With their first win in Big 12 play under their belt, the Longhorns have a chance to do something they haven’t done in a month and a half — win two games in a row.
It will be easier said than done.
Head coach Rick Barnes still believes his 9-10 Longhorns have a shot to reach their 15th consecutive NCAA Tournament. They’ll probably need to win games like the one against Kansas State on Wednesday to make that happen.
“We have a lot of basketball left to play,” Barnes said after the 73-57 victory over the Red Raiders last weekend. “I’m surprised that someone didn’t ask me if [the Texas Tech game] was a must-win situation because it was pretty obvious that it was a must-win situation.”
The Wildcats return home to Bramlage Coliseum, also known as “The Octagon of Doom”, where Texas has not won since 2008. Only Kansas, the No. 1 team in the coaches’ poll, has been able to take down the Wildcats in their arena.
Kansas State, which has lost each of its last two games, will rely heavily on senior guard Rodney McGruder. He’s averaging a team-best 15.3 points per game this season and scored 33 points in his last home game against Texas, an 84-80 Wildcats triumph last January.
“The guy is a flat-out killer ... a quiet assassin,” associate coach Rob Lanier said. “I base it on fear — who scares me the most when I’m sitting there, [Baylor’s] Pierre Jackson and [Kansas’] Ben McLemore. McGruder is right up there with those guys, guys that scare the death out of me if we leave them open for a second.”
McGruder will be facing one of the country’s best defenses in the country Wednesday. Texas is holding opponents to 35.3 percent shooting from the floor, the second-best mark in the country, and an NCAA-best 25.1 percent shooting from three-point range.
The Longhorns turned 19 Texas Tech turnovers into 22 points in last Saturday’s win, a performance they’ll be looking to duplicate in
Manhattan on Wednesday.
“It’s like a new season,” sophomore guard Julien Lewis said. “It feels really good but we’re not a losing team so we don’t prepare to lose. We prepare to win every game and play every game like it’s our last.”