Senior guard Balbay still setting tone for defense

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These Longhorns (21-3) have no respect for records — at least losing ones.

By beating Oklahoma on Wednesday night, they swept the two-game season series against the Sooners for the first time since 2008.

At 9-0 in the Big 12, they are off to their best start in league play since 1977, when they competed in the Southwest Conference. If the Longhorns win Saturday against Baylor at home, they will be off to their best start since 1963.

Another streak will be threatened this weekend: The Bears won their last four versus Texas, dating back to the 2009 Big 12 tournament. That includes three losses last season, two by double digits.

All this talk of breaking records is backed up by the team’s top-ranked defense.

Texas is holding Big 12 opponents to a league-best average of 54 points per game. If that scoring defense holds up through the final seven contests, the Longhorns will finish with 864 points scored against them in conference play, shattering the previous record they set in 2005-06 of 926.

“It’s been our goal, playing great defense,” said Texas guard Dogus Balbay on Wednesday night. “We know we can play defense every night. Shots may not go in every night, but we can play defense every night. We don’t really care what the others say about our defense. We just focus on our stuff — it’s all about us.”

Balbay is a good spokesman for the Texas defense. He doesn’t lead the Big 12 in any major defensive categories — with only 24 steals to his name this year — but he’s been a critical part in stopping opposing teams’ best players.

He was on Marcus Denmon when the Missouri guard scored just seven points in a game at Texas on Jan. 29, and he kept Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page scoreless on Jan. 26. Versus the Sooners, he was an offensive threat as well, scoring 12 points all the while making sure not a single Oklahoma guard scored more than 13.

“Our defense was really, really good to start the game,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes after the win in Norman. “I thought that Dogus and Gary Johnson really did a nice job of getting the starting force on the defensive end.”

Speaking of record breaking, Texas has only given up 181 field goals this Big 12 season and is on pace to finish with just 322 converted against it in the regular season, the fewest in conference history.

“They pressure really well on the defensive end; they get out in the passing lanes and take away angles and things like that,” said Oklahoma guard Cade Davis. “This is probably one of the best defenses I’ve seen Texas [have] since I’ve been here.”

Quite an impressive resume, but Barnes isn’t impressed. He said on Monday that the team can get better on defense. Balbay isn’t reading into the numbers either.

“We’re trying to get better every day on defense,” he said. “We can still get better, I think.”

Baylor is no easy test. The team is third in the conference in scoring defense and possesses a dangerous one-two offensive threat in Perry Jones and LaceDarius Dunn.

With a conference-best 18.1 average margin of victory, Texas is a serious contender for the Big 12 regular season title, which the Longhorns haven’t won outright since 1999.

That’s just one more record ready to be broken.