It took 25 games, but Texas coach Rick Barnes finally saw his team play the way he imagined it could when the season started.
The 15th-ranked Longhorns will likely need another solid performance Wednesday night when they visit a Missouri team that’s lost once at home since the beginning of last season.
Despite Texas (20-5, 6-4 Big 12) opening the season with 17 straight victories and taking over the No. 1 ranking Jan. 11 for the first time in program history, it took Saturday’s 91-51 victory over Nebraska for Barnes to be pleased with his team’s overall effort.
“In terms of playing the way that I envision us to play, it was the first day all year that I thought we really played,” he said after Texas’ most lopsided Big 12 victory since a 41-point win over Kansas State on Jan. 12, 1997.
It would be hard to imagine the Longhorns having such an easy time Wednesday.
The Tigers (18-7, 6-4) have won 32 of 33 at home since the start of the 2008-09 season, with the lone defeat a 77-74 loss to Texas A&M on Feb. 3. Plus, they have won the last two meetings with the Longhorns, who were ranked both times.
Missouri is holding opponents to a conference-low 29.9 percent from 3-point range, and it leads the nation in steals (11.7) and turnovers forced with 20.4 per game.
Texas averages 83.7 points to rank third nationally and is coming off a very good performance on offense against the Cornhuskers, who are among the best defensive teams in the Big 12, allowing 62.5 points.
The Longhorns received a spark from freshman guard J’Covan Brown, who was back in the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 29.
“(Coach) was just telling me find the guy with the hot hand, that’s what I was doing,” Brown said after scoring 12 points with a season-high six assists. “My job is to take over this team and get us to the national championship. I have to step up.”
Longhorns freshman Avery Bradley, who hit a season-high six 3-pointers and scored 25 points Saturday, has stepped up in Big 12 play, averaging 15.1 points and shooting 53.5 percent from 3-point range. Bradley averaged 11.0 points and hit 35.6 percent of his 3s in non-conference games.
He could be matched up against Missouri senior Zaire Taylor, who is second in the Big 12 with 1.9 steals per game.
Taylor hit three 3s and scored a team-high 15 points Saturday, but the Tigers had only five steals and forced 13 turnovers in a 64-62 defeat at then-No. 24 Baylor. Missouri leading scorer Kim English missed a long 3-point attempt as time expired after Baylor took the lead on a tip-in with 1.3 seconds left.
“We just came up a little short, but it wasn’t because of effort or desire,” coach Mike Anderson said.
The last time the Longhorns visited Columbia, Missouri snapped a four-game skid at home in this series with a 97-84 victory Jan. 12, 2008. In these teams’ last meeting, the Tigers won 69-65 in Austin on Feb. 4 of last season.
Texas center Dexter Pittman scored 25 in that matchup, but he’s totaled only 18 points in his last four games overall. Damion James was held to six points in the last meeting, but he leads Texas this season with 17.8 per game.
James, the Big 12’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,239, is averaging 13.3 points and 10.3 boards in three career games against Missouri. He’s expected to tie the school record by playing in his 134th straight game Wednesday.