Last season, Texas concluded the non-conference portion of its schedule with a loss at Arkansas. The Longhorns would like to avoid a repeat performance.
The second-ranked Longhorns look to improve to 14-0 for the first time in 28 years Tuesday night when they visit the Razorbacks.
After opening last season 11-2, then-No. 7 Texas lost 67-61 to Arkansas on Jan. 6 in its first visit to Fayetteville since 1991, when the schools were rivals in the now-defunct Southwest Conference.
“I said coming up here - (Arkansas) should be in the Big 12. That’s where they should be,” Longhorns coach Rick Barnes said after last season’s meeting. “It would make our league better. It would be better for them. Why they’re not, I can’t answer that. But it would be great, because this is what it’s about.”
Barnes’ team, which hosts Colorado in its Big 12 opener Saturday, is looking for a better effort than in last Saturday’s 76-70 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Texas managed to improve to 13-0 despite missing 12 of its first 15 shots and finishing a season-worst 35.4 percent from the field. The Longhorns, first in the nation with 45.7 rebounds per game, were outrebounded 47-37 by the Islanders.
“I don’t think at any point in time I thought we were going to lose that game, it was just really disappointing,” said Barnes, whose team won its first 12 games by an average of 28.4 points. “We took a huge step backward. Lack of effort, lack of concentration.”
Senior Damion James, second in the Big 12 in rebounding with 10.9 per game, is averaging 18.8 points and 12.8 rebounds during a streak of four consecutive double-doubles. James, who had 17 points and eight boards in last season’s loss at Arkansas, needs one double-double to move past Drew Gooden for third in Big 12 history with 45.
Senior center Dexter Pittman will try to keep up his red-hot shooting pace after making 13 of 15 field goals and averaging 16.5 points in his last two games. His 75.3 shooting percentage leads the nation.
While the Longhorns are trying to match the third-best start in program history and improve to 14-0 for the first time since 1981-82, Arkansas (7-7) will try to rebound from Saturday’s 73-72 loss to then-No. 24 UAB.
The Razorbacks led 72-71 with 2.2 seconds left and were on the verge of their sixth straight victory at Bud Walton Arena, but senior forward Mike Washington was screened on the Blazers’ final play - a dunk by Howard Crawford with one second remaining.
“They executed better than we defended on that last play,” said Razorbacks coach John Pelphrey, whose team finishes its non-conference schedule Tuesday before beginning SEC play Jan. 14 at Mississippi State. “Give them a lot of credit. They called a good time out at the end and ran the play just like you draw it up.”
Sophomore guard Rotnei Clarke, who leads Arkansas with 19.0 points per game, scored six points - all on two 3-pointers - in last season’s victory over the Longhorns. Clarke is among the nation’s leaders in 3-point field goal percentage at 51.0. Texas’ opponents, though, are shooting 28.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Washington led the Razorbacks with 22 points in last season’s meeting, which gave Arkansas an 86-65 edge in the all-time series with Texas.