Following a disheartening loss last week, Texas coach Rick Barnes said he wasn’t worried about his team. A second straight defeat has caused him to change his mind.
Looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak in more than two seasons, the No. 7 Longhorns visit Baylor on Saturday night in the regular-season finale for both squads.
Texas (24-6, 12-3 Big 12) appeared headed for its first regular-season conference title since 2007-08 and a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament going into its final five games. The Longhorns, though, have dropped three of four to fall one game behind first-place Kansas.
Barnes claimed he was “not concerned about it” after his team blew a 22-point first-half lead and lost 91-89 at Colorado on Saturday. An ensuing 75-70 defeat to Kansas State on Monday, however, apparently has the coach thinking differently.
“I’m concerned about the way we are playing basketball,” Barnes said after his team suffered its first conference loss at home. “We are better than what we are playing and that is the biggest concern. It’s really pretty simple. It’s execution on both ends. You have to stay disciplined with what you do.”
Texas, third in the conference in scoring defense with 61.2 points per game, has struggled at both ends of the court during the 1-3 stretch, giving up 72.3 points and shooting 39.9 percent. The Longhorns are shooting 45.6 percent on the season.
Texas, outscored 58-41 in the second half by the Buffaloes, has been outscored after the break in all three defeats during this stretch. It allowed the Wildcats to shoot 57.7 percent in the final 20 minutes.
“Some of the breakdowns are baffling to be honest with you,” Barnes said. “I can’t tell you why because we have proven at times this year that we can be really good defensively. We have proven that we could be really good offensively.”
Texas’ slump has left the Jayhawks in position to clinch the outright Big 12 title with a win at No. 22 Missouri on Saturday afternoon - hours before the Longhorns take the court.
Sophomore swingman Jordan Hamilton, averaging a team-best 18.7 points, scored 14 on 5-of-18 shooting Monday. He has shot 25.9 percent in the last three defeats.
While Hamilton struggled again, freshman forward Tristan Thompson had a career-high 26 points and 10 boards.
Thompson and Hamilton each scored 17 points and combined for 20 rebounds as Texas snapped a four-game losing streak against Baylor (18-11, 7-8) with a 69-60 victory Feb. 12.
Texas had taken 11 straight on the road in the series before falling 92-77 to the then-No. 21 Bears last March 6, as Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn scored 30 points.
The Longhorns, looking to avoid losing three straight for the first time since Jan. 31-Feb. 7, 2009, will try to extend the struggles of Dunn, who scored 26 on Feb. 12.
Dunn shot 2 of 16 and had a season-low seven points in a 71-60 loss to Oklahoma State on Tuesday - the Bears’ third in four games. The guard, among the Big 12 leaders with 19.7 points per game, has averaged 11.7 and shot 23.9 percent over his past three contests.
Dunn, who needs five points to become the conference’s all-time leading scorer, was cleared Thursday by a grand jury of an assault charge that led to him being suspended for the first three games of the season.
Baylor, loser of eight of 14, is looking to boost its tenuous chances for an NCAA tournament bid.
“We still have hopes,” guard A.J. Walton said. “We still have one home game left and the conference tournament. We’re going to keep playing Baylor basketball and just looking forward to what’s going to happen postseason.”