texas’ defense faltered in a rare home loss last week. Leo Lyons and Missouri are primed to keep the pressure on their Big 12 rival.
After a humbling defeat, the 16th-ranked Longhorns look to keep Lyons and the Tigers’ high-scoring offense in check when the teams meet at the Frank Erwin Center on Wednesday night.
Texas (15-5, 4-2) appears vulnerable after an 85-81 overtime loss Saturday to Kansas State and Denis Clemente, who matched Michael Beasley’s Big 12 single-game record with 44 points.
The Longhorns had been giving up 61.6 points per game and had won 19 in a row at home, including 14 straight in Big 12 play.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Texas swingman Damion James said. “This might be the game that it takes to put a spark under us and makes us step up our game.”
The Longhorns, which had won three straight overall, will now face a Tigers team that is third in the nation in scoring, averaging 85.0 points.
Lyons, who had a career-high 30 points to lead Missouri to an 89-72 win over Baylor on Saturday, senses an opportunity to take advantage of the Longhorns and their rattled defense.
“That just shows the unpredictability of the Big 12 and how good everybody is,” Lyons said of Texas’ loss. “We can go in there thinking we can win.”
The Tigers (18-4, 5-2) had lost nine straight to the Longhorns before beating them at home 97-84 on Jan. 12, 2008. Lyons had 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting in that game, but he has every reason to be confident entering this contest.
The senior forward moved back into the starting lineup for the first time in six games Saturday, and he responded by giving Missouri its first 30-point game since Thomas Gardner scored 30 against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 10, 2005.
Lyons started 16 straight games before being suspended for one last month after failing to pay a traffic ticket. He came off the bench the next four games, but a loss at Kansas State last Wednesday gave Tigers coach Mike Anderson a reason to change the lineup and return Lyons to a starting role.
“I’ve got to work hard every day and I’ve just been trying to make an effort to work hard and be a better leader,” Lyons said. “I guess he knows that and he gave me another chance.”
He topped his previous career best by three points, making his first eight shots and going 14-for-15 from the free-throw line to become the Tigers’ 38th 1,000-point scorer.
Lyons is second on the team with 14.8 points per game. Forward DeMarre Carroll, who leads Missouri with 16.8 points a contest, thrived in the paint with Lyons back in the lineup.
Carroll had 25 points versus Baylor after failing to top 13 in his previous nine games. He had 12 points and seven rebounds in last season’s matchup with Texas.
James had 27 points and 16 rebounds in that contest for the Longhorns, and A.J. Abrams added 21 points.
Abrams set the Big 12 record for most career 3-pointers on Saturday, making four shots from long range to break the mark of 338 he had shared with Kansas’ Jeff Boschee (1999-2002).
The senior guard had 15 points in the loss, but was 4-of-14 from 3-point range. In Texas’ five losses this season, he’s shot 22.4 percent (13-of-58) from beyond the arc.
Abrams, who leads the Longhorns with 16.9 points per game, has shot 45.5 percent (10-for-22) from 3-point range in three contests against the Tigers.
Texas has won four straight home games against Missouri since a 54-47 loss on Feb. 27, 1999. The Longhorns lead the series 11-8.