Since Texas earned the first No. 1 ranking in school history a month ago, very little has gone right.
Senior Damion James is certain the worst is over.
James and the 14th-ranked Longhorns look to bounce back from another disappointing defeat and avoid losing for the sixth time in eight games Saturday when they host a Nebraska team off to its worst Big 12 start in seven years.
Texas (19-5, 5-4) was No. 3 in the preseason AP poll and took over the top spot for the first time Jan. 11, but has been gradually sliding down the rankings since a 71-62 loss at then-No. 10 Kansas State on Jan. 18. The Longhorns, who opened the season with 17 straight wins, have suddenly dropped five of seven - a surprising slide for a team expected to contend with Kansas for the Big 12 title.
Texas has been nowhere near as potent on offense as it was earlier in the season, averaging 74.1 points in the last seven after scoring 87.2 per game during the winning streak.
The Longhorns again came out flat in Monday’s 80-68 home loss to the top-ranked Jayhawks, dropping four games behind Kansas for the conference lead. The Jayhawks outrebounded a physical Texas lineup 45-34, held the Longhorns to 37.3 percent shooting and scored 27 points off 17 turnovers.
Despite all that’s gone wrong for Texas over the past 3 1/2 weeks, James isn’t worried, believing the team has plenty of time to get things turned around.
“We’ve still got the whole month of February and March to play,” said James, who averages a team-high 18.0 points and a conference-best 10.9 rebounds. “This is the worst we’re going to play. I know that. This is the worst we’re going to play. Once we get going on that high hill and get back up the hill, it’s going to be great.”
The Longhorns try to climb out of this mess against a Cornhuskers team that defeated them 58-55 last February to snap a seven-game losing streak in the series. While Nebraska went 8-8 in league play in 2008-09, it isn’t enjoying the same success this season.
The Huskers (13-11, 1-8) are last in the conference and off to their worst Big 12 start since the 2002-03 team opened 1-11. They’re also in the midst of a brutal portion of their schedule. This is their fourth straight contest against a ranked opponent with Wednesday’s game at No. 9 Kansas State still to come.
“We’re last in the Big 12, so we have this big burden on our back,” guard Myles Holley said after Wednesday’s 55-53 loss to No. 24 Baylor. “We’re not matching people’s toughness. Without that, people just think we’re soft, so they’re going straight at us. We just let them do it. If we don’t knock someone on their butt, or give ‘em one hard foul just to let them know we’re here, they’re going to continue to do it.”
Holley scored a career-high 11 points Wednesday for Nebraska, which allowed the Bears to score the final five points of the game.
Nebraska is 1-6 away from Lincoln this season and 1-27 on the road against Top 25 opponents since the 1999-2000 season. It has been a similar story for the Huskers in Austin, where the Longhorns have won all 10 meetings.