Texas got off to one of the best starts in school history, but hasn’t come close to maintaining that level of play over the past two weeks.
The No. 9 Longhorns won’t catch any breaks over the next eight days, a rough stretch that begins Monday night against an Oklahoma State team that has won 16 in a row at home.
Texas won its first 17 games and earned the first No. 1 ranking in school history Jan. 11, but has since dropped three of four. The Longhorns fell to visiting No. 24 Baylor 80-77 in overtime Saturday.
Damion James had 20 points and a career-high 19 rebounds in his school-record 127th start, and helped Texas (18-3, 4-2 Big 12) rally from a 14-point second-half deficit. The Bears, though, made a tying layup with 0.3 seconds left in regulation and hit five of six free throws in the extra period after James fouled out with 38 seconds left.
The Longhorns continued to struggle from the free-throw line, going 19 of 31. Despite averaging 85.3 points, Texas is among the worst free-throw shooting teams in the nation at 61.8 percent, and it made 54.1 percent in the last four games.
“If we want to win, they’re going to have to figure it out,” coach Rick Barnes said. “I wish I could come up with a remedy for it.”
Barnes’ team needs to fix the problem quickly. After attempting to end the Cowboys’ home win streak, Texas faces an Oklahoma team that has won 11 straight at home Feb. 6 and hosts No. 2 Kansas two days later.
To open that stretch with a victory, the Longhorns will likely need to slow down James Anderson, the Big 12’s leading scorer.
The junior guard is averaging 22.5 points this season and has scored in double figures in 35 consecutive games - second longest in school history behind Bryant Reeves’ 50.
Anderson had a season-high 31 points at Missouri on Saturday, but Oklahoma State (16-5, 4-3) had its three-game win streak snapped in a 95-80 loss. Reserve forward Matt Pilgrim was the only other Cowboys player to score in double figures with a season-best 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting.
Anderson shot 6 of 15 and scored 16 points against Texas at Stillwater on Feb. 28, although Oklahoma State won 68-59. Three other Cowboys scored in double figures in the fourth of Oklahoma State’s 16 consecutive home wins, while James led the Longhorns with 18 points and 18 rebounds.
The victory snapped the Cowboys’ six-game slide against Texas. Anderson scored 35 points in the last of those losses, 99-74 in Austin on Feb. 10.
James, who had 19 points in that win, averaged 21.1 points and 11.8 rebounds over his last eight contests. He leads the Longhorns with 18.2 points per game and is the conference’s top rebounder with 11.3 a contest.
Texas leads the series with Oklahoma State 40-35 and has won 21 of 32 matchups since joining the Big 12 in 1996-97.
The Cowboys, though, are 5-2 at home against the Longhorns since the beginning of the 2002-03 season.