Texas coach Rick Barnes said he hasn’t been able to effectively communicate to his team this season. With just two games left before next week’s Big 12 tournament, the 21st-ranked Longhorns don’t have much time before it will be too late to listen to Barnes’ message.
Playing its final regular-season home game Monday night, Texas looks to win its fifth straight in Austin over Oklahoma, which is trying to avoid its first seven-game losing streak in more than 41 years.
Barnes’ team was picked second behind Kansas in the preseason Big 12 coaches’ poll, but since opening 17-0, Texas (22-7, 8-6) has lost seven of 12 and is tied with Oklahoma State for sixth in the conference.
“I look at it and it’s probably one of the - for whatever reason - as poor a coaching job as I’ve ever done, because I haven’t been able to get the message across consistently,” Barnes said following Saturday’s 74-58 loss at No. 22 Texas A&M.
Senior Damion James has been one of the Longhorns’ most consistent players this season - averaging a team-high 17.5 points and a conference-best 10.3 rebounds - but even the Big 12’s all-time leading rebounder isn’t immune from poor games. James, who will be honored along with fellow seniors Dexter Pittman and Justin Mason prior to Monday’s game, had 12 points and a career-low one rebound versus the Aggies.
“I’m just really disappointed in a lot of things, somewhat embarrassed to be honest with you,” Barnes said after his team - the Big 12 leader with 42.7 per game - was outrebounded by 11.
A game against a struggling Oklahoma team would seem like an ideal matchup for the Longhorns to get back on track, but Texas is one of the four Big 12 teams the Sooners have defeated this season. The Longhorns, who are shooting a Big 12-worst 61.9 percent from the foul line, missed 17 of 27 free throw attempts in an 80-71 loss in Norman on Feb. 6.
Oklahoma (13-15, 4-10) has dropped six straight since that victory over then-No. 9 Texas, and with another loss will mark the program’s longest slide since an eight-game stretch Feb. 1-24, 1969.
The Sooners will look for a better shooting performance than in a 70-63 loss to Baylor on Saturday when they hit 34.3 percent from the field, including 2 of 18 from 3-point range.
“It’s amazing when you look at our percentage of shooting the basketball that we were actually in this game and had a chance to win late,” said Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, whose team will try to avoid going 0-7 on the road in Big 12 play before closing its regular season at home Saturday against Texas A&M.
In Oklahoma’s last game at the Erwin Center on Feb. 21, 2009, Willie Warren hit six 3s and scored 27 points but then-No. 2 Oklahoma fell 73-68.
Warren will miss this game with a sprained ankle and is expected to be out until at least the beginning of the Big 12 tournament, giving freshman Tommy Mason-Griffin a more central role in the Sooners’ attack. Mason-Griffin, who is averaging 19.7 over the last 11 games, made five 3s and scored 24 points in the Feb. 6 victory over Texas.
With freshman J’Covan Brown questionable after suffering a neck strain in Saturday’s loss, Mason, Jordan Hamilton and Avery Bradley could be called upon for even more production in the Longhorns’ backcourt.
Bradley made three 3-pointers and led Texas with 21 points in last month’s loss in Norman.
Oklahoma leads the all-time series 47-28.