With five games left of his 23-game suspension, Myck Kabongo’s return is near, unfortunately that is about it on the good news front for Texas.
Coming off its first loss to Oklahoma in two years in disappointing fashion, the Longhorns are reeling and there’s not much hope left for a young team that struggles in seemingly every game.
"We do a lot of things well, but we don't win because we don't consistently do it when the game is on the line,” head coach Rick Barnes said.
The Longhorns five-game conference skid coupled with leading rebounder Jonathan Holmes’ broken hand don’t bode well for the team’s confidence moving forward. However, leading scorer Sheldon McClellan is coming off a career-high in points against the Sooners and Holmes’ absence inside opens up playing time for the Longhorns’ youthful big men.
For the next three-to-six weeks Holmes is expected to miss due to injury freshmen Prince Ibeh, Ioannis Papepetrou and Connor Lammert will log significant minutes and could improve faster than expected. The Longhorns’ second leading scorer, Julien Lewis, is also expected to take on a larger role while Holmes is gone.
Even a coach like Kansas’ had nothing but praise for the Longhorns. Although its easy to compliment a team after having erased a double-digit deficit in the second half to avoid an upset.
“Texas is the youngest team in the country,” Self said. “They are going to be really, really good.”
Expectations and results are two entirely different things, and Texas has figured that out the hard way. No one expected Texas to struggle this much, but the result of an inexperienced, sometimes immature team has been an overall bummer of a season.
The Longhorns welcome the Texas Tech Red Raiders to the Erwin Center Saturday evening in what could be their best shot to date at a conference win.
The Red Raiders had a four-game losing streak in their first four conference games until they defeated Iowa State 56-51 earlier this week.
Much like the Longhorns, the Red Raiders have lacked an offense efficient enough to keep them in close games, and their 9-8 overall record includes just one win against a team with an RPI under 50. (Iowa State, pulled from warrennolan.com).
The Red Raiders are led in scoring and rebounding by junior forward Jaye Crockett who averages 13 points and eight rebounds per game. Texas Tech doesn’t have a deep bench and it mostly relies on its starting five for the bulk of scoring.
If Texas can keep the Red Raiders from shooting abnormally well and finds a way to rebound without Holmes keeping things together in the lane, it stands a good chance of winning.
It also wouldn’t hurt for the Longhorns to draw a few more fouls in order to get to the free throw line more regularly. In its last five games Texas has made an average of 7.8 free throws and is shooting less than 55-percent from the line. Those are points Texas desperately needs, especially in close games. Texas is 1-6 in games decided by six points or less this season.
“Our guards have to understand we have to get to the foul line,” Barnes said. “We have to put the ball inside.”