The lights are on, but nobody seems to be home. Or, in the case of Rick Barnes’ Longhorns, someone is definitely home, but perhaps they’re all asleep.
Since Dec. 1 the Longhorns have lost six of 10 games, including their first three Big 12 Conference matchups, a first in Barne’s tenure. The 8-8 overall record is proof of the team’s lack of fortitude.
“This time of year, the teams that keep moving forward are the ones that have the attitude they are going to get better,” Barnes said after a recent loss. “We need to continue to get better on the mental side and understanding the game.”
On Dec. 8 Texas traveled to Houston to take on UCLA at Reliant Stadium. A basketball game in a football stadium sounds like a marvelous idea, but the Longhorns may have preferred a true home game after their 65-63 loss to the Bruins.
Barnes and the Longhorns were welcomed back to Austin the following week with a gift of a game against Texas State, who stuck around long enough to only lose by 12 points.
Beating the Bobcats is easy, but when No. 23 North Carolina rolled into the Frank Erwin Center, no one really expected the game to be close. Texas, to the surprise of many, earned a solid win by pummeling the Tar Heels 85-67 in what was easily the Longhorns’ best game of the season. Two straight wins and all of a sudden Texas seemed to be figuring things out.
A trip to East Lansing, Mich., would quell any hype surrounding the Longhorns after they were dealt a 67-56 loss by Michigan State.
Then after a quick trip back home and a win against Rice, the Longhorns hit the road once again as they opened Big 12 play against Baylor in Waco. An eventful game unfolded, but Texas wasn’t able to keep up in overtime and dropped its first conference game of the year, 86-79. Still, there were some moves in the right direction, notably the continued maturation of freshman point guard Javan Felix.
Felix exploded for a career-high 26 points while adding nine assists against just one turnover. With the absence of Myck Kabongo (returns from 23-game suspension Feb. 13), Felix has logged a lot of minutes, and it was in Waco that he began to show his true potential.
“You’ve just got to go into it with a mindset of getting better every day,” Felix said. “Build on the positive. And that’s what we’ve been trying to do as a young group.”
Just this past week Texas played in two more games, although the loss to West Virginia could have been categorized as a boxing match as there appeared to be more blood spilled than baskets made. The Longhorns again had a chance to close out a game in the final minutes as they held a double-digit lead against the Mountaineers with five minutes left in the second half. Texas eventually lost by four points in overtime after another collapse late in the game.
“We just have to stay positive as of right now, and not get too down on ourselves,” sophomore guard Sheldon McClellan said. “It’s a long season so we just have to focus on the next couple of games and, like I said, the guards — especially me — have to finish better.”
Texas had no business winning on the road in Ames, Iowa, against Iowa State, and it didn’t. The Cyclones shot the ball well and sent the Longhorns packing with a 20-point loss and their third consecutive conference loss as McClellan, the team’s leading scorer, played one scoreless minute.
Published on January 14, 2013 as "Texas struggles in Big 12 play".