Texas won its first game as the nation’s top-ranked team. Now, the Longhorns will try to continue their undefeated start on their home floor.
Playing its first game in Austin as the country’s No. 1 team, Texas will try to win its eighth straight at home versus Texas A&M on Saturday night.
After reaching the top spot in the AP poll for the first time Monday, the Longhorns (16-0, 2-0 Big 12) remained unbeaten with Wednesday’s 90-83 victory at Iowa State.
“We feel like every game we play, there’s a big old target on our back because we’re Texas. I guess, with the No. 1 spot, it made it that much bigger,” senior Damion James said after posting his ninth double-double of the season with 23 points and 14 rebounds. “We like the challenge. We have a great team.”
While James has been a cornerstone of the Texas program over the past three-plus seasons, the rapid development of freshman guard Avery Bradley has played a major role in the Longhorns reaching the top of the national rankings.
Bradley is averaging 26.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists in Big 12 play. He’s made 78.6 percent of his shots against conference foes, including all seven of his 3-point attempts.
“Avery just keeps getting better and better, and what he does, he really works hard on both ends of the floor,” coach Rick Barnes said. “He’s obviously playing extremely well offensively, but the reason he’s out there (is) because he has become a guy that really defends.”
Texas is shooting 54.5 percent from the field in its last three games and ranks second in the nation in scoring with 88.2 points per game. But the Longhorns have also been solid defensively, holding opponents to 64.3 points and 36.9 percent shooting - third-best in the Big 12.
The Longhorns have fared even better at Frank Erwin Center, giving up 59.0 points and 33.9 percent while winning their first 10 home games by an average of 29.2 points.
Texas will try to extend that winning streak against a Texas A&M team that shot 36.4 percent, including 2 of 17 from 3-point range, in Tuesday’s 88-65 loss at No. 13 Kansas State.
Senior guard Donald Sloan, who leads the Aggies (12-4, 1-1) with 17.4 points per game, is looking to bounce back from a season-low eight-point performance while Texas A&M tries to regain a defensive intensity that helped it hold its previous five opponents to 56.0 points and 37.0 percent shooting.
Accomplishing that against the high-scoring Longhorns, though, could be a significant challenge.
“They’re a very talented and deep team, but I’m pretty confident going in there,” said Sloan, who scored a team-high 17 points in the Aggies’ last visit to Austin - a 67-58 loss on Jan. 24. “We’re just looking to go down there and play some good team defense, play together as a team and come out with a victory.”
Texas A&M, which is 0-3 all-time against top-ranked opponents, has lost seven straight at Texas since an 80-74 victory on Jan. 23, 2002.
James, who had 28 points and seven rebounds in last season’s home win against Texas A&M, became the conference’s all-time leading rebounder (1,147) Wednesday and needs one double-double to tie former Longhorn Chris Mihm for the most in school history (47) and second all-time in Big 12 play. James is averaging 21.7 points and 8.3 boards in three career home games versus the Aggies.
Texas leads the all-time series with Texas A&M 131-84, but the home team has won the last 11 games in this matchup since a Longhorns 69-59 victory on Jan. 31, 2004.
Texas A&M hosts Texas on Feb. 27.