After enduring its toughest week of the season, Texas is hoping a return home will make its struggles short-lived.
Playing their first game since falling from the top of the rankings, the No. 6 Longhorns go for their 14th consecutive home victory over Texas Tech in a Big 12 matchup Wednesday night.
Texas won 17 in a row to open this season - its best start since 1932-33 - and earned the first No. 1 ranking in school history Jan. 11.
That perfect start ended with a 71-62 loss at then-No. 10 Kansas State on Jan. 18, but the Longhorns (17-2, 3-1) appeared ready to bounce back after building a 10-point lead early in the second half Saturday at Connecticut.
Instead, they allowed the Huskies to go on a 13-0 run en route to an 88-74 defeat.
“It’s tough, and I’d be lying to you if I said it ain’t,” senior swingman Damion James said. “We’ll get back on a roll now. I know me and I know this team and we’ll get back going. Maybe this is what it takes to bring us back down to reality.”
After being held to nine points against Kansas State, James had 23 against Connecticut, giving him a 20.2-point average over the past six games. James paces Texas with 17.6 points per game and averages a conference-leading 10.8 rebounds.
However, the Longhorns have been struggling offensively, totaling 37 turnovers in the two losses. They’ve shot a combined 38.6 percent from the field in the last three games and been held below 75 points in each - that happened only once in their first 16 games.
Senior center Dexter Pittman has failed to score more than six points in five straight, a stretch prior to which he was averaging 14.6 points. Avery Bradley is 2 for 11 from 3-point range over the last three games after making nine of his previous 10 attempts, and fellow freshman J’Covan Brown had played a key role off the bench before totaling two points on 1-of-11 shooting in the two losses.
Coach Rick Barnes thinks Bradley, Brown and the team’s other underclassmen might have learned a valuable lesson from last week’s defeats.
“I think it has been great for the younger guys to go through this and realize that right now, at this time of year, the intensity has got to go up,” Barnes said.
His team will try to win its 16th in a row at home as it faces a Texas Tech team which has lost four straight on the road. Texas has won 13 in a row at home over the Red Raiders since Feb. 24, 1996, and is 25-4 overall in the series since the former Southwest Conference rivals joined the Big 12 in 1996-97.
James averaged 19.5 points in last season’s two-game sweep of Texas Tech (14-5, 2-3).
The Red Raiders opened the season 9-0 before dropping five of eight, including an 0-3 start to Big 12 play, but they’ve since won back-to-back games. They are coming off a 75-65 victory over Oklahoma on Saturday night.
Junior forward Mike Singletary, scoring a team-best 15.4 points per game, led the way with 24 points and made all three of his 3-point attempts. Singletary has averaged 23.5 points in his team’s last two wins, but has scored 8.8 per game in the last four road games.
Texas leads the series 70-53, winning 40 of 61 in Austin, and is 98-11 against in-state opponents in Barnes’ 11 seasons at the school.